Throughout the decades the occasional hairless cat has arisen as the result of a spontaneous mutation. The first mention of hairless cats goes back to 1830 in the book A Natural History of the Mammals of Paraguay.
A pair of hairless cats named Nellie and Dick (see black and white picture to the left) were given to Mr and Mrs F.J. Shinick in 1902 by local Indians. These were referred to as Mexican Hairless cats. Unfortunately, Dick escaped outside and was killed by a pack of dogs leaving Nellie without a male to mate with.
In 1966 a cat named Elizabeth gave birth to a litter of kittens, one of whom was bald. He was named Prune. Sadly this line of bald cats died out before a breed could be established.
The term "hairless" is a bit of a misnomer as most of them actually, have a peach-like fuzz on the body. The Donskoy and Peterbald actually come in four coat "types" from bald to full fur.
Breeds of hairless cats:
There are several breeds of hairless cats in the cat fancy today. The Sphynx, Donskoy (Don Rex) and the Peterbald are the most common. Other less known breeds include the Ukrainian Levkoy a cross between a Donskoy and a Scottish Fold, the Elf, a cross between a Sphynx and an American Curl, the Dwelf, a cross between a Sphynx, American Curl and Munchkin and the Bambino, a cross between a Sphynx and a Munchkin.
The Sphynx originates from four cats. Two originating in Minnesota and the bald offspring of a cat named Jezebelle. The other two originating from a cat in Toronto. These four cats named Epidermis, Dermis, Paloma and Punkie are the descendants of the Sphynx.
The gene responsible for the hairlessness is recessive, which means both parents must pass on a copy of the gene to the offspring.
The Donskoy (Don Sphynx, Russian Hairless) originates from Russia where a blue tortoiseshell kitten was rescued by Elena Kovalena in 1987. The kitten, named Varvara lost her coat when she was a few months old and it never came back. She gave birth to a litter of kittens, one of whom also lost her coat at a few months old. Selective breeding followed and the breed was established.
The gene responsible for the hairlessness in the Donskoy is dominant, only one copy from one parent is needed to pass on the trait to the offspring.
The Peterbald is a close relative to the Donskoy. In 1994 a Donskoy was mated with an Oriental cat to produce the Peterbald.
As with the Donskoy, the gene responsible for the hairlessness is dominant, only one copy from one parent is needed to pass on the trait to the offspring.
Care for hairless cats:
Hairless cats don't have the thick, insulating coat most other breeds do and can be prone to the cold. So if you live in a cold climate, they should be provided with adequate heating.
Also, their skin can be prone to sunburn, so keep them inside during the hot mid-day sun and if they do have access to an outdoor cat enclosure, there should be adequate shelter for them.
Their skin can be prone to greasiness and hairless cats generally need to be given a bath weekly.
Are hairless cats hypoallergenic?
No, there is no completely hypoallergenic breed of cat. The cause of allergies is a protein called Fel D1 which is shed by the sebaceous glands in the skin and found in the saliva. The Fel D1 protein is found on dander, minute particles of old skin and fur that are continually being shed from the cat.