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How to Care for Hairless Cats

Think a lack of fur makes hairless cats low maintenance? That’s not the case. Hairless cats need regular care and attention to keep their skin in tip-top shape.

Jackie Brown  |  May 1st 2018


Love cats, but hate cat hair? If you have a hairless cat breed like a Sphynx or Peterbald, you don’t have to worry about brushing your cat or lint-rolling cat hair off everything you own. Score! Some people think that hairless cat breeds don’t need any grooming at all, but the truth is, hairless cats require the same nail trimming and ear cleaning as other cats. Also, even though most cats with hair only need occasional baths, hairless cat breeds require frequent bathing.

Why do you need to bathe hairless cats regularly?

A Sphynx cat.

Hairless cats don’t mean low-maintenance cats! Photography by Shootdiem / Shutterstock.

“More often than not, [hairless cats] need regular — most likely weekly — baths in order to combat the amount of oils on their skin,” explains Lynn Paolillo of Greer, South Carolina, a certified feline master groomer, certified feline creative groomer, and instructor and certifier for the National Cat Groomers Institute. “All cats have oily skin, but on a cat with hair, the oils of the skin are spread around the hairs, evenly distributed down each of the hair shafts. Sphynx have an excess of oil because it has nowhere to go. It starts clumping together in the folds of the skin.”

Some hairless cats do have a little bit of hair, mostly on the face, ears, nose and toes, and some hairless cats even have a fine peach fuzz on the body. But this tiny bit of hair doesn’t do much to soak up the oils on the skin.

How to bathe your hairless cat

Because hairless cats need frequent baths, it’s important to use a gentle shampoo that won’t irritate their sensitive skin or over-strip the oils. “The fewer ingredients the better,” Paolillo advises. “You don’t want something that has a lot of scent to it and you don’t want something that is meant to treat a skin issue. Look for a hypoallergenic cat-safe or pet-safe shampoo. The shampoo itself should primarily be clear and it should not have a powerful scent. Do not use baby shampoo, dish soap or oatmeal shampoo. Those are very commonly recommended, but I actually think they are way too harsh on cat skin.”

To bathe your hairless cat, use warm (not hot) water and suds her up thoroughly with the gentle shampoo. Be sure to rinse all of the shampoo off the body or it could irritate the skin. While your cat is still in the tub or sink, wipe the ears out with cotton balls and a gentle, cat-safe ear cleaner. This is an important step because, like the skin, a hairless cat’s ears can become very greasy and dirty. Once your cat is clean and rinsed, pat the skin dry with a soft, fluffy towel, making sure she is completely dry before releasing her back into the house (you don’t want her to get cold!).

Some people talk about using lotion on a hairless cat’s skin, but Paolillo is not a big fan of that practice. “I am hesitant to recommended that owners apply anything to their cat’s skin because the cat will then lick herself and then ingest those products,” she says. “It’s probably best to just do a gentle weekly bath.” 

Skincare for hairless cats

If you are concerned that your hairless cat’s skin is too dry, talk to your vet about the safest ways to keep the skin moisturized. And if you notice that the skin looks red, has lesions or is flaky, make an appointment to see the vet without delay.

One other note about skincare for hairless cats: the less hair a cat has, the more prone she is to sunburn. If your cat spends a lot of time sunbathing in front of the window, you might want to consider limiting her sun exposure.

Trimming a hairless cat’s nails

All cats need their nails trimmed regularly, but trimming a hairless cat’s nails is an especially vital task because when a hairless cat scratches herself, she can damage her sensitive skin.

“I have some Sphynx owners who get the little nail caps, especially on their back feet,” Paolillo says. “They can get skin infections because the cat is walking around the litterbox and then they scratch. I’ve had several cats that have come in with bacterial infections right in front of their ears and it’s usually solved by regularly trimming the nails, regular bath appointments and putting on nail caps while it heals.”

Do hairless cats need to wear clothes?

Some hairless cat owners use shirts or sweaters to keep their hairless cats warm. If you do this, be sure to regularly wash your cat’s clothes (they will get greasy!). To protect your cat’s delicate skin, use a hypoallergenic laundry detergent that’s free of dyes and scents.

Speaking of care, hairless cats tend to do a lot of caring for you

One of the best parts of life with a hairless cat? The snuggles. “They’re always seeking out blankets and snuggling,” Paolillo says. “It’s always fun to snuggle with a Sphynx because they feel like a little hot water bottle. They are a very snuggly breed year-round, especially in the winter.”

Thumbnail: Photography © Dixi_ | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

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