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8 Curly Facts About Cornish Rex Cats

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Imagine if a Whippet turned into a cat—and, along the way, it decided to get a perm. That’s the overall look of a Cornish Rex, a rangy feline with curly fur that originally hails from Cornwall in southwest England. Here are eight facts about the kitty, which was named America’s 12th most popular cat by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in 2014 [PDF].

1. THE FIRST CORNISH REX WAS A FARM CAT NAMED KALLIBUNKER.

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In 1950, a woman named Nina Ennismore who lived in Cornwall, England, discovered that her domestic British shorthair had given birth to a quirky-looking male kitten with tightly curled fur. As the cat grew older, he also developed big, bat-like ears, and a lithe frame reminiscent of an English Greyhound.

Rumors swirled that radiation from the local tin mines had caused the kitten's odd appearance. However, Ennismore, who named the kitty Kallibunker, consulted with a geneticist, who told her that Kallibunker's odd appearance stemmed from a genetic mutation, and recommended that she breed him back with his mother to perpetuate the look. Kallibunker sired more curly-haired kittens, and voila—a new breed was born. Since Ennismore also bred curly-haired Rex rabbits, she decided to name her cats the Cornish Rex in honor of their bunny counterparts and place of origin.

Over the years, breeders have outcrossed the Cornish Rex breed with other types of cats, including Siamese, Burmese, Russian Blue, and British Shorthairs, to improve the Rex's health and stamina.

2. SCIENTISTS HAVE RESEARCHED THE CORNISH REX’S GENES.

Scientists from the Lyons Feline Genetics Research Laboratory have discovered the recessive mutation that’s responsible for the Cornish Rex’s tightly curled coat. The mutation reportedly affects the function of a gene that’s responsible for hair formation and maintenance. The researchers are working on an official paper detailing their findings, and they also offer a DNA test so that Cornish Rex breeders can confirm that all cats they mate carry this particular gene.

3. THE CORNISH REX IS CURLY ALL OVER.

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Since the Cornish Rex's fur is reminiscent of a tightly-waved retro hairstyle called Marcel waves, the kitties were once nicknamed Marcel cats. However, a Cornish Rex's tight curls aren’t limited to its coat—the cat also has curly whiskers and eyebrows. Watch out, poodles!

4. THE CORNISH REX IS NOT HYPOALLERGENIC.

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Sorry, cat lovers with allergies: the Cornish Rex’s short, downy fur doesn’t make it hypoallergenic. When a kitty walks into the room and you start sniffling and tearing up, you’re not actually reacting to its coat. The real source of most peoples' discomfort is the Fel d 1 glycoprotein, which cats emit from the sebaceous glands of the skin, saliva, and urine. While some people with allergies may experience fewer symptoms with cats that shed less, a Cornish Rex kitty isn’t the solution to your woes.

5. THE CORNISH REX HAS AN UNUSUALLY PROPORTIONED BODY.

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The Cornish Rex is often compared to a Greyhound, thanks to its tucked-up stomach, arched back, long legs, and tiny waist. It also has a noticeably large, egg-shaped head that’s about one-third longer than it is wide.

6. CORNISH REX CATS GET HOT—AND COLD—EASILY.

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Most kitties have a fur coat that consists of a longer outer layer, a middle layer, and a downy undercoat. Cornish Rex cats only have the undercoat—meaning they're often much more temperature-sensitive than the average cat. Make sure to provide them with plenty of cozy sleeping spaces during the winter, but also keep in mind that that they can get overheated in a too-warm house.

7. CORNISH REX CATS COME IN ALL KINDS OF COLORS.

Cornish Rex cats can have blue, gold, green, or blue-green eyes. As for their coats, the breed comes in a wide assortment of solid colors, including white, black, chocolate, orange, blue, and lilac. You’ll also find tabby, tortoiseshell, bicolor, and shaded silver and gold Cornish Rexes [PDF].

8. CORNISH REX CATS HAVE A DOG-LIKE PERSONALITY.

Looking for an energetic pet that will play fetch, snuggle with you, and follow you around the house? If you’re more into cats than dogs, consider the Cornish Rex.

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Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds
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Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

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Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
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There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

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