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What is a Hairless Cat?

Joel
Writer: Joel
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Updated on: April 5, 2021
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Hairless cats aren’t the usual soft, fluffy cat you think of when you think of a pet cat. But hairless breeds have become increasingly popular over the years. They are easy to recognize, have distinct personalities, and make wonderful pets, but only if you are willing to commit to more care and grooming than is needed for many house cats.

hairless cat

If you’re thinking about adopting a hairless cat or you’d just like to know more about these interesting animals, read on for more information.

A Brief History of the Hairless Cat

The most well-known breed of hairless cat is the Sphynx. Other popular hairless breeds include Peterbald, Donskoy, and Russian hairless.

European breeders began developing the Sphynx in the early 1960s. About 10 years later two different hairless breeds were discovered in North America and the cats from the two different continents were bred into the Sphynx breed we’re familiar with today.

All domestic (United States) Sphynx cats today are descended from one of two lineages, including:

  • Pearson barn cats in Wadena, Minnesota known as Dermis and Epidermis
  • Stray cats adopted by Shirley Smith from Toronto, Canada known as Bambi, Paloma, and Punkie

The Pearson cats were the first naturally occurring hairless cats in the United States. Several litters of kittens were born to the hairless mother and two were eventually sold to a breeder.

Several failed attempts were made in Toronto before Shirley Smith found three hairless kittens in her neighborhood and sent two of them to a doctor in the Netherlands to breed them with a white Devon Rex. The resulting litter produced five kittens.

Why Do Cats Lose their Fur?

Hairless cats are born without fur or coats. DNA analysis has shown that a genetic mutation is responsible for the Sphynx’s hairlessness. It’s the same allele that produces short, curly hair in the Devon Rex breed. The gene encodes keratin 71, which is responsible for keratinizing the hair follicle. There is a complete loss of function in the follicle that allows hair to form, but it is easily dislodged.  

Behavior and Grooming

It might seem that grooming a hairless cat is easier than grooming a cat with hair, especially long-haired cats. This is not true. Hairless cats require a significant amount of grooming. It’s important to understand these grooming needs before committing to the adoption of one of these animals.

As far as behavior, Sphynx cats are known to be very extroverted. They are high-energy, curious, and intelligent. They are also very affectionate cats. Many people describe them as more dog-like than most cats because they are interactive and attached to humans.

What are the Grooming Needs for a Hairless Cat?

What is the grooming process for hairless cats? It depends on the breed and whether or not your cat has any hair at all. Some “hairless” cats have peach fuzz, while others are entirely bald.

In both cases, the lack of hair on their bodies means they are unable to absorb the skin oils produced by their skin. This means they need regular baths to keep their coats and bodies clean. Without bathing, hairless cats get sticky because of the oil buildup. This leads to irritation and other skin problems. It’s best to use a special cat or hairless cat shampoo approximately once a week to keep your cat clean and comfortable.

In addition to bathing, it’s also important to protect your hairless cat’s eyes. Many hairless cat breeds to not have eyelashes, which means dirt more easily gets into their eyes. When bathing your cat, be sure to clean their eyes. You’ll also want to check your cat’s eyes daily and clean them when needed.

Hairless cat owners must attend to their pet’s ears. Hairless breeds tend to accumulate more dirt, sebum, and ear wax than other breeds because of the lack of hair in their ears. Make sure ear cleaning is included in your pet’s bath routine at least once a week. The same is true for dirt and debris under their nails and in their skin folds. At bath times, make sure you give your cat a thorough examination for accumulated dirt.

Additionally, you’ll want to be careful with your hairless cat’s sun exposure. Like our own human skin, less hair means higher risk for sunburn and there is a risk of skin cancers if exposure is excessive. Limiting your cat’s exposure to outdoor sunlight and never allowing your hairless outside without you is ideal. These cats also struggle to stay warm in colder temperatures. Protective sweaters or jackets reduce sun exposure and help your cat stay warm when outdoors.

What are the Benefits of Owning a Hairless Cat?

Owning a hairless cat offers many benefits, including:

  • No shedding. You don’t need to worry about your clothing or furniture being covered in cat hair
  • Affectionate companion. Many cat owners believe they get all of the benefits of having a dog as a pet without any of the drawbacks.
  • Easy assimilation. Many hairless breeds get along great with other pets in the house. Most even do better with other animal companions.
  • Human relationships. Hairless cats are rare, so the community of hairless cat owners bonds and feels a bit like an exclusive club.
  • Intelligent and easily trained. Hairless breeds are some of the easiest to train.
  • Fun. In addition to being easy to train, hairless cats love to dress up because it keeps them warm. They love to play and are always up for a good time.
  • Healthy. No pet is free of all health risks, but hairless cats are a fairly healthy breed. They have few health risks, especially if owners commit to regular vet check-ups.

What Personality Does a Hairless Cat Have?

All hairless breeds are known to be friendly and outgoing. They make great companions and usually get along well with other pets in the house, including dogs. Sphynx tend to be more demanding of attention than other cats, but hairless breeds, in general, are attention hogs. This is why many hairless cat lovers choose to bring two or more cats into their home because it relieves some of the demands on human attention.

These cats are mischievous, active, and playful, but also easy to train.

Breeds of Hairless Cat

The most well-known breeds of hairless cats includes:

  • Sphynx: known as sweet, warm companions, these cats get along well with people and other pets.
What is a Hairless Cat? 1
  • Peterbald: elegant, intelligent, and affectionate. Peterbald’s hairlessness comes from a dominant (as opposed to recessive) gene.
What is a Hairless Cat? 2
  • Donskoy: known for its webbed toes, this breed is a mix of the Peterbald and the Siamese. They are sweet-tempered and have a more wrinkled appearance than other hairless breeds.
What is a Hairless Cat? 3
  • Minskin: the tiniest of the hairless cats, this breed is a mix of Sphynx and Munchkin breeds. They are affectionate, have big personalities, make great companions, and tend to retain their kitten-like appearance.
  • Elf cat: this social, active breed is a mix of Sphynx and American Curl with unusual ears.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a hairless cat unhealthy?

Not unless hair loss is associated with something that has nothing to do with your cat’s breed! Cats born hairless are just as healthy as other cats. Some people even consider hairless breeds generally healthier than other purebred cats.

Are hairless cats friendly?

Yes! Hairless cats are one of the friendliest and most outgoing breeds. They make great companions, get along well with other pets and kids, and are welcoming and friendly to household visitors.

Do hairless cats need to be groomed?

Yes. Hairless cats should be bathed about once a week. Hairless cat owners should also do a daily examination of their cat to make sure eyes, ears, and skin folds are clean and free of dirt and debris.

Are hairless cats expensive?

In most cases, yes, hairless cats cost as much, if not more, than other purebred cats. The advantage of getting a purebred cat is the information you get about the cat’s lineage and genetic health. If you have your heart set on a hairless cat but you prefer to adopt from a shelter, it might help to reach out to shelters in your area and let them know you are interested.

Resources +

“Welcome to TICA - the International Cat Association, TICA Cats, TICA Pedigreed Cats, Pedigreed Cats, Pedigreed Cats Registry, Household Pet Cat Registry, Domestic Cat Registry, Savannah Cat, Bengal Cat, Persian Cat, Maine Coon Cat.” Tica.org.

“Breeds – the Cat Fanciers’ Association, Inc.” Cfa.org, https://www.cfa.org/Owners/FindingAKitten/BreedPersonalityChart.aspx.

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