Insights From a Cornish Rex Cat Breeder

GC Kalllirex Mysticriver; Image used with permission from Paul Sandel.
Mystic is a blue male Cornish Rex.

The Cornish Rex is a fascinating cat breed with some unique and charming characteristics. Get a breeder's perspective on this breed, which many allergy sufferers can tolerate.

Cornish Rex Cat Breeder Interview with Paul Sandel

Paul Sandel of Imagine LTD Cattery answers a few questions in this Cornish Rex cat breeder interview. Imagine is made up of Paul Sandel and Tim Childers. These men should know a thing or two about Rex cats. They have been breeding and showing cats together since the early 1980s. Paul lives in northern Kentucky and Tim lives in northern Illinois. They show Imagine cats in their respective and surrounding regions.

About Imagine LTD Cattery

LoveToKnow (LTK): Paul, thank you for agreeing to share information about your Cornish Rex breeding program with us. Can you tell us a little about how Imagine LTD Cattery first got started and how you became a Cornish Rex cat breeder?

Paul Sandel (PS): Over the years, Tim and I have bred and/or shown a wide variety of breeds, including Siamese, Persians, Exotics, American Shorthairs and Oriental Shorthairs. We were forced to step away from breeding and showing for several years when my parents became ill. In 2002, we were ready to get back into the cat fancy. Our good friends, Ron Summers and Ricky Burthay of Burthay Cattery, convinced us to work with them and their Cornish Rex breeding program. We were then fortunate enough to become friends with and share cats with so many wonderful Cornish Rex breeders, including:

  • Phyllis Jacobowitz - Kallirex Cattery
  • Bob Baratto - Barmont Cattery
  • Sandy Nabeta - Rexkwizit Cattery

The breeders involved with Cornish Rex are very willing to help one another to further our goal of producing healthy, happy and beautiful examples of the breed. Cornish are an easy breed to fall in love with. They are affectionate cats that are easy to care for and so entertaining!

LTK: Did you always have pets growing up?

PS: I don't remember a time when there weren't pets in our home. Besides cats and dogs in the house, I also showed horses and tropical fish as a teenager. Plus, I spent the summers at my grandparents' farm and got to enjoy their menagerie. I began showing cats in 1973 (at the age of 13), and my parents were very supportive, both financially and emotionally. I remember my parents driving me all over the country to cat shows and even allowing me to fly alone to several long distance shows. Despite the fact that I came from a rather poor family, my parents loved the fact that I was involved in something that kept me out of trouble. They supported me in every way they could.

At the same time, Tim was showing and breeding Bloodhounds. We met in 1982 and began showing cats together soon after. When we bought our farm in 1998, we began raising American Paint horses to show in halter and pleasure classes. We gave that up to concentrate on the cats. So, we both have a love of animals and competition!

LTK: You take particular care in how you keep your cats in your breeding program. For example, I know you recently drove 500 miles to get special food for your cats. Can you tell us a few of the things you do to ensure your cats have optimum health?

PS: There are so many things you learn when you spend decades breeding and showing pedigreed cats. There is a fine line between trying to keep costs down and maintaining excellent health and personality.

For one thing, Tim learned long ago how to give our vaccinations. It's easy to learn, and the savings are amazing! We also maintain a strict flea treatment and deworming schedule. Keep in mind, Cornish kittens only weigh a few ounces at birth. They do not have the reserves that other breeds do to fight off problems, so they must start out life in optimal conditions.

As for food, remember what a cat would eat in the wild. Cats are carnivores, and when I look at the ingredients in some cat foods, I cringe. The cheap brands are full of wheat and corn. Our cats eat a special raw meat diet from Blue Ridge Beef twice a day, and they have high quality dry food available at all times. Despite the fact that I make a 500 mile round trip six times a year to pick up the meat, we actually spend less than we would feeding canned food and a lesser quality dry food. When the cats are fed a high-quality diet, they need less food to maintain optimal condition. So, you actually save money!

I think the most important thing, after health, is the environment where our cats and kittens are housed and raised. We are fortunate to have a large home, so our boys and girls have plenty of room to run and play without being too confined. They are still separated so that there are no "whoops" breedings. Also, our babies are handled, petted and loved from the day they are born, so they are not shy or frightened by new experiences. All breeders must be aware of how many cats they can handle before it isn't fun anymore. For some, that is three cats; for others, it is thirty. Each breeder knows his or her limitations and, hopefully, stays focused. When you reach the point that it's not fun having the cats around, it's time to reassess the situation.

Cornish Rex Traits

LTK: What are some of the traits you'd advise a potential owner to look for in a Cornish Rex that they might want to show one day?

PS: First, study the standard! You can find the standard for any breed by doing a Google search. Next, visit as many shows as possible. Talk to the breeders. Watch the judging and see how that breeder's cats behave in the ring. The first show is often frightening for a kitten with all the noise, new smells and commotion, but a kitten that has been raised correctly for the show ring will never show aggression. One thing I think potential exhibitors are intimidated by is the judges at the shows. While you should never interrupt a judge while he or she is judging the cats, most will welcome questions in between. Also, keep in mind that some exhibitors are quite busy grooming and listening for ring calls. Don't take this as being rude. Just try to come back during a quieter time, and the exhibitor will most likely be thrilled to talk about his or her cats!

Finally, study the cats that win. You can do this at the shows and online. The Cornish Rex standard puts a great deal of emphasis on the coat (40 points), but there is so much more to a Cornish than coat! You must have that egg-shaped head, the Roman profile, the large ears, arch to the back and the distinctive tuck-up. I could go on and on. Be careful. If you meet a breeder or judge who thinks the best Cornish is the cat with the best coat, run quickly. They have not truly studied the standard!

LTK: Any particular things to watch out for in a Cornish Rex that is just going to be a household pet?

PS: The most important thing to keep in mind is that the Cornish Rex is an affectionate and very active breed. These cats seek out warmth and love from their human companions. Many people seek out Cornish because they require little grooming and are tolerated well by individuals who have allergies to cats. They soon find out these cats want a great deal of attention, be it play time, lap time or chewing on your hair. Not everyone is prepared to deal with this.

Please be very detailed when you approach a breeder to adopt a Cornish. We often get e-mails that say "I want to purchase a kitten. What do you have available?" These emails usually go unanswered. All I get from this is that someone is willing to write a check to gain a "possession". Our kittens are not objects to be bought. They are living, breathing and loving babies who will rely on you for affection and care for the next 15 to 20 years. That is not a trivial commitment.

LTK: You mentioned that some people with allergies can tolerate Cornish Rex. Why is this, and how can a potential owner test out how allergic he or she might be?

PS: This is tricky. There is a misconception that all people with allergies to cats can live happily ever after with a Cornish Rex. Although most people with allergies to cats have no problem with Cornish, there are exceptions.

As I understand it, and I am not a doctor, most allergic reactions occur due to the saliva caught in the guard hairs as a cat grooms. Since Cornish do not have the typical three layers of fur found in most cats, there is less fur for the saliva to collect on. Therefore it does not bother most people with allergies. Our rule of thumb when approached by someone with these concerns is that the cat or kitten goes to the new home on a trial basis to see if it poses a problem. As of now, not one kitten has returned home to us due to an allergic reaction.

LTK: Do you specialize in any particular colors in the Cornish Rex?

PS: The Cornish Rex is accepted in every known color and pattern. We have solids, bicolors, pointed and even pointed and white. However, the dilutes are our true love...the creams and blues. Our friend Sandy Nabeta recently gave us a Cameo girl, and we are very excited about that!

The Future of Imagine Cattery

LTK: You are also now breeding Japanese Bobtails (JBT). What else is in the future for Imagine Cattery?

PS: We want to breed the best quality and the happiest cats we can. We never know what the future holds. A couple of years ago our dear friend of many years, CFA judge Lois Jensen, came to us with an idea. She had a friend who had a beautiful Japanese Bobtail kitten. The breeder, Dawn Benaim of Benhana Cattery, had work issues that would not allow her to show the kitten. Lois suggested we take the kitten to show. We agreed...and fell in love. Now the Japanese Bobtails share our home. We have three lovely JBT girls from Dawn and a wonderful JBT boy from Olivier Grin in Switzerland .

LTK: Anything else you'd like to add about Cornish Rex?

PS: Normally you can't have just one. Most Cornish thrive on interaction with other cats, although we have had the rare cat that doesn't like other cats and wants to be the only cat for its owner. Again, that is why it is best to talk to the breeder in detail to get the Cornish that is best for you and your situation.

Learn More

LoveToKnow would like to thank Paul Sandel for participating in this Cornish Rex cat breeder interview. You can visit the Imagine LTD Cattery website to learn more about their available cats and kittens.

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Insights From a Cornish Rex Cat Breeder