Hairless Cats: A Howl-o-ween Tribute
It's a Freaky Feline Friday! In honor of the season, I set out to write about some of the more unusual, slightly scarier-looking members of the domestic cat world. I thought an article featuring a few members of the hairless cat breeds would be a fun freak show that would be much more interesting than talking about black cats, which are not scary at all. When my wandering coworkers were stopping in their tracks and staring at the hairless cats on my computer screen, I knew I was on to something! Now, several hours later with much sleep deprivation, this blog isn't going anywhere like I thought it would!
Buffy Ann with Frank the Sphinx. Photo courtesy of Laurie.
But first, I want to thank Laurie from Mapleton, Utah for sending in photos of Frank, her Sphynx cat modeling our parrot green hoodie. Her photos were so eye catching, I knew I had to find out more about these mysterious creatures! Like me, even Frank's dog-sibling Buffy Ann looks a bit suspicious of something (possibly the cat.) But the more I looked at these Sphynx and related cats on the web, I couldn't help but to keep looking. And now... I want one. Even after reading about all their quirks!
Sphynx in the Drink - Why these Cats Need Baths
You were probably thinking, "They look strange, but at least hairless means low maintenance, right?" And this is where we would be wrong. These cats actually do have a bit of a downy fuzz that feels a bit like warm suede. But that peach fuzz isn't enough hair to hold the natural oily secretions of cat skin like a standard cat would have. So in order to keep your cat clean, and to keep their favorite lounging spots from looking greasy, the Sphynx require a weekly bath as well as a nail trimming. On the plus side, they don't leave hair on your sofa.
Having no hair can also mean that these kitties produce excess ear wax to protect their ears. So ear wipes or damp cotton balls will have to be used to keep the thick substance from taking over. It would seem wise not to overdo this step since I would think that fastidious wax removal could promote a vicious cycle of wax production. But that's just an uneducated guess. But I thought I'd make you aware of these and the following issues before you went off and got a hairless cat on a whim.
Hairless Does Not Equal Hypoallergenic
While some people find that they are not allergic to hairless cats versus haired cats, sometimes the proteins people react to in cats may be even more prominent in the hairless varieties. This is due to the fact that it isn't the actual hair that causes reactions, but rather proteins found on the skin or in cat saliva. Make sure you spend time with a potential breed before taking the plunge, particularly if you are prone to allergies.
They are Needy
I don't know if it's the fact that they think that they slightly resemble us relatively hairless humans, but Sphynx like to be with their people as much as possible both for entertainment and for sponging off warmth. They may appreciate a sweater, just like you do, when it's cold.
Some have said the Sphynx are like a cross between a dog, a cat, and a monkey. This means that they want to be touching you. They want to be under the covers with you. They want to eat what you're eating. They have a high metabolism to sustain warmth, so they're usually hungry. Their inner monkey means they will gladly use acrobatics to get your leftovers. But don't just feed them cheap kibble because...
They Delight in and Thrive Best with Fine Dining
Since the Sphynx can have sensitive digestive systems, they require high-quality, high-protein diets to keep them from being stinky, from having poor litter box habits and skin problems. Some Sphynx breeders believe raw diets are the only way to go for these guys. These high-end needs have to be reflected in the price of the kittens they sell, which leads to our next point...
They are Spendy
Sphynx and other hairless cat breeders have a lot invested into the care and propagation of these kitties that may not be readily apparent to the casual observer. Vaccinations, health and genetic screenings, occasional cesarean surgeries, high-quality diets, quality litter, dozens of cat toys to keep these intelligent cats engaged, and time spent grooming and socializing these cats really starts to add up. Expect to spend at least $1,000, and beware of bargain-priced sellers looking to make a quick buck. Unscrupulous breeders cut corners, and it's the cats that suffer (both in poor care of breeding cats and poor health problems you'll be paying to deal with in the future.)
I was struck by the care in selection of breeding stock and the extra time and expense of using outcrossings to ensure the hardiness of the breed while reading about the history and development of the Sphynx and related hairless cats. These are not casual hobbyists. These are cat advocates who barely break even, but I still found these cat advocates donating to shelters to ensure all cats are cared for. Look for breeders that only sell cats with a contract to ensure you know what you're getting into, that the cat is healthy, and to be assured the cats will be well cared for.
Elf Cats - A Developing Hairless Cat Breed
If you find the Sphinx cat intriguing, check out these newly developed Elf cats! They are a conscientious cross of the Sphinx with an American Curl cat. Not only does this produce a healthy cat with hybrid vigor, this produces an other-worldly appearance of the sleek hairless look with curled ears, which is striking indeed! Even more striking are their personalities, which are like the border collies of the feline world. They are highly sociable, intelligent, and sometimes will get in trouble if not occupied with toys and activities, because they will find their own entertainment! I couldn't find a non-copyrighted photo, so this video will have to do for a look-see...
You can tell that even as kittens, these are very bright individuals!
Definitely do your research on both the Sphinx and Elf cats before considering a purchase. People readily acknowledge their quirks, but also claim that they won't go back to a regular cat after experiencing one of these stark beauties with the unforgettable personalities.
Here's a Cats 101 video to help you decide if these guys might be for you.
Have any stories about a hairless cat breed?
Featured Sphynx photo of "Droid" by just chaos.