One of the newest cats entering the fancy is the Tennessee Rex, or known lovingly by many as the T-Rex. They are a multicolored breed that has the “country cat” look and personality. Their unique hair coat, along with their quirky personality, is sure to win over the love of many people in the days to come.
The T-Rex started its path to a new breed back in the year 2004. Franklin Whittenburg, a resident of the Tennessee Valley near Chattanooga, was blessed with a stray mother that gave birth to kittens. He noticed immediately that two of the kittens were different from any other kitten he had seen. Their hair was curly and appeared a deeper colour red than most red kittens. The hair had another surprising feature - it had a shine when light was on the coat. The look was so unusual that Franklin thought he had a new type of cat breed. Franklin was not a breeder or in the cat fancy, so he turned to The International Cat Association, known as TICA, for any help they could offer. A few members thought the kittens could be different from other cats, and Franklin was partnered with a genetics expert. Together, they developed a breeding plan.
It appeared that the new kittens may have a rexing gene causing the curly coat, and the shining that occurred in the hair was called satin based on its similarity to satin mice that had duplicate hair augmentation. The breeding plan was started, and over a couple of generations, the kittens proved to have a unique gene that appeared to be inherited as a recessive trait. The plan now was to start new breeding partners, and start the process with TICA to make them a new breed in the cat fancy. The name Tennessee Rex was given to the cats since their hair was rexed and they originated from the Tennessee Valley.
Other cat breeders fell in love with the Tennessee Rex. Their personality, satin hair, and curly coat made people excited and happy when they were around them. Another trait seemed to be present that breeders noticed. The T-Rex’s Stain made the color of the cats more vibrant and richer. Many breeders desired that look, and some even wanted to incorporate the colours into other breeds of cats. In the end, breeders that had T-Rex cats could only use domestic cats with T-Rex cats in their breeding plan.
In 2009, the T-Rex was accepted by TICA as a registered breed. They still had a long way to go before reaching championship. After their acceptance, many different variables occurred that caused the T-Rex breeders to decline in number. Fewer cats were being born, and none were being registered with TICA. Many TICA members were concerned that the T-Rex would disappear, and many others thought they had. Later, in 2016, a small group of breeders wanted to rekindle the passion people had for Tennessee Rex cats. The T-Rex breeders did decrease, but there were two breeders still working with the breed and keeping T-Rex lines. Franklin Whittenburg, the original breeder, and an early breeding partner Gordon Pugh had continued with their work with the T-Rex. The group contacted TICA and Gordon about the T-Rex and asked about advancing the breed. Gordon agreed to start new breeders with his cats and TICA appointed a leader, called the breed chair, for the T-Rex group. Shortly after, Franklin contacted a married couple that had experience with advancing a new breed to help him with his lines. Working closely with the two new breeders, Franklin started new people with his lines of T-Rex cats. The two separate groups came together to form the Tennessee Rex work group to restart the advancement with TICA. They made plans to advance to Preliminary New Breed in 2018 to allow the T-Rex to complete at cat shows. The new exposure will start the education of the public and help spark new interest in a cat that is both beautiful and friendly.
Overall, the Tennessee Rex is a gentle breed. They come into a room, and before you know it they are demanding your love. It is unexpected how fast they grab attention from people. The T-Rex has a soft voice typically only getting loud when they are very excited. The purr they have is heard more times than the meow. Again, reflecting the gentleness of the breed. For such gentle quiet cats it is very interesting to note they have a strong love for children.
Tennessee Rex cats’ overall look is best described by the “good ole country cat”. The original breeder, Franklin, wanted to keep the original build and appearance of the first cats born. They resembled a stocky framed, well muscled barn cat. People that are familiar with barn cats and country cats that were accustomed to outdoor living can easily visualize the look. The cats are built to hunt, withstand out door extremes, and survive in the face of adversity. Some of the T-Rex’s are a little smaller than the first ones, but all the current breeders are striving to breed for the original look that started in the beginning.
Besides the cobby look of the T-Rex, all of them will have a wavy to curly coat. The curls are more obvious on the longer haired cats, but they can be seen on all T-Rexes. The hair looks more like a wind blown beach wave than a tight curl. The T-Rex cats will also have the satin in the coat. This glimmer, or shine, is very obvious in the sunlight. As they move, you can see the sparkle in the coat. The satin is obvious on both shorthair and longhair cats. It seems to be less intense on darker colored cats, but all colors are acceptable for show. The satin many times will intensify the cat’s natural colour giving the cat a deeper, warmer colour than cats that do not have the satin. With their curls and satin, the Tennessee Rex has a different appearance from any other cat in the fancy.
The Tennessee Rex is applying with TICA to be a Preliminary New Breed in the beginning of 2018. That means that the Tennessee Rex will be able to enter show halls and be exhibited with the judges. There is already a high interest for the Tennessee Rex, but after advancement to the Preliminary New Breed, expectations for the Tennessee Rex will increase and the demand will be much higher. Continuing monitoring of the health and genetics in the breed is being done by all breeders involved and constant discussion the breed and its genetics is ongoing. The breeders hope that the public interest will be great for the Tennessee Rex and everyone will get to enjoy the fascinating look and the wonderful attitude of the cats that has won the breeders hearts.
THE SATIN GENE
For more information about the satin gene seen in the Tennessee Rex please click HERE