Do Hairless Cats Have Hair?


The most well-known of the hairless cats is the Sphynx which is actually a relatively new breed among domestic cats. When I see one, I can’t help wondering if all cats would look that wrinkly without their fur coats! I love the way you can still see the color and pattern that would be present if they had fur coats. Naked kitties are certainly unusual looking creatures and though they’re cute they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.

Are hairless cats really hairless?

On closer inspection, the answer is no, hairless cats are not completely hairless. Cats such as the Sphynx have very short, downy fur that feels like warm suede to the touch. Hairless cats have a genetic mutation. The gene responsible is recessive so if a sphynx breeds with a non-hairless cat breed they will have kittens with a normal amount of hair.

If you look closely at a hairless cat, you’ll see they have eyelashes, ear tufts, and whiskers to some degree. Some will be more noticeable than others.

When and where did hairless cats originate?

Records show hairless cats existed in Mexico in the early 20th Century. It is unclear what happened to these and they are not related to the hairless cats of today.

Image of Mexican hairless cats

The first hairless kitten linked to the Sphynx cat was born in Canada in 1966 as the result of a natural genetic mutation. This was clearly not the ideal climate for a cat with no fur! It was a very cute creature and inspired breeders to begin developing a hairless breed.

A breeding program that involved two hairless cats, cross-breeding of their offspring and repeating this cycle, meant cat breeders eventually produced a healthy and sturdy cat – the Sphynx as cat fanciers know it today. Even so, it is common for this breed to suffer from Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, also referred to as HCM or heart disease.

The name was chosen because when this hairless breed sits in the loaf position (see Why do cats loaf?), it resembles the Sphynx of ancient Egypt. The name has misled people to believe Sphynx cats are an Egyptian breed.

How many cat breeds are hairless?

The sphynx is the most well-known hairless kittie but it’s not the only cat without a fur coat. There are 8 varieties:

The Sphynx

This is the hairless cat that most people have heard of.

Image of a hairless Sphynx

The Donskoy

This Russian hairless cat is sometimes known as the Don Sphynx. The breed was developed in 1987 after a hairless cat was discovered in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.

Image of a Donskoy hairless cat
Desaix83; d’après le travail de Hneepy ChS Pyrel *Sk, DonskoyCC BY-SA 3.0

The Peterbald

The Peterbald is also Russian and was developed in Petersburgh in the late 20th century. It is notable for its big ears!

Image of a Peterbald hairless cat

The Elf cat

This is a relatively new hybrid developed from the Sphynx and the American Curl.

Image of a hairless elf cat
Nickolas Titkov from Moscow, Russian Federation, CRX Int.Pr. Monamour Elf Grey (11305476373)CC BY-SA 2.0

The Ukranian Levkoy

The Ukranian Levkoy is a cross of the Donskoy and the Scottish Fold.

Image of Ukranian Levkoy hairless cat
Nickolas Titkov from Moscow, Russian Federation, Ukrainian Levkoy (3417712206)CC BY-SA 2.0

The Minskin

The Minskin is a Sphynx, Munchkin, Burmese, and Devon Rex cross.

Image of hairless Minskin kitten
PaulmcsorleyMinskin Kitten Female blue tabby color-patternCC BY-SA 3.0

The Bambino

This is a Sphynx and Munchkin cross. I can’t find an image labeled for reuse but you can see one if you search for ‘Bambino cat’ in Google Images.

The Dwelf

This is a relatively new breed and is a cross between the Sphynx, the Munchkin, and the American Curl. All images are copyrighted so I can’t post one here but you can easily see one by searching ‘Dwelf cat’ in Google Images.

Is being hairless a problem?

The lack of hair is not a problem and isn’t a sign of ill health. Unlike their hirsute relatives, hairless cats do feel the cold. To get an idea, undress and move about in your home (maybe close the blinds and curtains first!) If you feel uncomfortably cold, then a hairless cat will too.

Many owners of naked cats feel obliged to keep their heating on more than usual which does lead to larger energy bills. Some people dress their fur-free kitties – some cats will tolerate this, some won’t at all.

The plus side of having a cat that feels the cold is it is extra cuddly. Obviously you will feel loved but your cat is just stealing your body heat! Either way, they’re a great breed if you like a cat on your lap. Feeling cold a lot of the time might also explain why they eat so much high-quality cat food – they burn up lots of energy trying to keep warm.

Image of two Sphynx cats sleeping together
PuppetMasteX at English Wikipedia2 Sphynx cats sleeping togetherCC BY-SA 3.0

They’re not fussy where they get their heat from – the dog, heaters, fires, heat pads, the laundry room. A hairless cat will stay warm by seeking the warmest spots in the house to make up for its lack of fur coat. You may want to invest in a Thermo-Kitty heated bed (click the link to read reviews on Amazon). It will save you leaving the heating on when you’re out.

Many people keep their hairless cats indoors to protect them from the cold in winter and the sun in summer. It’s a good idea to invest in a good cat suncream if you plan to let your outside. You’ll need a litter box and plenty of litter for an indoor naked kitty.

Are hairless cats hypoallergenic?

There are many misconceptions regarding allergies to cats. There is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic cat. As a cat lover who is an allergy sufferer, I have carried out my own investigations on this subject.

Cats have several potential allergens:

  • Dander (dead skin flakes).
  • Saliva.
  • Urine.

Cat hair itself is not an allergen. In my experience, the shorter a cat’s fur is, the more I suffer. The reason is simple: I am allergic to dander and the more fur a cat has, the less dander escapes into the air that I breathe. (This is why I live happily with extremely fluffy Maine Coons).

One reason why people with allergies may be able to tolerate living with a Sphynx (or another hairless cat), is because they are bathed regularly. Of course, this won’t help those who are allergic to cat saliva and urine.

Bathing is an essential part of the hairless cat care regime. Because they have no fur to naturally absorb body oil, regular bathing stops them depositing oily patches everywhere they lay and also stops them from getting smelly. The upside for allergy sufferers is their dander is lower because it is regularly washed down the plughole!

My advice is to spend a few hours up close and personal with a hairless cat to see how you react – obviously, keep your allergy medicine to hand and leave the premises the instant you sense an allergic reaction occurring.

PIcture above is of a Sphynx cat in a tub

Conclusion

If you really want a hairless cat, bear in mind the following:

  • The Sphynx isn’t your only choice. There are eight types to choose from.
  • They are rare which makes them expensive.
  • They are not hypoallergenic.
  • They like to stay warm.
  • They need good quality cat food.
  • They can suffer from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (heart disease).
  • They are one of the most cuddly and attention-seeking domestic cats.

You may wonder why hairless cats are so expensive. Find the answer in the Reasons Why Sphynx Cats Cost So Much.

Jane

I'm Jane Pettitt, co-owner of Pets Knowledge Base with my husband, Matt. I have a grand total of 50 years’ experience as a pet owner. It all started with a guinea pig called Percy when I was 5 years old and since then I’ve lived with two more guinea pigs, a hamster, mice, a rabbit, a tortoise, a dog and 11 cats. I’ve learned so much about pet care during this time and many of my articles are based on my personal experiences and those of my family and friends .

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