Don Hairless cat breed: one of the special hairless cats of the Russians

László Enikő

2023. May 19 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

Although it may be surprising, the Don Hairless is not related to the well-known naked cat, the Sphinx.


The Hairless also known as Don Sphynx, Russian Hairless Cat and Donskoy, is a medium-sized, muscular cat that, like the Sphynx, is either sparsely furred or bald due to a genetic mutation. These friendly, active cats are known for being very loyal – in fact, their loyalty is often compared to dogs – but they are also intelligent and affectionate. This inquisitive and playful cat loves to cuddle up in his owner’s lap, but can also be very naughty. As they are generally quite outgoing and well-balanced, they fit well into households with children, other cats or even dogs. However, they need more care than you might think and don’t like to be left alone for long periods.


The first representative of the breed was first discovered in 1987 by Elena Kovaleva, a professor at the State Pedagogical Institute in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. Kovaleva saved a kitten from a group of boys who mistreated it. She took the female cat home and named her Varvara. After a few months, Varvara’s hair started to fall out. Kovaleva thought the baldness was caused by a health problem and tried several treatments on her cat’s skin, but sadly unsuccesfully.

Varvara later mated with a local tomcat, and the litter contained both hairless and hairy kittens. However, the furry cats eventually began to lose fur, leading people to believe that the fur loss was caused by some disease. There was little interest in the cats and people encouraged Kovaleva to get rid of them as they seemed unhealthy.

When a professional breeder named Irina Nemikina took in one of the kittens and began a breeding program with her, baldness appeared in the offspring, confirming that it was an inherited genetic mutation not a disease that causes hair loss. Nemikina’s breeding efforts created a new breed of cat that she named the Don Sphynx — Don from the nearby Don River and Sphinx, as the other hairless cat breed.

The World Cat Federation recognized the breed in 1987, and the International Cat Federation (TICA) only much later, in 2005.

Also the Donskoy cat helped in the creation of another hairless breed. The Peterbald was originally created by crossing the Don Sphynx and the Oriental Shorthair breeds. Since 2000, the crossing of the Donskoy and the Peterbald is no longer allowed due to the dominant hairless mutation of the Donskoy.

Breed standard

The Don Sphynx is a medium-sized, muscular cat with a strong build. Its body weight is about 4-5 kg. Its head is wedge-shaped, its forehead is flat, its cheekbones are defined, and its whisker pads are prominent. The nose is medium, long and straight. The ears are large, located on the top of the head, with rounded ends. Its eyes are almond-shaped, medium-sized, slightly slanted. Its eyes are lively. The neck is moderately long, strong and muscular. Its hind legs are longer than the front ones. Its paws are oval and the toes are long. The tail is thin, tapering towards the end. Its skin is wrinkled and loose. The kitties are often born with hair, but they become hairless by the age of two. Sparse fur may be present on the muzzle, ears, legs and tail. All colors and patterns can be found in the breed. Its expected lifespan is 12-15 years.


The first thing you notice about a Donskoy cat is its appearance. The next thing is likely to be the open, friendly and curious personality. These cats are almost dog-like in their enthusiasm for spending time with their owners, as well as their ability to be trained to fetch, walk on a leash, or even perform simple tricks. They are also very affectionate and love to cuddle.

They are very active cats and love to play, run and jump. The Don Sphynx will usually take care of its own exercise needs as long as it is provided with plenty of toys, cat trees or similar things to climb on, and boxes or tunnels to jump and explore. It’s always fun and a good bonding time for you to take some time each day to interact directly with your cat through vigorous play.

Ideal environment

Despite the fact that they do not usually have fur, it is not a hypoallergenic breed, so for allergy sufferers may not benefit from their hairless body. They are good-natured cats that get along well with people young and old, other cats and most dogs. However, they need a lot of time and love, so they are not the best choice for a home with few owners.


This kitty needs a bit more calories than your average furry companion because of their higher body temperature. This feature also makes it extremely resistant to diseases. Of course, despite this, you have to make sure that they don’t get cold or be a draft. Although their often non-existent hair does not require care, their skin must be wiped from time to time with a soft, wet towel, because the sebum produced but not used can cause an unpleasant smell on the body. Their skin, like humans, sweats and can be easily irritated. It is worth taking a bath once or twice a month.

Common health problems

The Don Sphynx is mostly a healthy cat. However, because of its hairless body, it can cause problems with sunburn, sensitivity to hot and cold weather, and other skin problems. These cats have also been linked to certain dental problems such as tooth decay and gum disease, so brushing is very important for them.

Today, not all cat associations recognize the Donskoy, mainly due to concerns about the breed’s genetic health. A dominant genetic mutation that causes hairlessness in both the Don Sphynx and the Peterbald has the potential to cause Feline Ectodermal Dysplasia, a complex medical condition that can include an inability to sweat, abnormal development of teeth and gums, and failure to breastfeed.

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