Care and health

Devon rex cats and kittens have general feline needs and also some specific needs.

 

Caring for your Devon Rex

 
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Devon Rex are not particularly high maintenance cats, but there are some basics that need to be carried out regularly, to keep your curly friend in tip top condition.

Curly Coat

I do not often bath any of my cats, except occasionally prior to a Show, in order for them to be presented at his very best. The majority of Devon Rex exude grease, particularly on their tummies, neck and under their armpits. This is particularly noticeable if they sleep on a light coloured blanket, as they willleave behind a greasy mark. However, I personally find that the more a Devon Rex is bathed, the more it needs to be bathed, so I prefer to put my energies into washing their bedding! If I bathe, then I use a mild shampoo, and make sure to rinse the coat well. I would never bathe a cat immediately before a cat show, as their curls tend to lose their density, because of the loss of oil from the coat. I would recommend bathing about five to seven days before a show, which gives the curls a chance to spring back. I use a hairdressing-finishing product to replace the oil (ask your pet care provider or hairdresser) , only a light application is necessary. Too much bathing strips all of the oils form a cat's coat, so that you end up with a very dry coat, so please don't overdo the bathing.

The coat is very fine and delicate so too much stroking can result in losing density

Ears

Ears are the bane of most Rex owner's lives! Most Devons produce wax in their ears, and the lighter coloured cats seem to be worse. First and foremost, make regular ear cleaning part of your routine. If you inspect and clean your cat's ears on a weekly basis from the time she is 8 weeks old, it will become a routine part of life and she won't fight you when you start handling her ears. Ears do need to be cleaned out regularly.

Hold the tip of the ear between your thumb and forefinger and gently roll it up so you can visualize the inner part of the ear. If the cat tries to scoot away, you can use your remaining three fingers to gently hang on to the loose skin on the back of its neck.

Examine the ear for redness, or discharge. Light brown wax is O.K., but black, red, or infected-looking discharges (e.g. yellow or green pus) indicate a problem. Gently wipe the inside of the ear with annimal earwipe. If the ear contains a lot of wax or debris you should squirt 5-10 drops of an ear cleaner like epi optix (Virbac) or Canaural into the ear and massage the base of the ear for 15 to 20 seconds. Then use the wipes of a cotton wool bud to remove the wax, but you should always be sure not to dig too deeply as you could injure your cat.

If the ear is sore or infected or if the cat is shaking its head or scratching at the ear, have her examined by a veterinarian. Ear mites are a common cause of ear infections in young cats and your veterinarian may recommend a treatment like Advocate or Revolution

 

Claws

Indoor cats will need their nails clipped on a very regular basis. I use feline nail trimmers ( as in the diagram on the let) are good for this, in fact I find them better than the clippers. Only remove the tips of the claw, if you get over zealous, and cut into the quick of the nail, your cat's nail will bleed. This should be done approximately once a month

Scratching posts do help a little, and give your cat somewhere to strop on, other than your settee. On no circumstances should your cat ever be declawed, and Loriendale Devons avidly opposes the declawing of any cat.

eyes

Due to the special shape ofDevon Rex cat faces, they are prone to runny eyes or excessive tearing. This excessive tearing can cause staining around the eye that may be hard to clean with just warm water.Sometimes tere can be a dry crusty build up. There are commercial products to clean these types of stains but be very careful when using them. A good wipe with a cotton wool ball or pad soaked in saline solution is very effective.

teeth

Dental conditions are among the most prevalent issues veterinarians find when treating cats. Gingivitis (gum inflammation) is the mildest form of periodontal (or gum) disease, and it's also the most common oral problem. Gingivitis begins when plaque, a sticky, bacterial film, mingles with saliva and food particles and stays on teeth. It can harden into tartar, a yellowish-brownish crust. If severe, tartar has to be removed by your vet through a scraping process called descaling.

A simple home check can save you time at the vets and if you see any build up appearing consider a home treatment. You will need a tooth brush and feline toothpaste

Dental conditions are among the most prevalent issues veterinarians find when treating cats. Gingivitis (gum inflammation) is the mildest form of periodontal (or gum) disease, and it's also the most common oral problem. Gingivitis begins when plaque, a sticky, bacterial film, mingles with saliva and food particles and stays on teeth. It can harden into tartar, a yellowish-brownish crust. If severe, tartar has to be removed by your vet through a scraping process called descaling.

A simple home check can save you time at the vets and if you see any build up appearing consider a home treatment. You will need a tooth brush and feline toothpaste. We use either sterile gauze strips or a soft rubber toothbrush, designed specially for cats.

  •  Hold your kitty in your lap and let her get comfortable.
  • Once she is relaxed, gently raise her lip on one side of her mouth and begin brushing on the outer portions of her teeth. Always brush down away from the gum line so that you loosen any embedded food particles and push them out of the mouth.
  • On the bottom jaw, brush up away from the gum line. You may need to open her mouth by gently pinching her two cheeks between your two fingers, but cats will generally open up on their own once they taste the toothpaste.
  • Continue working your way around the outside of her teeth on both sides until you have brushed the entire mouth.
  • You don’t need to rinse her mouth with anything at this point because the toothpaste is made to be eaten — there are no chemicals that can hurt her tummy. Allow her access to her water bowl once you’re finished.

Litter trays

Give each cat a separate litter tray; this will help them resist the temptation to find a private privy in an inappropriate place. We o not use any clumping litters for our kittens! These have been known to kill kittens if they eat the litter, which they often do being inquisitive. ave your kittens litter tray ready where you intend to keep it, and pop kittens in it as soon as they arrive at their home, and after every meal for the first few days.

Remember to praise them when you see them using her tray. Personally I would confinekittens when unsupervised to a small area of the house, it can be a long journey to the toilet for a very little cat. If they make a mistake, say no firmly and put them directly into the litter box, and clean up thoroughly where they made the mistake, to deter them from returning to the scene of the crime. Remove solids regularly from the trays. We have used several brands of the litter, but now Solid Fuel wood pellets (Natures Flame- available from Mitre 10 and some pellet fire suppliers); this is sold in 20kg bags at around $9.00. It is used for wood burners. You only need to use enough to barely cover the bottom of the litter tray, it swells incredibly as it absorbs the urine, as with all litter you scoop out solids. the litter is light, very reasonable, and excellent for odour control. It is possible to compost ( no solids though) and is useable six months after composting. Be careful if using crystal litter as thiss can be hard on their feet which can create problems.

 

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Food

Devon Rex cats usually have extremely large appetites, and will happily eat anything, which is not to say that they should eat everything! One thing I learnt very quickly with Rexes was that it pays to feed a top quality diet, especially if you want a top quality cat.

Feeding bowls

  • Each pet in your house should have his or her own food and water bowl.
  • Choose bowls designed especially for cats - shallow, broad-based metal or ceramic bowls.
  • Devons drink a lot of water and don’t' like their water bowl to run dry, so you might want to use the one you fill like a water cooler.
  • Clean water bowls daily and refresh with fresh water. ( Algae can grown in water when it is left and this has hazardous health effects.
  • Kittens like milk up till around the 3rd month of age (this should always be kitten milk not ordinary cows milk, as this will cause diarrhoea.
  • We feed and recommend Royal Canin food but if you are going to change to a different food, do this by gradually adding the new food to the old until you are using the new food only.

 

Diet

Initially, I tended to judge diets more by how much they cost, rather than by how good they were. For that reason I used to feed exclusively dry food. Having discussed with outer cat breeders that used the less expensive brands and learning that they experianced plaque buildup often, I was pleased that I had gone for the more expensive ones. There are now foods to take care of this problem that I use intermittently, mixed into other dry foods(Royal Canin Oral Care).The cats just love this.

We did have one of our stud boys experiance recurring bladder and cystitis problems, which the vet felt the dried food contributed to. I decided to have a rethink about the food I was offering my cats. This stud did not have a long life even on urinary specialist diet. A lesson learnt

I do use tinned and pouched cat food, (but I have always been suspicious of the ingredients),   which my cats do enjoy, but not as much as their raw lean steak mince, Kangaroo, beef, veal and lamb, which they adore. The upshot of these diet changes is no more dentals or bladder problems.
 Be warned Devons seem to like a change now and again, usually just after I have invested in something they seem to be enjoying.....Devon personality I put it down to.

Our "in kitten queens" are feed a mixed diet of RC mother and babycat, minerals and vitamins, raw meat and pouches.

Loriendale kittens have been fed Royal Canin Mother and Babycat thenRoyal Canin kitten food since weaning. We now start kittens on the RC Kitten InstinctiveGravy and Jelly pouches and also Babycat Instinctive. Some kittens prefer an individual type some eat the lot.

The stud boys are mainly on dry food with canned, pouches and raw occassionally but find they tend to put weight on quickly so are careful about how much food they have generally.

Show cats are on a mixed diet but their dried food is RC Hair and skin.

Devons are notorious for helping themselves to any food going, whether it be your ham sandwich, or your takeaway, so be warned! They should always have plenty of fresh water to hand, and my cats adore running water and are commonly found entertaining themselves with it! Some of Devons still prefer to drink from a dripping tap!

Care should be taken not to change diets suddenly, as this can lead to tummy upsets, which can be serious in younger cats and kittens, so please always consult a vet if your Devon has an upset tummy. The sooner it is dealt with, the better for your cat, and for you.

 

 
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Safety

Inside Poisons

Chocolate, raisins, raw potato, Paracetamol and Aspirin should never be given to cats! Some dog flea preparations can make cats very sick even via contact with the treated dog always check the precautions on the packaging before using flea product on either your cat or dog. Coal tar derivatives such as Dettol, Jeyes Fluid and Pine disinfectants are toxic to cats. Spray and Wipe cleaner is accountable for quite a few cat poisonings. Fly spray; Black Flag, Morteins and other long acting fly sprays can be absorbed off surfaces through your cat/kitten's paws, they can also become poisoned eating the dead and dying poisoned flies. Some ultra low allergenic sprays are safe with cats. However I favour the use of fly screens and the good old fashioned fly swat. Whatever kills flies in greater quantities would surely kill or harm cats or humans! Mothballs may be played with and paws licked and may cause illness and even death.

Some houseplants can also be toxic and there are many good websites with both photos and details about garden and houseplants that are poisonous or toxic to pets. Of course kittens are more curious and more likely to chew and sample a variety of objects than adult cats, not unlike children.

Inside Hazards

Open Fires, Lazy Boy Chairs, Washing Machines, Freezers, Dishwashers; All of these everyday tools can be hazards to the young inquisitive kitten. Please be aware of where your kitten is before closing clothes dryers, fridges, washing machines, ovens etc. It takes only a moment to check and possibly prevent a tragedy. Rubber bands, string and dental floss can be eaten and cause choking or bowel obstructions. Be careful at Christmas and birthdays as the ribbons and bows are made of fabrics that cats can easily choke on or can cause internal blockages,

Outside Poisons

Brake fluid and antifreeze are lethal and are attractive and palatable to cats! Cocoa mulch and snail bait as well as insecticides containing permethrins are seriously dangerous to cats.

Just like indoor plants can be poisonous so can garden plants and the same precautions should be taken, If your cat does get sick and has been chewing a plant, take a piece of the plant with you to the vets if you do not know the name of it. Not only can plants be poisonous some can also cause local irritation of the skin, eyes or throat, wandering jew (picture right) is notorious and is not only common but very vigorous. Be aware that lilies are toxic to cats and Christmas lilies are pleasant smelling but not to be left for cats to chew on.

Outside Hazards

Ensure you know where your cat is before moving vehicles. Roads claim many lives with a large number being cats. A New Zealand pet magazine has published the fact that 94% of cat deaths occur between dusk and dawn. Your kitten has not been allowed outdoors at all yet, if he/she is never out at night, he/she won't know what he/she is missing. Garage Door Openers can have sensitivity adjusted to high to help reduce the chance of a cat or kitten being crushed and it does happens, I have been contacted twice now by distraught owners!

Traffic

Moving vehicles are one of the biggest risk factors for cats! A study in UK 2001 found that 51% of outdoor access cats who died suddenly were the result of a cat vs vehicle encounter! They went on to try to identify the risk factors and age was found to be a big contributor, cats between 7 months and 2 years of age are at the highest risk, with the risk decreasing with each year of age, not unlike human teenagers! I have certainly found this to be the case from the many distressed owners who have contacted me after losing their cat on the road. Accidents also happen with vehicles at home, make sure you know where your cat is before moving any vehicle, some cats will even perch on top of warm tyres, while older cats who used to hear and move may be that little bit slower!

Food Theft

Do not leave food unattended, even food no normal cat would consider consuming, as it is likely to be stolen, consumed on site or played with. I have had my Devons steal hot food from a spitting frying pan, and flick toast out of the toaster.

Drinks

Hot or cold drinks can and may very well be tipped over if left unwatched, if they are near electronics or a laptop this can prove to be expensive.

Cord and Flexes

Devons especially as kittens love to chew and one of their favourite things to chew is fine flexes, such as ipad earphones and mobile phone chargers. Don't say you were not warned, charge them in a cupboard or cat free room. However they have been known to chew them while in use. There are sprays available to dissuade them from chewing. Not always 100% effective though.

Paper

"The dog ate my homework" may take on new meaning once you are living with a Devon. Some Devons do indeed have paper fetishes and they will destroy papers, books or documents left laying about, Other prefer to make it Christmas inside with the toilet paper. Many Devons behave well around paper, you may be lucky but forewarned is forearmed.

Devons are Addictive

Devons are totally addictive, BUT think hard before you start adding to your Devon population, a couple of intensely needy, intelligent cats can be a delight to live with, but it is easy to keep adding to your Devon collection and this will often lead to issues regarding territory and your lack of total devotion to the 'chosen one' (and each Devon believes this to be them) may very well cause unwanted behaviour.

 

 
 
Above is Briley, one of our queens that successfully mothered 5 healthy kittens from an A to B blood mating

Above is Briley, one of our queens that successfully mothered 5 healthy kittens from an A to B blood mating

Health Issues

Of Course Devon Rex are able to suffer from any disease afflicting cats, this page is not intended to be a comprehensive cover of all cat diseases and infections, but rather to briefly discuss those issues more relevant to the Devon Rex Breed. Because I have an ongoing relationship with my kitten homes, I do share in the joys and heartaches my kittens bring to their families. It also gives me the essential tools for tracking my cats' ongoing health. If you do own a Loriendale Devon I would like to hear from you in relation to your cats health, say once a year, even if it is just to say all is well.  This would enable me to keep my database current and identify any health or temperament problems consistently occurring in my cats and address these issues.

Outcrossing to other breeds and domestic cats can really improve genetic diversity but may also bring unwanted health issues into the breed. A great degree of testing should be done before any experimental breeding program takes place.

Spasticity - Myopathy (  Congenital Myasthenic Syndrome (CMS) )

Unfortunately the establishment of any breed entails inbreeding which gives more opportunity for both good and bad genes to be set within the breed. The most historically note worthy inherited disorder in the Devon Rex is spasticity also known as Myopathy, because Devon Rex have been used as outcrosses for the Sphynx breeding program the disorder also occur in the Sphynx. Recent development of a DNA test for Spasticity in Devons will certainly clear this from the breed. Excellent test mating was done over 20 years to drastically reduce the occurrence of this ailment and now with the DNA test available it will be eradicated. This is no long a majour problem here in New Zealand and with continued testing of )imported) breeding stock this will not be a threat in the future.

Blood Type

As well as several other breeds including Birman and Abyssinian, Devons often have type B blood While this in its own right is not cause for concern, it is worth noting in case of a medical or surgical emergency, if a cat receives a transfusion of the incorrect blood type this can be fatal.

If kittens from a type B queen not mated to a type B stud suckle they can develop Neonatal Isoerythrolysis. As breeders we must hand feed any kittens from type B queens mated to a type A stud, for a minimum period of 16 hours this prevents the kittens absorbing antibodies from their mothers' colostrum. After this time period the kittens can nurse safely from their mothers. While we hand-feed the litter, the mothers are adorned with a custom made body suit, making nursing impossible. Below is Briley, one of ur queens that successfully mothered 5 healthy kittens from an A to B blood mating

They can still enjoy bonding with and grooming their precious kittens.

 

Upper Respiratory Disease Complex

Sneezing and eye discharge in cats are the most common characteristics of 'Feline Upper Respiratory Disease Complex'. This is the term used to describe a condition affecting the mouth, nasal passages, sinuses, upper airway, and sometimes the eyes in cats and kittens. There are multiple causes of feline upper respiratory complex, but 80-90% of the cases are caused by feline herpes-1 (also called feline rhinotracheitis virus) and calicivirus (pronounced kal-ee-chee). Other causes of sneezing in cats include Chlamydophila felisi (previously termed Chlamydia), feline reovirus, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Pasteurella spp., and mycoplasmas. Infections and symptoms by some of these agents may occur secondarily to an infection with rhinotracheitis virus or calicivirus.

 

Two viruses, a herpes virus (rhinotracheitis) and calici virus are the two most commonly encountered culprits in upper respiratory diseases. These two viruses account for the vast majority of cases seen, but disease can also be caused by chlamydia psitacci, a bacteria. Recently there have been reports of cases of upper respiratory infections being caused by bordetella bronchiseptica, the same bacterial organism that is responsible for kennel cough in dogs. There is even some evidence that bordetella causes disease in humans.

Transmission

These diseases have an incubation period of between 2-7 days, the time between infection and the appearance of clinical signs. The virus is shed in various body fluids such as ocular, nasal and oral secretions and discharges. The virus is then spread by 3 mechanisms- 1) mainly from direct contact of sick cats with susceptible ones, 2) through environmental contamination with infected secretions and 3) by carriers. Carriers are cats who continue to harbor and shed virus after they have been infected and recovered from clinical signs.

Aerosolization of the virus occurs, but it is not thought to be a main means of spread of infection. It is also spread by fomites, which are inanimate objects. Fomite spread of disease is believed to be one of the largest contributing factors to how diseases are spread through a shelter. Viral particles that are found in ocular, oral and nasal secretions can contaminate clothing, hands, bedding, toys, food dishes, litter boxes, water bowls, cage floors, stethoscopes, etc. Disease is spread when susceptible animals have contact with these contaminated objects, so isolation of sick animals alone is not a sufficient control mechanism.

 

Carrier states

The existence of the carrier state is particularly important for shelters that do not euthanize for overcrowding or disease control. Animals that have recovered from acute infections will continue to shed virus and therefore remain infectious for the duration of their stay in the shelter.

Herpes:
Most cats that have recovered from herpes will be carriers of the virus for life and shed it intermittently under normal conditions or during times of stress. This shedding can begin a week after the stressful incident and continue for 3 weeks afterward.

Calici:
In the case of calici virus, some cats that have recovered from infection will shed the virus continuously for the rest of their lives without regard to stress. Fortunately most cats do eliminate calici virus from their bodies eventually.

Bordetella and chlamydia:
It is believed that there is a carrier state with bordetella and chlamydia, but the mechanisms are not entirely clear yet.

Symptoms

Most cats with signs of upper respiratory disease suffer from bouts of sneezing and runny eyes. In most cases, shelters do not bother to distinguish between the different disease causing agents. However, it is important to make the distinction in order to design effective control measures, such as vaccination or treatment protocols.

Herpes:
The lethargy, sneezing, ocular and nasal discharges may be worse with herpes than the other diseases. Herpes is also accompanied by fever, depression, loss of appetite, eye ulcers and drooling.

Calici:
Calici virus produces oral ulcers and lameness. These may be the only signs or they may be seen in combination with the same signs as herpes, only milder.

Chlamydia:
Chlamydia produces a serious conjunctivitis (eye infection), accompanied by mild sneezing. This same organism may cause conjunctivitis in humans.

Bordetella:
Bordetella is still being researched. It is believed to cause fever, sneezing, nasal discharge, enlargement of the lymph nodes found under the throat and loud, harsh lung sounds. Coughing may also be observed.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is generally made based on the clinical symptoms. Cultures from the mouth, throat or nose may be sent to the laboratory for confirmation.

Treatment

Treatment for the viral diseases is symptomatic.

Good nursing care (wiping away ocular and nasal discharges, force-feeding, keeping warm, etc.)

Broad-spectrum antibiotics to protect against secondary bacterial infections. Tetracycline or doxycycline are the drugs of choice to use against bordetella and chlamydia and may also be used in the case of the viral infections.

Fluid therapy may be necessary in severe cases.
Antiviral drugs may be necessary in the form of eye drops for herpes viral induced eye lesions. Recently the use of a human drug Famvir has become common place with very good results. We use that here at Loriendale in combination with Vibravet antibiotic for secondary infections.

Feeding: Cats who are unable to smell their food as a result of the infection may lose their appetite and refuse to eat, so they must be encouraged by offering foods with strong aromas, baby foods or other soft and blended foods. It may be necessary to place a nasogastric tube to force feed them if they continue to refuse to eat.

Steam inhalation or nebulizers may also be helpful. ( We have used Vicks vapour in a tent with the Vicks melting in a bowl of boiling water. Once the vapour is captured in the tent the cat is introduced to this for a few minutes at a time).

FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis)

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease that occurs worldwide in wild and domestic cats. It is caused by a type of virus called a coronavirus, which tends to attack the cells of the intestinal wall. In 1970, the coronavirus that causes FIP was isolated and characterized. In 1981, another coronavirus was isolated. Although this virus is nearly identical to the FIP virus, cats who were infected with it developed only very mild diarrhea and recovered easily. Infection with coronavirus is actually very common in cats, but most of the time it does not cause any problems, other than perhaps mild self-limiting diarrhoea.

Uncommonly, the virus mutates (changes) to a strain of coronavirus which has the potential to cause disease. This mutated strain is the cause of FIP.

It is still unclear what causes the mutation to take place. At Loriendale we believe a lowered immune system and  stress are a highly contributing factors.

In an affected cat, the virus spreads throughout the body and can cause a wide range of different signs (including peritonitis with the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, but in other cats fluid may accumulate in the chest cavity; in others the virus may cause inflammation affecting the brain, eyes, liver, kidneys or elsewhere).

What Are the Symptoms of FIP?

FIP manifests in a “wet” form and a “dry” form. Signs of both forms include fever that doesn’t respond to antibiotics, anorexia, weight loss and lethargy. In addition, the wet form of FIP is characterized by accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity, the chest cavity, or both. Cats with fluid in the chest exhibit labored breathing. Cats with fluid in the abdomen show progressive, nonpainful abdominal distension. In the dry form of FIP, small accumulations of inflammatory cells, or granulomas, form in various organs, and clinical signs depend on which organ is affected. If the kidneys are affected, excessive thirst and urination, vomiting and weight loss are seen; if the liver, jaundice. The eyes and the neurologic system are frequently affected, as well.

How Is FIP Diagnosed?

Diagnosing FIP is challenging. Despite the claims made by some laboratories and test manufacturers, there is currently no test that can distinguish between the harmless intestinal coronavirus and the deadly FIP coronavirus. A positive test may support the veterinarian’s suspicions, but by itself is inconclusive. It means only that a cat has been exposed to and may be harboring a coronavirus. A negative test usually (but not always) indicates that the cat is unlikely to have FIP.

If a cat has what appears to be the wet form of the disease, laboratory analysis of some of the fluid can support a diagnosis of FIP. A 1994 study reported that cats with signs suggestive of FIP, who also had a high coronavirus antibody level, reduced numbers of lymphocytes and high levels of globulins in the bloodstream, had an 88.9 percent probability of having FIP. Diagnosing the dry form of the disease is even more challenging, often requiring biopsy of affected organs.

How Is FIP Treated?

FIP is fatal in more than 95% of cases. In mild cases of the dry form, it may be possible to prolong the survival period, but most cats with the wet form of the disease die within two months of the onset of signs. Fortunately, the disease is very uncommon. In households containing only one or two cats, the FIP mortality rate is around one in 5,000.

Is There a Vaccine for FIP?

An intranasal vaccine was developed to prevent FIP in cats, but it has been controversial. Some studies show that it protects against disease, while others show that it offers little benefit. The 2000 Report of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and Academy of Feline Medicine Advisory Panel on Feline Vaccines states that “at this time, there is no evidence that the vaccine induces clinically relevant protection, and its use is not recommended.”