Donskoy: Cat Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

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Often referred to as the Don Sphynx, Russian Donskoy, Don Hairless and Russian Hairless, the Donskoy is a medium-sized, muscular cat known for having little (or no) hair and wrinkled skin that resembles human skin. These friendly, active cats are known for being very loyal— in fact, their loyalty is often compared to that of dogs—and the are also both incredibly intelligent and affectionate.

Breed Overview

Height: 11 to 12 inches

Weight: 6 to 12 pounds

Coat: Rubber Bald, Flocked, Velour, and Brush

Coat Color: Hairless; varied

Eye Color: Varied

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Donskoy Cat

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Vocalize Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Donskoy Cat

Donskoy cats were first discovered in 1987 by Elena Kovaleva, a professor of the State Pedagogical Institute, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. Kovaleva spotted a group of boys who were mistreating a kitten and a decided to take the kitten home and name her Varvara. After a few months, Varvara became losing her hair, and Kovaleva attempted numerous treatments on her kitten’s skin (to no avail).

Varvara mated with a local tomcat and produced a litter of kittens a few years later, and her litter included both hairless and haired offspring—however, the kittens with hair eventually began to lose it, thus causing people to believe that their hair loss was caused by some sort of illness. There was little interest in the cats and people encouraged Kovaleva to get rid of them since they appeared to be unhealthy. However, these kittens were the founding stock of the Donskoy breed, and were later outcrossed with European Shorthair cats.

 When a professional breeder named Irina Nemikina rescued one of the kittens and began a breeding program, the hairless coats continued with subsequent litters and it was speculated that it was actually a gene that was necessary for producing the coats (or lack thereof). Nemikina’s breeding efforts created a new cat breed, which she named Don Sphynx — Don for the nearby Don River and Sphynx as a nod to the cats’ appearance and lack of hair.

The World Cat Federation recognized the breed in 1987, and the Donsky was recognized by the International Cat Association in 2005. The breed standard indicates that these cats are medium-sized and muscular, and have large ears, long, webbed toes, and almond-shaped eyes. Their heads are wedge-shaped and the eyes can come in a variety of colors.

The Donskoy cat also helped create another hairless breed; the Peterbald cat was originally created by crossing Donskoy and Oriental Shorthair cats. Since 2000, it’s not longer allowed to breed the Donskoy and the Peterbald, and outcrossing is also not permitted (with the exception of the domestic shorthair) due to the impact of the Donskoy's dominant hairless mutation.

Donskoy Cat Care

Because they’re hairless (or nearly hairless), Donskoys have unique grooming needs. They won’t need to be brushed, but Donskoy owners will need to wipe down their cat daily whenever possible, as their body produces oils but doesn’t have enough hair to absorb it. Baths should be given approximately once per month.

The combination of bathing and daily wipe-downs will help prevent skin issues, which these cats are prone to—however, be sure to avoid over-bathing the Donskoy, as that can cause their skin to become excessivel oily. Donskoy care should also include cleaning their ears regularly (aim for about once per week) to remove debris and wax buildup as well as ward off infection. Potential Donskoy owners should also know that these cats can grow a winter coat—it will usually appear on their chest and tail—and they will shed it when the weather warms up.

The Donskoy cat is both friendly and intelligent. Their personalities are generally affectionate and social, and they’re also inquisitive and enjoy being around people and other pets (although, somewhat surprisingly, they’re not always friendly with fellow felines). They're the type of cat that seems to assume that everyone who enters the household is there to see them, and they're often compared to dogs when it comes to their loveable, loyal, and social personalities. These cats actually enjoy making up and playing games, as well as engaging in favorites like hide-and-seek and even fetch. They’re also great pets for people with allergies, as they shed little to no hair or dander—however, they will require consistent temperatures indoors all-year round, and you'll often spot Donskoys wearing some sort of sweater.

These elegant and soft-hearted cats make great pets and are easy to train to follow voice commands, however Donskoys are not ideal for households where they would need to be left along for long periods of time—they demand a substantial amount of attention and interaction with their humans. Though they are gentle and good-natured, these cats also aren’t ideal for first-time cat owners, especially because they are more active than most cats (although they also do their fair share of sleeping).

Because of their lack of hair and inability to acclimate to temperature extremes, it’s recommended that Donskoys remain indoor cats. They are rare and often stolen, and their friendliness also makes them easy targets.

donskoy cat breed
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Common Health Problems

Because of their hairless bodies, sunburn, sensitivity to hot and cold weather, and other skin issues are potential concerns for Donskoy cat owners. These cats have also been associated with certain dental issues, such as tooth decay and gum disease, so tooth brushing is a must.

Today, not all cat registries recognize the Donskoy, and there have historically been numerous concerns about the genetic health of this particular breed. The dominant genetic mutation that causes hairlessness in both Donskoys and Peterbalds could potentially cause feline ectodermal dysplasia in its homozygous form, which can lead to health issues such as an inability to either lactate or sweat. Similar dominant mutations can also cause the condition in hairless dogs.

Diet and Nutrition

Because Donskoys have a higher body temperature than most cats, this breed actually tends to eat more to maintain their body temperature during the winter. However, their intake should return to normal once winter is over.

Pros

  • Friendly and good with kids

  • Intelligent

  • Easy to socialize

Cons

  • Can develop skin issues easily

  • Have unique and intensive grooming needs

Where to Adopt or Buy a Donskoy Cat

Donskoy cats are very rare, so be sure to check local animal shelters and rescue groups for these cats that are in need of a forever home, as well as reputable breeders.

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

Be sure to do your homework when choosing a cat. Talk to other Donskoy cat owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more about this particular breed and their care. There's a variety of cat breeds and with a little research, you can be sure you'll find the right dog to bring home.

If you’re interested in learning more about other cats, consider these breeds: