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Hairless Dogs and Cats: Adorably Elf-Like or Hideously Rat-Like? (Photos)

Dobby can haz sock nao?

Hairless cats and dogs seem ideal: no shedding, no fleas, low maintenance, no allergies, right? Not exactly.

It turns out that some hairless pets, like the Sphynx cat, are actually higher-maintenance than their furry counterparts.

“Because of their lack of absorbent coat,” says The International Cat Association (TICA), “Sphynx tend to get oily and need to be bathed often.” (Not sure how to bathe a cat? Check out our expert tips.)

Likewise, the Peterbald cat, and in particular the “Ultra Bald” Peterbald, needs regular bathing, and in some cases daily cleaning to prevent dirt and oil from building up and clogging  pores. TICA also notes that hairless cats’ skin will sunburn, just like human skin.

Some breeds of hairless dogs are also more prone to skin problems.

“The Chinese Crested is prone to more frequent skin irritations, allergies and sunburn than a coated dog would experience,” says the American Kennel Club, “and its owner should always take precautions to prevent this.”

Hairless pets aren’t necessarily hypo-allergenic, either, says allergy-free, either, says says Dr. Patrick Hensel, DVM, DACVD, associate professor of veterinary dermatology at the University of Georgia.

“There’s a question whether it’s the actual hair people are allergic to or the skin scales that are shed,” Dr. Hensel told Vet Street. “We’re not 100 percent sure.”

Beyond the care requirements and allergy issues, there’s also the issue of whether you truly want a hairless pet. Snuggling and petting will obviously feel different. The Ultra Bald Peterbald, by the way, prefers massage to stroking, probably because its skin is actually sticky.

And then there’s the real question: are these animals adorably elf-like, or hideously rat-like? I seem to be wavering between the two.

Check out these photos, and you be the judge.


  • My mom thinks I’m cute. 1 of 23
    My mom thinks I'm cute.
    A mother Sphynx nuzzles her kitten.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Snuggly 2 of 23
    Snuggly
    Sphynx cats lack a heavy coat to keep them warm, so they tend to be very snuggly, says The International Cat Association.

    (Photo Credit: La Guiago)
  • We’re not really naked. 3 of 23
    We're not really naked.
    The Sphynx breed apepars to be hairless, but in fact is covered in very fine vellus hairs. Its coat is likened to chamois cloth.

    (Photo Credit: Diamond Sphynx)
  • Um, can can you turn up the heat or something? 4 of 23
    Um, can can you turn up the heat or something?
    Hairless cats may tend to feel the cold, but they probably don't really need a sweater. Sphynx are intelligent cats and will find a warm place to sit--most likely under the covers with you or on your lap.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • On the other hand… 5 of 23
    On the other hand...
    If your cat likes a sweater, why not?

    (Photo Credit: Etsy)
  • Dobby can haz sock nao? 6 of 23
    Dobby can haz sock nao?
    If you cross a Sphynx cat with a Munchkin (short-legged) cat, you get a Bambino cat. Or a house elf. I'm not really sure which.

    (Photo Credit: Holy Moly Cats)
  • No, really, you don’t look like rats AT ALL. 7 of 23
    No, really, you don't look like rats AT ALL.
    Bambino kittens from the back.

    (Photo Credit: Holy Moly Cats)
  • I’m fine with my looks! 8 of 23
    I'm fine with my looks!
    The Donskoy breed is a hairless Russian breed, not related to the more common Sphynx. While the Sphynx's hairlessness is a recessive gene, it's a dominant trait in the Donskoy. This Donskoy kitten seems satisfied.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Sticky cat 9 of 23
    Sticky cat
    Peterbald cats were originally bred by mating Donskoy cats with Oriental cats, resulting in the more almond-shaped eyes. Most Peterbalds have a very fine, short, velour-like fur, but the Ultra Bald, like the cat shown here, "is born completely hairless, with soft skin that's sticky to the touch" says Vetstreet.

    (Photo Credit: SmoothCats.com)
  • Dude. Gnarly waves. 10 of 23
    Dude. Gnarly waves.
    I totally thought this was Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High but it's actually a Chinese Crested in a track suit.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • This dog needs a motorcycle. 11 of 23
    This dog needs a motorcycle.
    How can a 6-week-old hairless Chinese crested puppy look so tough? It's the built-in mohawk.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • I whip my hair back and forth. 12 of 23
    I whip my hair back and forth.
    A 9-month-old Chinese Crested dog shows off the crest (on the head), the plume (the tail), and the socks (feet) that are the hallmarks of the breed, according to the American Kennel Club.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • So ugly it’s cute? 13 of 23
    So ugly it's cute?
    Not for nothing, but Chinese Cresteds are frequent winners in the World's Ugliest Dog Competition.

    (Photo Credit: Fun Gallery)
  • Spotty! 14 of 23
    Spotty!
    Chinese Cresteds can have all different patterns on their skin.

    (Photo Credit: Unicorn Chinese Cresteds)
  • The Hairless Ratty 15 of 23
    The Hairless Ratty
    Hairless rat terriers, or "hairless ratties," are a currently considered a separate breed by the United Kennel Club, but not by the AKC.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Rpping)
  • Okay, that’s pretty cute. 16 of 23
    Okay, that's pretty cute.
    A hairless terrier puppy.

    (Photo Credit: Breeders Association)
  • Sculptural dogs 17 of 23
    Sculptural dogs
    The Peruvian Inca Orchid comes in both hairless and stiff-coated, and comes in three sizes. The hairless ones, also called "Peruvian Hairless Dogs," look like sculptures.

    (Photo Credit: Dogster)
  • An Ancient Breed 18 of 23
    An Ancient Breed
    The Peruvian Inca Orchid was the dog of the Incans, and appear on ancient pottery dating back to 750 AD, says the AKC.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Yuri Hooker)
  • I see you. 19 of 23
    I see you.
    The AKC notes that the Peruvian Inca Orchid, a sight hound, should be watched around smaller pets, which it may see as prey.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Yuri Hookoer)
  • Xolo 20 of 23
    Xolo
    The Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced show-low-eats-queen-tlee), or "Xolo," is an ancient, natural breed from Mexico. Like the Peruvian Hairless, it comes in three sizes toy, miniature and standard, and two varieties hairless and coated.

    (Photo Credit: Raven Jake)
  • Zebra dog! 21 of 23
    Zebra dog!
    This Xolo's gorgeous markings make her look like a zebra.

    (Photo Credit: Pets Adviser)
  • An Even Ancient-er Breed 22 of 23
    An Even Ancient-er Breed
    The Xolo is one of the world's oldest and rarest breeds, says the AKC, calling the breed "the first dog of the Americas. Archaeologists have found evidence that Xolos accompanied man on his first migrations across the Bering Straits.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Weexolo)
  • Warm-climate dogs 23 of 23
    Warm-climate dogs
    Both the Peruvian Hairless and the Mexican Hairless (like the Xolo puppy here) are from warmer environments, and will need protection from cold. Neither is suitable as an "outdoor dog."

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Weexolo)

What do you think? Adorably elf-like? Or hideously rat-like? Or possibly both? Let me know in the comments!

Read more from Joslyn at Strollerderby and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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