It seems like a slightly misconceived question: “Do Cornish Rex cats need baths?” But actually it is quite an interesting question because it leads to a discussion about the coat of this quite rare wavy-haired purebred cat.
Sebaceous Gland – Sebum
The reason why the question is asked is based upon the same reason why people say that you have to wash the skin of a Sphynx cat. The reason is this: the sebaceous glands in the skin produce an oil, sebum, which is designed to keep the coat in good condition. The Sphynx cat has no coat and therefore the oil has nowhere to go. It sits on the skin where it can pick up dirt and where the dirt and oil can then be deposited upon bedclothes et cetera.
Turning then to the Cornish Rex we know that this cat has a coat. It is a very interesting and pleasant to look at coat but it is quite thin. It is what defines the cat.
Cornish Rex Coat
In the typical feline coat there are three main kinds of hairs: guard hairs, awn hairs and down hairs. The down hairs are the undercoat and the other two sorts of hair strands are the overcoat.
It is stated that the Cornish Rex has no guard hairs and that it is almost entirely made up of down hairs. This is not strictly accurate because under microscopic analysis this cat does have awn hairs but they are greatly reduced so that they are almost like down hairs. In fact all the hairs are reduced in length by the Cornish Rex gene which gives this cat a coat which is about half the thickness of a typical cat and the fur is also much finer. Each hair is about 60% of the thickness of the typical feline hair.
In short, this cat breed has a very thin coat and therefore the sebum produced in the cat’s skin is unable to disperse throughout the coat adequately which means the coat becomes oily which in turn means that the cat’s owner has to clean the coat because it is greasy. By cleaning the coat the owner will bathe her cat.
So the answer to the question in the title is that you probably have to bathe your Cornish Rex at regular intervals but not too frequently.
An added complicating factor in this discussion is that on the Internet there is a webpage written by cat breeders who show their Cornish Rex cats at cat shows. They quite naturally bathe their cats before showing them to ensure that the coat is in tip-top condition. But the reason behind this bathing is not the same in essence as the reason that I’ve stated at the beginning of this article.