Guide to Cat Breeds (See Full List)

Peterbald

Peterbald

Ancestry: Oriental Shorthair and Don Sphynx
Place of Origin: St. Petersburg, Russia
Date of Origin: 1994
Accepted by: ACA, ACFA and TICA (Championship status)

 
Description

Peterbalds are graceful cats who appear to be hairless, but in fact, most are covered with short, fine down. Like the Sphynx, it’s more accurate to say the ideal Peterbald is furless. The body feels warm and soft to the touch, and the texture of a hairless cat is soft and supple, like suede. The skin should not feel oily to the touch.

Peterbalds vary in their degree of hairlessness. Kittens in the same litter can have a variety of hair types, from ultra bald to a full, straight coat, depending upon the genetic makeup of the parents. It’s thought that polygenes can greatly influence the coat, or lack thereof, but not much is known for sure at this time. The Peterbald gene seems more of a "hair losing" gene rather than a “hairless” gene. Kittens can and do change coat types as they age; they can lose or gain coverage and can change coat types for up to two years. In general, Peterbalds can have four distinct coat types: ultra bald, chamois, velour, brush, and straight. Ultra bald Peterbalds are hairless, with no whiskers or eyebrows, and will never grow a kind of coat. The skin is warm and sticky to the touch. Chamois Peterbalds are about 90 percent hairless; they have no visible hair and feel smooth to the touch, but not sticky; whiskers and eyebrows are kinked, curled, or broken. Velour Peterbalds are about 70 percent hairless with a coat of up to one millimeter in length. The coat has some resistance when stroked. As velour cats age, the coat may change to chamois. Brush coat Peterbalds have wiry hair up to five millimeters long ranging from barely wavy to almost curly with an irregular texture. The whiskers are always curled or kinked. Straight coated Peterbalds do not have the Peterbald gene and have short, close-lying coats and straight whiskers. Cats with the brush coats can be shown for championship. To make this even more confusing, a Peterbald may have a combination of coat types.

The Peterbald is medium-sized with visible wrinkles over most of its body if the coat is short enough to show them. Wrinkles are found on the head, at the base of the neck, the base of the tail, the top of the legs, and down both sides of the body to the underbelly. (All domestic cats are wrinkled, but their fur makes the wrinkles impossible to see.) The body is long, sturdy, and lean, with firm musculature and medium-fine boning. The legs are long. The feet are oval and medium in size, with long, agile, prominent toes. The tail is long, straight, and whippy. The neck is long and slender.

The head is shaped like a long inverted triangle, with extra large, oversized, pointed ears that are broad at the base and set lower than the line of the wedge. The forehead has several vertical wrinkles. The chin is strong, with the tip of the nose in line with the tip of the chin. Whiskers and eyebrows, if they exist, are wavy and may be broken. The eyes are medium in size, almost almond in shape, and are neither protruding nor recessed.

Adult males usually weigh 8 to 10 pounds; adult females usually weigh 6 to 8 pounds. However, weight and size can vary according to the bloodline. Permissible outcrosses are Oriental Shorthair, Siamese, and Don Sphynx. All colors and patterns, including colorpoint, are allowed.

History

Also called the Petersburg Sphynx, the Peterbald has no connection to the Sphynx breed found in North America. The newest recognized hairless breed, the Peterbald was deliberately created by mating the Russian Don Sphynx breed (also known as the Donskoy and Don Hairless) with Siamese and Oriental Shorthairs, to produce a hairless breed with a Siamese head and body type.

Until the 1980s, the government of the former Soviet Union discouraged its people from owning household pets. Cats were generally working class random-bred domestics, earning their keep as mousetraps and rat catchers. However, citizens who could afford to keep and breed cats and dogs did so; owning a companion animal was considered a status symbol, although no clubs or registries then existed.

In 1987, government restrictions were lifted and Russian breeders and fanciers formed cat clubs and began keeping breeding records and registering their cats. The two largest associations, the Fauna Club in Moscow and the Kotofei Cat Club in Saint Petersburg, provided official pedigrees. In 1988, the first Russian cat show was held in Moscow, and since then shows have been held every year. With the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, cat lovers in both Russia and the United States had opportunities not available before, such as sharing information and exchanging pedigreed cats.

The Peterbald arose in this new atmosphere of feline freedom. In 1993 breeder Olga Mironova of Saint Petersburg mated a brown mackerel tabby Don Sphynx male named Afinguen Myth to a tortie Oriental Shorthair female named Radma Vom Jagerhof. The first litter was born in January 1994 and included hairless kittens, proving that the gene governing hairlessness in the Don Sphynx is dominant, unlike the recessive gene that governs the North American Sphynx’s lack of fur. It’s likely the gene was the result of a spontaneous mutation, because for at least the last 100 years hairless cats have been found all over the world, including France, Morocco, Australia, Canada, at least four different states in the United States, and Rostov-na-Donu, Russia, the original home of the Don Sphynx.

The new breed gained quick popularity in Saint Petersburg, and was named after its city of origin. To increase the limited gene pool, Peterbalds were crossed with additional bloodlines of Don Sphynx, Siamese and Oriental Shorthairs. Because the Oriental Shorthair and Don Sphynx comes in so many colors and patterns, the Peterbald inherited many of them, including the recessive pointed pattern from the Siamese.

However, the ultimate goal was to breed Peterbalds who would always produce hairless offspring. To accomplish that goal, breeders prized cats who were homozygous for the dominant hairless gene—that is, cats that had inherited two copies of the gene, one from each parent. Such cats would produce only hairless offspring, even when bred to an outcross. And two homozygous cats bred together would produce only homozygous kittens. However, obtaining homozygous kittens is easier said than done since it’s difficult to identify homozygous Peterbalds.

The Kotofei Cat Club in Saint Petersburg is affiliated with the international division of ACFA, which helped open the door for Peterbalds to immigrate to North America.

Today, the Peterbald is growing in popularity in and out of Russia. The Peterbald is recognized and accepted for championship by Russian cat clubs, and in 2006 achieved that goal in North America. In 1997, TICA accepted the breed for evaluation. In 2002 TICA accepted the Peterbald as a Preliminary New Breed and then promoted the breed to Advanced New Breed status. In February 2005, TICA’s board voted to advance the breed to championship. ACFA granted championship in May 2009. ACA now also recognizes the breed, and fanciers are working toward recognition in the other associations as well.

Notes

Although some are virtually hairless, Peterbalds do require grooming to remove the sebaceous oils that collect on their skin. These oily secretions are entirely normal, but Peterbalds don’t have fur to absorb the oils, the way furred cats do. If they aren’t wiped down regularly with water or cat-safe wipes, Peterbalds will begin to feel sticky to the touch. Weekly baths with kitty-safe shampoo and daily touchups with cat-safe wipes (available at pet supply stores) are recommended. Only moments are required to dry this furless breed. They can get buildups of ear wax as well, which should be removed regularly.

Since this is a new breed and still developing, little information is available about inherited diseases, but so far no health problems have been associated with the hairless gene. However, since Oriental Shorthairs and Siamese are allowable outcrosses, it’s possible some lines have inherited conditions known to exist in those breeds, such as liver amyloidosis that causes lesions, dysfunction, and eventual liver failure, and dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlargement of the heart muscle that decreases heart function. Orientals are also prone to plaque buildup, tartar formation, and gingivitis, which can lead to the dental disease periodontitis (an inflammatory disease affecting the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth). Periodontal disease can cause tissue, bone and tooth loss, and, untreated, can undermine a cat’s overall health. It’s wise to discuss these and any other health concerns with the breeder and ask for a written health guarantee.

Peterbalds considerately refrain from shedding on your furniture but can still make you sneeze; furless felines are not hypoallergenic as is sometimes thought. It’s not cat hair that causes allergic reactions in humans, but rather an allergenic protein called Fel d1 secreted in the saliva and sebaceous glands. This protein is spread onto the skin during grooming, where it dries and flakes off in tiny particles. Peterbalds groom themselves just as much as any other breed, and produce as much of this protein. In fact, without the hair to absorb secretions, Peterbalds can actually cause more severe allergic reactions in some people. It’s wise to spend time in the presence of an adult Peterbald before agreeing to buy, even if your allergies are mild. Keep in mind that cats may not develop their full allotment of Fel d1 until they mature. Too, the amount of Fel d1 can vary from cat to cat, sometimes a great deal, so once you settle on the Peterbald of your dreams, be sure to spend time with him before paying up. If this isn’t possible, visit a local Peterbald breeder or owner to see how you react around the breed.

Did you know?

Peterbald kittens are usually born with fur; it’s rare for them to be born entirely hairless. Some kittens have more fur than others and some of the kittens’ coats appear wavy. They may lose or gain fur as they mature, which can take up to two years.

Personality

Since the breed is still being developed, personality can vary according to bloodline. In general, however, Peterbalds are trusting by nature and will approach people with equal amounts of curiosity and playfulness. Peterbalds are active, loving, friendly, and frisky, and get along well with friends and strangers alike, as well as cat-friendly dogs, cats, and most children, as long as the proper introductions are made first. Visitors usually become immediate friends.

Never cool or aloof, Peterbalds are affectionate, friendly and outgoing. Very people oriented, they crave human love and attention. Peterbalds wrap their long, agile paws around you and give you chin licks and forehead presses, unembarrassed by their loving displays. Highly active, they love to follow you around the house, helping you with all your chores, and then leaping into your lap as soon as you sit down for a rest.

When you come home, Peterbalds are likely to be sitting by the door, wagging their tails and telling you about their day. Since they have Siamese and Oriental ancestors, Peterbalds are vocal and need to communicate with you, but their voices are softer and usually don’t have that Siamese rasp. Like the Siamese, they can be demanding and loud, but as a rule they are usually quieter than their Oriental relatives. The Peterbald is a loving breed and will give you lifelong devotion and companionship.

Breed Characteristics

Size:Small to medium.
Coat Length(s):Short hair.
Body Type: velte.
Grooming Requirement:Twice a week.
Talkativeness:Vocal.
Activity Level:High.
Affection:Very affectionate.
Usually Good With:Adults, seniors, and children (6+).
Time Alone:4 to 8 hours per day.
Attention:Needs lots of attention.
Handling:Moderately docile.