Hairless

I have mixed feelings about hairless cats. The result of careful breeding of cats that were hairless as result of a spontaneous mutation, the breed itself strikes me as a demonstration of man’s willingness to sustain something that should not be. Fans of the breed tout its “natural mutation” origin as if that means hairlessness is not a defect, but there’s a reason we don’t see populations of these cats in the wild: cats without hair lack temperature control and basic skin protection.

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There have been attempts to give these cats a backstory as a natural breed, but they were essentially unknown except as occasional “natural mutations.” Their story feels to me like the story of companion animals in general – they are prized for their dependence on humans. The Sphynx, as the breed is called, has a reputation for being exceptionally affectionate, a “Love Mooch,” according to the profile at Cat Fanciers Association. Their skin is not completely smooth, having a very light hair. A hairless cat’s skin is generally described as similar to suede or chamois, and warm to the touch (although they can chill quickly). They look and feel so vulnerable, they are bound to trigger more than the usual parental protection feeling in people who encounter them.

The photosharing site, Flickr, can almost certainly take at least some credit for increasing the popularity of the breed. Cats are phenomenonal subjects, and hairless cats are some of the most visually interesting cats out there, sharing the physicial proportions of breeds like Siamese. They are often described by their owners as a “great conversation piece.”

I can’t fault anyone who goes to the trouble of getting a pet from a breeder for wanting to share pictures, at least, of their pet with the world, but it can be hard to find a picture of a hairless cat that doesn’t look frankly malevolent. I made an effort this week to look for a different angle. I looked for the curious, the snoozy, the engaged, the loving. They will always look odd to me, but after finding these pictures, and others like them, they do look a little more like the cats I’ve known and loved.

 

4 thoughts on “Hairless

  1. Luke

    My friend has one of these, and yes, he’s very affectionate- because he’s COLD. When he wears one of his goof sweaters he’s as distant as any other cat.

    Reply
  2. Mike

    You’ve really chosen an excellent set of images, Caitlin! These are not my favorite cats (streamlined though they may be ;-)), but it’s hard not to like or at least feel sympathetic toward the ones depicted here.

    Reply
  3. Caitlin Post author

    I certainly find them a lot more interesting (and less aversive) since I took the time to look for pictures like this. I’m especially fascinated by the love scene at the bottom.

    Luke, that is so awesome about the sweaters! (Of course, some cats, like Mr Bun, are all friendy-like even when they’re warm :))

    ps, please provide pic of cat in sweater.

    Reply
  4. dracorubio

    Hi there,

    I’m the owner of the two cats at the bottom of the page (Pixel & Willow). It’s nice to see someone with a clear opinion about these cats, other then “OMG they’re ugly!” In fact they are actually, but that’s only skindeep.
    I’m not going to debate the ethics of breeding a mutation (have you seen some of the dogs people keep?). I’m much to biased for the weird and strange. I’d even love a robot if it could show affection and have big eyes (wall-E).
    The first time I saw one of these creatures on Flickr I was sold. They aroused my curiosity and soon after I learned they were good for people with allergies. Being allergic to any kind of animal (except for the odd turtle and goldfish) I never had a pet in my life. So that’s how I got these two.

    They are very affectionate in nature and often behave like small children. And boy are they smart. The most fun we have is talking to them, because they tend to respond with just the right meow to get you ROFL-ing in no time.

    Like I said before, the looks are only skindeep, it’s the personality of them that gets to you. Here’s a tip if you feel up to it. Find someone who has one or two of them, not a breeder or a catshow. But someone who actually lives with them. Spend some time there and get to know the creatures. You’ll be surprised how they grow on you, and if you still don’t like it, no worries. They don’t leave any hair on you!!

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