Many people have not heard about the Peterbald cat, in part because it is relatively rare, and in part because the breed has only been recently discovered and bred! We generally like to think of cats as having long lives and long histories, but there are certain breeds, particularly hairless ones, that have only recently been bred or discovered. The Peterbald came to Europe from Asian breeders.
There are some similarities regarding the breeding of Peterbalds and that of the Scottish Fold breed of cat. The list will show some of the key similarities, including the presence of a dominant gene that is responsible for the Peterbald’s unique cat characteristics. There are clearly differences between the two breeds, but what should be of interest to cat owners and breeders is that there is considerable interest in creating new breeds of cats around the world.
Here is the list of 20 cool facts you didn’t know about Peterbald cats.
1. Its baldness is the result of a dominant gene
As will be shown in other items on the list, genetics plays a huge role in the life of these cats. But technically the Peterbald is not actually completely bald. Some have very thin hair all over their body which feels like peach fuzz, and a moustache is usually present. There can be three dominant genes that will determine how your Peterbald looks. One will result in a the commonly perceived idea that it is a hairless cat, one will result in the loss of its hair after birth, and one will determine whether the cat’s coat will be altered or diminished in any way. Because not all Peterbald cats are created equal, the combination of these three dominant genes will determine what the cat looks like.
2. Cross Breed
The Peterbald breed is the result of several cross matches between the Don Sphynx cat and the Siamese/Oriental breeds. The Peterbald breed is not a “natural” breed as some other breeds of cats are and can trace their ancestry back many hundreds of years. The hairless breed of Peterbald was discovered, and then there were several attempts to recreate the breed through cross-matching with either Siamese or Oriental breeds of cats. This seems to indicate that the breeders were looking to keep the cat’s Asian heritage.
3. The general life expectancy of the cat is 10 -12 people years.
As many cats live between 10 and 15 years, this is somewhat of a shorter lifespan for a cat. But its baldness is not to be understood as a reason for this. One breed of cat that is often confused with the Peterbald is the Sphynx, which has a general lifespan of between 10 and 15 years. Hairless cats in general require a certain amount of special care, and given the fact that the Peterbald and the Sphynx can be easily confused because there are no significant size or weight differences between the two, the shortened life span of the Peterbald is not easily understood.
4. The Peterbald is very vulnerable to temperature extremes
This is not the type of cat you open the door for and allow outside the house. By its nature, it is an indoor cat. While other cats and animals in general have fur that serves multiple purposes, including keeping it warm and as a cooling mechanism, hairless cats largely lack these characteristics. This does not mean you cannot take the cat outside, but the best way to reduce the possibility of any health issues is to keep them inside.
5. It is 1 of only 6 hairless cat breeds known in the entire world.
Other items on the list will tell how and why the Peterbald came to be, but it is a unique breed no matter where in the world you happen to live. The other 5 types of hairless cats are:
- Sphynx (Canada)
- Donskoy (Russia)
- Bambino (United States)
- Ukrainian Levkoy (Ukraine)
- Elf (United States)
Each of these cats has their own unique traits.
6. Sunscreen for cats is an essential item for Peterbald owners.
Sunscreen and pets seem incompatible with all their fur, but for the Peterbald it is a requirement if you are going to expose them to the sun outdoors. The dangers for the cat are its skin will become dry and flaky because there is no fur to retain sweat and reduce the impact of the sun on its skin. This means it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is. If the sun is out it will definitely affect the cat. It is only a question of to what degree. In colder climates, a cat sweater or coat is a must.
7. Its first name was the Don Sphynx.
The cat didn’t actually originate in St. Petersburg (see the next item) but was shipped there by someone outside of the city. The original name was given because of its physical similarities to its near twin, the Sphynx cat. The Don Sphynx is sometimes referred to when discussing the Sphynx breed, but technically they are two different types of cats. Potential owners need to be aware of this fact and make sure the Peterbald cat of their choosing is one with the proper genetic makeup.
8. The Peterbald breed was taken to St. Petersburg, Russian for breeding.
If it seems strange that a hairless cat sensitive to extreme temperatures would come out of Russia, you are not alone. Once the breed arrived in St. Petersburg, it was quickly exported to European countries. You don’t have to have a veterinary degree to figure out why – it was for survival. While the cats could survive when kept indoors, there are other issues with the cats, including health issues, that were likely to be considered a danger to the new discovered breed.
9. It is a cat with genetic “defect.”
This issue of cats with a genetic defect is not only true of Peterbalds. The Scottish Fold cat also possesses a genetic defect which makes it both unique and in demand around the world – the same as the Peterbald breed. Apparently there are significant advantages to these technical defects, as the Peterbald and Scottish Fold breeds are said to have excellent behavioral qualities as pets for humans. The Peterbald will be happy to lay in your lap for hours, sit by you during breakfast (not mooching for scraps), and even curl up next to you when you are looking for space underneath your blanket. This is the direct opposite of what the large majority of cat owners experience on a regular basis. (Every cat has its moments.)
10. If you own a Peterbald, it is a binary trait.
Simply put, either your cat has the Peterbald genetic trait or it does not. The reason is that most Peterbalds have only one copy of the gene. Think of it as the last copy you make on a printer that runs out of paper and ink at the same time, then completely breaks down. That means you can breed two Peterbald cats and only get normally coated kittens. But it is also possible you will get a half and half mixture of Peterbald and normally coated. Statistically, the chances of breeding two Peterbalds who have hairless coats that will result in another totally hairless Peterbald is 1 in 4.
11. It is possible a Peterbald can have two different types of “hair.”
As was mentioned above, Peterbalds technically do have hair. One type is the peach fuzz hair, but there is also a breed that will have what is called “wiry guard hair.” This type of hair is slightly better at protecting the cat’s skin. But there is a breed that is quite rare that has both types of hair. It will occur in bicolored Peterbalds and will have the white part of its coat feel like the peach fuzz and the darker part of the coat feel like the wiry guard hair.
12. The Peterbald breed was discovered as an “experimental” breed.
Remember the original name of the breed was Don Sphynx? Back in the 1990’s, two cats with actual names were bred. Radma Von Jagerhof was bred to a Don Sphynx cat named Afinguen Myth. The resulting kittens were considered to be an experimental breed. One of those kittens is considered to be the cat from which all Peterbald’s can trace their ancestry to. And yes, that cat has a name too – Nocturne Iz Murino. Though the names of people are sometimes thought of as unusual, you have to admit the names of these cats may be as equally experimental.
13. It took almost 20 years for the Peterbald breed to be officially recognized as legitimate.
If a cat breed is not accepted as a recognized breed by the International Cat Association, it is not able to participate in international cat competitions. The organization officially recognized the breed in 2005. But given their personality as a generally lazy breed, it is hard to think about an owner or breeder would breed and train their Peterbalds to enter into these various cat competitions.
14. Hairless does not always translate into hypoallergenic.
Wannabe cat owners who are looking to choose a Peterbald as their first cat because they believe a hairless cat (or dog) will not carry as many allergens as their fur bearing competition will need to rethink their position. There are many places on a Peterbald cat that have the potential to carry around potential allergens, including their saliva and their very thin coat of hair. Allergens can also be present in their dander. There are a number of factors that go into any cat approaching a level that would be best for people with allergies. The general consensus is that the Peterbald should only be owned by experienced cat owners for a number of reasons.
15. Skin care is crucial to the health of the Peterbald.
People who have hair recognize that many times the problem with their hair health lies on the skin beneath the hair. The same is true for Peterbalds, except they have a lot more hair and skin to keep healthy. This means owners need to provide extra maintenance above and beyond that of many normal cats. The general guidelines are for you to wash your Peterbald at least once a month. (No information on how easy that will be.) One reason for the monthly bathing is that their barely hairy skin will be more oily than other breeds. On the other hand, if you wash it too often, the skin will become dry. If you have heard of cat wipes, you will need them to wipe down their skin between those monthly baths. That seems like a much easier task than the bath.
16. The Peterbald breed is recommended only for experienced cat owners.
This was briefly mentioned earlier, but some detail is in order here. The Peterbald is no ordinary cat, being only one of 6 hairless cat breeds in the world. There is still much to be learned about the breed since it has only been around for about 25 years. Their skin requires special care, but the biggest reason for preferring experienced cat owners is to help each Peterbald to live as long as it can. Not only is the weather a potential threat to its health, but they require a lot of owner-to-cat attention. New cat owners are not likely to have realistic expectations of the amount of time necessary to properly take care of a Peterbald. Believing that the breed is a low maintenance breed is likely to be a costly error in judgment for both you and the cat.
17. The Peterbald’s genetics also affects their metabolism.
Several points have been made about the unique genetics of the breed, but this is one point that will affect owners in several ways. The high metabolism of the Peterbald means they eat almost twice as much per day as a normal cat. Their dietary requirements are to be fed as many as 5 times a day – under normal circumstances. But the higher metabolism and extra food does not mean they will be more active. It is just the way their body works. On the good side of the higher metabolism is that any type of scratch or wound will heal considerably faster than on a normal cat. The Peterbald has some unique health problems, so its higher metabolism is a plus and a minus for owners.
18. Again, the genetics play a significant role in the breed’s life – this time its health.
This will be a bit technical but it is important to know what you may be facing if you are seriously thinking of becoming an owner. (Remember the experienced cat owner recommendation.) One of the biggest and most common genetic health issue is feline ectodermal dysplasia – in its homozygous form. The layperson’s definition is this is a condition caused by the same gene that is responsible for a Peterbald being a Peterbald. But it is also present in other pets, such as German Shepherds. It can be responsible for malformed teeth and other dental issues. The skin issues have been previously mentioned, and there are lesser problems such as being more susceptible to fleas and vomiting, and the presence of the feline lower urinary tract disease.
19. ThePeterbald is expensive to buy and maintain.
Peterbalds will cost you out of pocket in the range of $1200 to $2000 per kitty. But with all the potential health, maintenance, and feeding issues, the monthly tab for a single cat can exceed $1200 a month. Expect to take your Peterbald into the vet about every other month, and that’s if everything goes normally.
20. The Peterbald breed has 5 main types of coat that make it identifiable.
This breed can be a handful in both the good and bad sense of the word. Just to complicate things, their coats may change the older they get, so the cat you see at year 1 may look different at year 5. But this is out of their control.
The 5 types are:
Bald. While some Peterbalds are born completely without hair, most will grow some hair with age. The completely bald Peterbald will feel a little sticky to the touch.
Brush. The length of the hair on this type of coat will be about 5 mm. Genetically, this breed will have only one copy of the Peterbald hairless gene, so potential breeders need to take note. Also noteworthy is that no other breed of cat, hairless or normal, has a brush coat. So if you have a Peterbald with a brush coat you are guaranteed it is a genuine Peterbald. The coat feels like felt.
Flock. Almost hairless with a 90% bald coat, this type of coat feels like a piece of smooth chamois leather no matter which way you pet the Peterbald.
Straight. A Straight coat Peterbald is the opposite of the Brush coated type. They have zero copies of the hair loss gene, so there is no possibility of breeding a hairless Peterbald. This type will have short hair coat with normal cat whiskers.
Velour. This can be considered to be the middle road when it comes to Peterbald coat types. It will have hair that is about 1 mm. in length and is about 70 percent hairless.
With this list of 20 items, it is clear that the Peterbald breed is not just for your average cat owner. There are a number of desirable characteristics about the cat, especially their natural affection for people and amicable demeanor around other cats and pets in general. Offsetting these characteristics are the downsides, mainly that are the result of the very dominant gene that is responsible for the good traits. If breeders are looking to genetically create the perfect cat, they are finding that there will always be tradeoffs to deal with.
But as for the Peterbald itself, it has a somewhat noble ancestry and is one of the world’s most desired cats. One reason is that many of the normal cats aren’t considered to be friendly enough with people, so despite their low maintenance they are far from ideal for families with children. Another reason is that for people who have multiple pets, mixing different types of animals is a constant problem. Fighting between the different types of animals, either as a result of territorial disputes or simply not getting along, not only costs time but also money if the purpose is breeding. The Peterbald is neither territorial nor overly possessive – except to their owners.
The question is whether buying a Peterbald cat for ownership or breeding purposes is a worthwhile purchase. First, there are the upfront costs of roughly $2000 if you can find a reputable breeder. As an owner, you will have to plan not only for the $1250 a month care costs, but also the necessary time to keep your cat mentally and emotionally healthy. Peterbalds are likely to be a part of your everyday life, which includes vacations and other regular trips away from home.
On the breeder end, the monthly expenses and initial purchase price can be expected to be offset once you sell the cat. But the chances of regularly ending up with a genuine Peterbald are about 1 in 4, and that is if the odds work in your favor. So there is a considerable risk involved from a business and financial angle. At this point there is no long term evidence how Peterbalds adjust moving from one owner to another, partly because very few original owners of genuine Peterbalds want to part with them! Another problem is their health because a breeder can find themselves with mounting veterinary bills if a litter is sickly. That too is a matter of chance.
The bottom line is that because the Peterbald breed is less than 30 years old, there is much that needs to be learned about them. They are not commonly owned by most people, making real world information for the average person scarce. For now, they should be owned only by experienced cat owners who can deal with all the potential problems and have the time and resources to properly take care of them.
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- The 20 Most Rare Cat Breeds In The World
- What to Do When You Find a Stray Kitten
- 20 Things Only Tabby Cat Owners Understand
- 10 Tips to Reduce Your Cat’s Holiday Stress