If you’re considering getting a cat but don’t want the responsibility of constantly vacuuming up hair, or recently watched Austin Powers and found yourself entranced by Mr. Bigglesworth—played by the fantastically named Ted Nudegent—you sound like you’re considering adopting a hairless cat. And, if that’s the case, you likely have your eye on a sphynx cat, the most common hairless cat breed, according to Kirsten Kranz, the director and founder of Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue.
“It’s a wonderful breed in its own way. I love them … but it’s a high-maintenance [cat],” says Kranz, who owns three sphynx cats.
But as tempting as these furless felines may be, they do have some particular care needs and distinct personalities that won’t make them a fit for everyone. Here’s what else you should know before bringing home a new wrinkly, bald buddy.
Hairless Cats Aren’t Hypoallergenic
Plenty of allergy sufferers want a pet—this author among them—but a hairless cat isn’t an easy way out. Having little to no hair to shed is helpful, but hairless cats still produce the common allergen found in dander and saliva.
Kranz says people will sometimes turn sphynxes over to her rescue because of their severe allergic reactions. People can react to allergens in cats’ skin, and hairless cats are almost nothing but skin.
“There are so many components to allergies,” she says.
If you suffer from allergies with a hairless cat in the house, you can follow Cats Protection’s tips on living with a cat: making your bedroom a cat-free zone, washing your hands after touching the cat, and eliminating furniture and rugs that “trap” allergens.
Hairless Cat Breeds
While the sphynx is the most popular hairless breed, it’s hardly the only one. Here’s a quick rundown of all the breeds of hairless cats for your perusal:
We’ve covered them already, but one more fun fact: Sphynx cats will sometimes grow a very fine layer of hair, similar to peach fuzz.
Peterbald cats can wear a range of coat types, and their bones are a bit more delicate than the sphynxes, Petfinder says.
A Peterbald-Siamese mix with webbed toes that shares their personality with the sphynx.
Tiny legs! These are a mix between a sphynx, munchkin, Burmese, and Devon rex breeds and will often have more hair on their face and legs.
If you have your heart set on naming your cat Dobby, this is your best bet. A mix between the sphynx and American curl.
A cross between a sphynx, munchkin, and American curl, a dwelf has short legs to go with their peach-fuzz hair.
This cross between donskoy and Scottish fold cats, this hairless kitty’s trademark is her folded ears.
Another member of the tiny-legs club, Bambinos are a cross between the munchkin and sphynx breeds. They’re similar to minskins but not quite the same.
Hairless Cats’ Personalities
As a mom to three sphynxes, Kranz is an expert in caring for “very, very active” hairless cats. “These guys are very much a different sort of personality,” she says.
Most cats are considered low-maintenance pets, especially when compared to dogs, but the sphynx personality is more on the dog side of the spectrum: “very busy,” Kranz says.
The sphynx has been described as a “snuggly and affectionate” cat who always wants to be near you. They’ll follow you from room to room to “help” with whatever you’re doing.
They’re certainly fun, Kranz says, but they aren’t for everybody.
Caring for Your Hairless Cat
Online, owners of hairless cats will see plenty of recommendations to bathe their cats regularly to prevent the buildup of skin oils. However, too many baths can dry your cat’s skin out, Kranz says.
She rarely bathes her sphynxes, opting to wipe them down if they get oily. Nutritious, high-quality food will help keep their skin from getting oily, she says. It’s a misconception that you have to constantly wash them.
Kranz says you should be sure your vet is familiar with hairless breeds and their treatment. You’ll want to seriously consider pet insurance, too, because they can have special medical needs.
The best-equipped owners of hairless cats are ones who’ve owned cats before, have done their research, and have enough money to provide for their cat, she says.
Many people aren’t as prepared. They’ll see one on television—perhaps when Rachel Green brought home Mrs. Whiskerson—and then try to adopt one, Kranz says. “It’s the novelty factor more than anything else,” she says.