Cats are known for being enigmas. But even by feline standards, hairless cat breeds carry a certain mystique. Sleek, slinky, and noticeably naked, they’ve enjoyed a cult fanbase ever since the infamous Mr. Bigglesworth glared his way through the “Austin Powers” franchise.
If you’re interested in hairless cat adoption, there’s a lot to consider. From disposition to grooming to medical needs, here’s what you should know about these not-so-furry friends.
Benefits of Adopting a Hairless Cat
Hairless cats are certainly striking. But it’s their one-of-a-kind personality that truly sets them apart. Sphynx cats—the most high-profile of the hairless breeds—are famously social, fun loving, and downright cuddly (despite not looking the part).
“They love that skin-to-skin contact,” says Desiree Bobby, a Sphynx breeder and director of marketing for the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA). “Once you have a Sphynx, you understand why people are so attached to them. They’re on you like glue, and the bond is very strong.”
However, even Bobby, a devoted hairless cat fan, admits that body heat might play a role in their snuggly nature. “They do tend to seek out heat more than other cats,” she says. “So part of it is probably that you’re warm.”
In addition to their winning personalities, hairless breeds are also celebrated for being “hypoallergenic cats.” Unfortunately, this is a common misconception, says Dr. Jennifer Coates, a Colorado-based veterinarian who serves on the advisory board for Cat Life Today.
The major allergen responsible for cat allergies, a protein known as Fel d1, is found in a cat’s skin, saliva, and urine, explains Coates. “Fur can act as a carrier for Fel d1, but even with a hairless cat, the allergen will present on the cat and around the house,” she adds. “And hairless cats do still have a small amount of fur, which will shed in a normal manner.”
Hairless Cat Adoption: Things to Consider
Hairless cats make wonderful companions. But there are some important things to consider before adopting.
If you’re new to hairless cats, their grooming needs may surprise you. Without fur, they have nothing to absorb and redistribute the skin’s natural oils.
“The first thing you should know about caring for a hairless cat is that they need frequent baths,” says Janelle Marrone, a veterinary technician and manager of shelter care at Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch in Jupiter, Florida. “Because of this lack of fur, they have incredibly oily and sweaty skin.”
Hairless cats should be bathed weekly, advises Marrone. Due to their sensitive skin, all shampoo residue must be thoroughly rinsed away, and they should be quickly dried to prevent heat loss.
As for health, Sphynx cats in particular are prone to some medical conditions.
“Sphynx are generally quite healthy,” says Coates. “But the breed is genetically predisposed to skin problems and a type of heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.”
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a disease that causes the walls of a cat’s heart to thicken, leading to a decrease in heart function. Sphynx breeders should scan their cats annually to ensure the condition is not passed onto offspring, notes Bobby. Her volunteer organization, Hairless Hearts, advocates for responsible HCM screening, data sharing, and research.
All cats lead longer, healthier lives when kept indoors. Hairless cats, however, are especially vulnerable outdoors.
“Hairless cats should live strictly indoors due to their increased risk of sunburn and difficulties staying warm,” advises Coates.
Hairless Cat Breeds
There are a number of hairless cat breeds. The following are formally recognized by either the CFA or The International Cat Association (TICA), which set cat breed and genetic standards.
When hearing the words “hairless cat,” most people think of a Sphynx. The Sphynx traces its roots back to 1966, when a naturally hairless kitten was born in Canada. This kitten became the foundation for the breed.
Sphynx cats have different degrees of hairlessness. Some are almost completely smooth-skinned, while others have small patches of hair or “peach fuzz.” Their skin can be a variety of colors and is loose on the body, creating their signature wrinkles.
The Donskoy originated in Russia in 1987 with an unusual litter of kittens—although born with hair, they soon began to go bald. A curious breeder took interest in the unique cats, and developed an entirely new hairless breed.
Donskoy cats may be born bald, or with varying degrees of hair. Some Donskoys will lose their coats entirely over time, while others retain patches of hair. The Donskoy is more muscular than the Sphynx, and sports distinctive webbed toes.
In 1993, a Donskoy cat was bred with an Oriental Shorthair, resulting in kittens that would provide the foundation for the Peterbald breed.
While some Peterbalds are hairless, others have coats ranging from downy fuzz to wiry curls to “normal” hair. Peterbalds are distinguished by their Oriental Shorthair traits: large, flared ears and almond-shaped eyes.
Also known as the “Werewolf Cat,” the Lykoi is a newly recognized, semi-hairless breed. Originally discovered in feral colonies, Lykoi cats have a unique gene mutation that produces a sparse, endearingly disheveled coat.
Most Lykoi’s sport what is known as a “black roan” coat, a mostly dark motif accented with white hairs that lends a wild, wolf-like appearance.
Other Hairless Cat Breeds
Some breeders offer “exotic” naked cats, including the Bambino, a cross between a Sphynx and the controversial, short-limbed “munchkin” cat. However, these hairless breeds are not recognized by CFA or TICA.
“Through cross-breeding, you can make any cat hairless—but that doesn’t mean you should,” says Bobby. “There are a lot of cool looking hairless cats being produced, but no one is ensuring that these are healthy cats. If you find a breeder advertising hairless Savannah cats, you should be very skeptical.”
Where to Adopt a Hairless Cat
Hairless cats are relatively rare, and are not frequently available at public cat shelters. “In my eight years at Furry Friends, I have never seen one in our shelter,” says Marrone.
Many shelters will be happy to notify you if a hairless breed does become available—and who knows, you might fall in love with another breed while you wait! However, if your heart is set on a hairless cat, a purebred cat rescue is a good place to start.
“Though Sphynx are still a fairly rare breed, we are seeing them more and more,” says Kirsten Kranz, director of Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue (SPCR), a foster-based organization with volunteers throughout the Midwest. “The breed is becoming more popular, but is not healthy—and as a result, rescues like ours are seeing the fallout.”
Bobby echoes this sentiment. More people are breeding hairless cats, but not necessarily with proper health protocols. “It’s difficult to find a healthy Sphynx in rescue,” she says. “Responsible breeders have clauses in their contracts that require unwanted cats to be returned to them.”
However, Kranz stresses that this is not always the case. Like other purebred rescue pets, some hairless cats are displaced due to their owner’s health or housing issues. “It is absolutely possible to adopt healthy cats through rescue,” says Kranz. “We do it every day, and have been doing it for over 20 years.”
To find an adoptable Sphynx or other hairless breeds in your area, Kranz recommends using adoption sites such as Petfinder and Rescue Me!, which feature available pets from thousands of shelters and rescues across the country. Once on the site, you can filter by breed, location, age, and other factors.
Adopting a hairless cat breed requires patience, but asking local shelters to notify you if they get one in, expanding your search area, and asking friends and family members to keep an eye out for hairless cats that need homes, can help move things along.
Hairless Cat Adoption Prices
Purebred adoption fees vary widely between organizations, breeds, and ages. Prices for adopting the most in-demand cats—such as purebred Himalayan kittens—are frequently higher than those of older or more common cats, says Kranz. The same can be said for rare hairless cat breeds like Sphynx and Donskoy cats. This is to offset the significant medical costs that rescues such as SPCR encounter.
“On average, we spend $15,000 per month on vet bills for our cats,” says Kranz. “These bills are supported entirely by adoption fees and donations.”
Adoption fees at SPCR range from $50 up to $600, a fee reserved for the rarest, 100 percent purebred cats. As is standard with rescues, all cats are spayed/neutered, microchipped, up-to-date on vaccines, and have had recent veterinary evaluations. Additionally, senior cats undergo blood-work panels, and many cats have had dental cleanings and procedures.
“We often tell people we are doing the ‘heavy lifting’ in terms of vet updating so they can take home a healthy companion,” says Kranz. “Any responsible rescue would say the same.”
Adopting a hairless cat will cost significantly less than purchasing one from a breeder—it just may take longer to find your cat companion.
Hairless Cat Adoption: Essential Products
Like all cats, hairless breeds require some basic starter supplies:
Additionally, you’ll want to have the following products on hand:
Cat shampoo: Because of their delicate skin and frequent baths, hairless cats require a gentle shampoo. Marrone recommends using a product recommended by your veterinarian specifically for your cat. Before using any additional conditioners, bath products, or lotions, consult your veterinarian.
Bathtub mat: Slippery porcelain can be stressful for cats. Purchase a no-slip mat to make bath time more comfortable.
Self-heated bedding: Without a fur coat, hairless cats tend to get chilly. Coates recommends self-heated cat beds, which are made from thermal materials that absorb, trap, and reflect body heat. Electric heating pads and beds can cause burns.
Sweaters: If your cat tolerates clothing and seems cold in your home, Coates also recommends investing in cat sweaters.
T-Shirts: Depending on the temperature of the home and the individual pet, not all hairless cats will require clothing. Regardless, you may want to offer a lightweight T-shirt, says Bobby. Even when bathed regularly, some hairless cats may leave oil marks on furniture.
Hairless cats are special pets for special homes. If you decide a baldie breed is right for you, consider rescuing. While it may take a while to meet your match, these unusual cats are certainly worth the wait!