If you're considering cat breeds like the Sphynx, take a moment to learn some fascinating facts about hairless cats. These distinctive and sleek kitties can make exceptional pets.
Secrets of Hairless Cats
In the movie Austen Powers, a feline character named Mr. Bigglesworth started out fluffy enough, but lost his fur through misadventure. In reality, hairless cats are not made, they are born that way, barring any skin disorders that result in baldness.
Gene Causes Lack of Fur
Genetics play a role in how much fur any cat has, but whether the gene that results in hairlessness varies from dominant to recessive from one breed to the next.
- In the Sphynx breed, the culprit that causes the hairless condition is a recessive gene that must be present in both parents to produce a hairless kitten. While two hairless mates will produce hairless kittens, two furred mates may also produce one or more hairless kittens if each parent harbors the recessive gene in it's background.
- In the Peterbald, a dominant gene actually causes hairlessness.
Not Completely Hairless
The term "hairless" can also be a bit of a misnomer. Some of these cats do carry a very small amount of peach fuzz while others may even have a very short, brush coat. However, the overall effect is usually that of a cat with little to no fur.
Hairless Cat Breeds
Although hairless kittens do occasionally pop up unexpectedly in a litter from time to time, there are actual cat breeds that perpetuate the hairless gene to produce these wonderful oddities.
These include such interesting breeds and breeds in development as:
- Sphynx cats - Also known as the Canadian Hairless
- Elf cats - The result of breeding Sphynx with American Curls
- Dwelf cats - A combination of Sphynx, American Curl and Munchkin cats
- Bambino cats - The result of breeding Sphynx with Munchkin cats
- Donskoy or "Don" cats - Originated in Russia
- Ukranian LeVoy - The product of mating Dons with Scottish Folds
- Peterbald cats - The result of mating Dons with Siamese and Oriental cats
- Kohana cats - An extremely rare Hawaiian hairless
Caring for Your Hairless
Hairless cat breeds present definite care challenges for their owners, such as dealing with the oils on the skin. Kittens should be acclimated to regular baths so they will tolerate bathing throughout their lives.
A hairless cat is exposed to all the elements including sun, wind and rain, so these felines should be mainly confined indoors unless suitable outdoor shelter can be provided for short periods.
Sun exposure is a real concern since these cats lack the protection against sunburns and heat stroke that fur normally provides. Sun block lotion is useful for filtering harmful ultraviolet rays, but it needs to be reapplied, just as you would for a human baby.
Drafts present another concern. It's crucial to keep these cats in a cozy environment to stave off possible respiratory infections and pneumonia. The Bambino hairless cats in the video below are wearing sweaters for extra warmth and protection.
A lack of fur doesn't mean these pets don't need grooming. In fact, a hairless may actually require more care than some furred ones.
Normally, fur provides protection to keep the skin from being scraped or injured in some other way. Additionally, oils produced by the skin that are distributed through normal cat grooming behaviors are instead left to collect on the skin surface. This can result in a fairly greasy cat that requires more frequent bathing.
Since frequent bathing may also dry out the skin, some owners prefer to use a gentle baby shampoo followed with a bit of baby lotion applied to the skin afterward to keep it supple. Never use a blow dryer on your pet since this could result in a burn. Better to dry him or her with a soft flannel blanket, or smooth velour towel. It's also important to provide these cats with soft bedding as added protection to keep scratches to a minimum.
Hairless cats in general are a fairly robust breed. There are just a few health issues to be aware of.
- According to Animal Planet, because there is no fur to absorb the oil, these cats can develop skin problems without regular bathing.
- PetMedsOnline indicates that the breed can lose body heat easily. Hairless cats will not tolerate extreme cold.
- Dr. Kate Meurs of Washington State University presents the connection between Sphynx and a condition of the heart muscle called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.
Not a Solution for Cat Allergies
Don't assume that a hairless cat is hypo-allergenic. In fact, these cats still shed skin cells and saliva flakes that contain the same proteins that cause an allergic reaction in the first place. The fact that they do not shed fur is a plus, but it isn't a complete solution for allergy sufferers.
While science is currently exploring genetic manipulation to produce a truly hypo-allergenic cat, the widespread availability of such a pet is still a long way off.
Not for Everyone
Hairless cats have their own unique beauty and can certainly make wonderful pets, but they are not the breed for everyone. These felines require extra care to keep them warm and healthy, so you might be better off choosing one of the furry breeds unless you are prepared to give a hairless the special attention it so richly deserves.However, if you do decide you can provide the care and environment a hairless needs, you will likely find the rewards of owning one of these felines far outweighs the challenges. Hairless cats love a good cuddle, and seem to truly enjoy a close relationship with their human companions.