The most frequently asked questions I see about hairless cats online have to do with their cost or with their supposedly hypoallergenic qualities. These questions are usually variations on: “How much are hairless cats?” or “Are hairless cats hypoallergenic?” Not to put too fine a point on it, but when it comes to hairless cats, these are the wrong questions. Of course, there are always costs associated with cat ownership, and people who suffer from cat allergies are right to investigate their options.
What a hairless cat costs to buy and whether he is a hypoallergenic cat are questions that affect the prospective owner. Even preliminary research shows that the questions should be focused not on the owner, but on the cat. Research is one thing; reality offers more complete lessons. Hairless cats are not your typical domestic housepets.
A hairless cat has special needs that require far more regular attention than the common cat. The questions should be: “Do I have the time, patience, and ability to meet the needs of a hairless cat?” and “Can I give a hairless cat the home it deserves and the care it demands?”
First off, some basic facts about hairless cats. Hairless cats — including the Bambino cat, the Donskoy (or Don Hairless), the Lykoi cat, the Minskin, the Peterbald cat, the Sphynx cat, and the Ukrainian Levkoy — are not hairless by nature, but by design. While there are instances of hairless, or very shorthaired, cats in the historical record, the oldest and best-known hairless cat breed, the Sphynx, began serious development about 50 years ago. Most of them came into existence only in the last 20 to 30 years.
Some people look for a hairless cat in search of a hypoallergenic pet. As hypoallergenic pets, hairless cats are not allergen-free. In humans, cat allergies are primarily caused by dander — or dead skin cells — and by saliva. Dead skin cells are shed by all cats with increasing regularity as they age, and all cats produce saliva. Because of their limited hair, however, a hairless cat is more likely to leave behind marks of his bodily oils on your clothing and furniture.
The truism about a hairless cat is that less hair does not mean less maintenance. Since most hairless cat breeds are developed from the Sphynx or the Donskoy, regardless of a specific breed’s nomenclature, all hairless cats share a similar set of special needs. Major responsibilities involved in owning a hairless or nearly hairless cat can be grouped under the rubrics of nutrition, grooming, and interaction.
With regard to nutrition, hairless cats tend to be high-energy pets, and have the metabolism to match. Hairless cats get cold quicker, not only because they have less hair, but also because they expend so much energy. Because energy and heat are involved in a hairless cat’s high metabolic rate, they need more food to stay active and to stay warm. For these reasons, a hairless cat is less prone to obesity, but is more likely to need a greater quantity of higher-quality and higher-priced food.
Hairless cats also have intense grooming needs. Of course, even so-called hairless cats aren’t completely bald, but covered with a very fine, usually very short, coat of light fur. The coat on typical domestic cats serves a number of functions, including heat conservation, sun protection, and skin regulation.
The absence of fur, not only on the body but inside the ears, means that these all duties fall to the hairless cat’s owner. Regulation of oils and microbial balance requires a hairless cat owner to give the cat a regular bath, either weekly or every couple of weeks at minimum, for life. The less hair a cat has, the more it will need help cleaning between its toes — for wrinkled cats, the crevices created by folds of skin — and controlling wax buildup in her ears.
Finally, a hairless cat needs attention in order to thrive. Hairless cats are extremely social creatures, which is great if you love bonding time, but not great for the cat if you tend to be out of the house or apartment for extended periods of time. A hairless cat’s need for interaction may necessitate the presence of other cats. If they, too, are hairless cats, then a hairless cat owner must be prepared to double the food, double the grooming, and double the bonding time!
We mustn’t forget that hairless cats face other challenges and have needs beyond those enumerated above. The less hair a cat has, the more it must be shielded from the sun and from extreme weather. Make no mistake, a hairless cat does best when his home is climate-controlled, indoors, and has limited exposure to the sun. Without hair to shield and insulate them, or without much, these cats are at increased risk for dehydration and sunburn.
During colder months, or on abbreviated trips outside when the sun is out, hairless cats benefit from cat clothing. Whether it’s a kind of cat camisole or a little coat, a hairless cat may require garments for additional skin protection. With the excess oils that accumulate on a hairless cat’s skin, these too will need regular cleaning. The same applies to the cat’s own bedding, and whatever furniture in the home that a hairless cat gravitates toward.
This article is here to educate and inform the curious and prospective owners about the unique challenges that hairless cats and their owners face. As I said at the start, research is one thing, but real-world experience is where it’s at. Owners of hairless cats, we will all benefit from your acquired wisdom! Please share your admiration of and practical experiences with hairless cats in the comments!
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