Also referred to as the Don Sphynx or Russian Hairless, the Donskoy is a medium-sized, muscular cat that, like the sphynx breed, has little (or no) hair due originally to a genetic mutation. These friendly, active cats are known for being very loyal—in fact, their loyalty is often compared to that of dogs—and they are also both intelligent and affectionate.
These curious and playful felines love to cuddle, but can be mischievous as well. Because they are generally quite outgoing and even-tempered, they are a good fit for households with children, other cats, or even dogs. However, they need more grooming than you might expect, and they do not like to be left alone for long stretches of time.
Other Names: Don Sphynx, Russian Hairless
Personality: Affectionate, curious, playful, intelligent, and friendly
Weight: 6 to 15 pounds
Length: 13 to 15 inches
Coat Length: Bald or slight fuzz
Coat Color: Skin can be any color found in felines
Coat Patterns: Skin can have any pattern found in felines
Eye Color: Any color found in felines
Lifespan: 12 to 15+ years
The first thing you'll notice about a Donskoy cat is its appearance. The next thing is likely to be its outgoing, friendly, and curious personality. These cats are almost dog-like in their enthusiasm for time spent with their humans, as well as their ability to be trained to come to their name, walk on a leash, or even perform simple tricks. They are very affectionate, as well, and love to cuddle, be petted, or sneak into your bed for a nap.
A medium-sized cat with a muscular build, the Donskoy, despite not normally having fur, is not a hypoallergenic breed. They are good-natured cats that get along well with humans young and old, other felines, and most dogs. They do need plenty of your time and affection, however, so are not the best choice for a home that is often empty.
|Tendency to Vocalize||Medium|
|Amount of Shedding||Low|
History of the Donskoy Cat
Donskoy cats were first discovered in the late 1980s by Elena Kovaleva, a professor of the State Pedagogical Institute, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. Kovaleva rescued a kitten from a group of boys who were mistreating it. She took the female kitten home and named it Varvara. After a few months, Varvara began losing her hair. Thinking the baldness was due to a health problem, 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 the 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.
When a professional breeder named Irina Nemikina rescued one of the kittens and began a breeding program with it, the hairless coats continued with subsequent litters, thus confirming that it is an inherited genetic mutation, not an illness, that leads to the fur loss. Nemikina’s breeding efforts created a new cat breed, which she named the Don Sphynx — Don for the nearby Don River and Sphynx as a nod to the cats’ resemblance to the other breed of hairless cat.
The World Cat Federation recognized the breed in 1987, and the Donskoy was recognized by the International Cat Association in 2005.
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 no 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 cats daily whenever possible with a soft, damp towel, as their body produces oils but doesn’t have enough hair to absorb it. Full baths should be given once every month or two, using a gentle shampoo formulated specifically for cats.
As with any cat, your Donskoy should have its claws trimmed regularly, its teeth brushed or wiped at least a few times per week, and its ears gently wiped clean with a cotton ball if wax or other debris accumulates.
These are very active cats, and they love to play, run, and jump. Your Donskoy will generally take care of its own exercise needs, however, as long as you provide plenty of toys, cat trees or similar climbing opportunities, and boxes or cat play tunnels for diving, leaping, and exploring. Still, it's always fun, and a good opportunity for bonding, to take some time each day to interact directly with your cat in a vigorous play session. Your Donskoy will love to chase a tossed crinkle ball, leap for a "cat dancer" feather on a string, or race after you as you drag a ribbon behind you while running through the house.
Note that due to their baldness, these cats can sunburn, become overheated, or become chilled easily, so your Donskoy should remain indoors-only or venture outside only onto a protected, enclosed porch or "catio" for outdoor play and exercise.
With patience, repetition, and plenty of small treats, you can teach your Donskoy to come to its name, perform simple tricks, and walk on a leash. These intelligent cats learn quickly and are rather dog-like in their desire to interact with their humans.
Common Health Problems
For the most part, Donskoys are healthy cats. However, because of their hairless bodies, sunburn, sensitivity to hot and cold weather, and other skin issues are potential concerns. 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, mostly due to concerns about the genetic health of this particular breed. The dominant genetic mutation that causes hairlessness in both Donskoys and Peterbalds could potentially also cause feline ectodermal dysplasia, which is a complex health condition that can include an inability to sweat, abnormal teeth and gum development, and an inability for female cats to lactate after giving birth. Similar dominant mutations can also cause the condition in hairless dogs.
The Donskoy is a muscular, medium-sized cat with a triangular head, large ears, and large eyes that give it an elf-like appearance. Its most striking characteristic, of course, is its lack of hair, although it is common to have a bit of peach fuzz on the ears and nose. Many Donskoy cats lack whiskers, as well. The skin of a Donskoy is quite wrinkled, especially on its face, neck, chest, and the base of its tail. Petting a Donskoy is often likened to stroking warm chamois cloth.
Some Donskoy cats grow a light coat of fur during the winter months, but then lose it once the weather grows warm again.
These cats can have any color eyes, including blue, green, amber, orange, yellow, brown, or mixed. They also can be any color or pattern, which displays on their skin. Their colors tend to be rather subdued or "faded," however, and many are a very soft gray, cream, or white.
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. As with all pet cats, your Donskoy should eat a diet that is high in protein, moderate in fats, and low in carbohydrates. Whether that diet is purely kibble, all canned food, or a mixture of both is up to you, but your cat should have fresh water available at all times.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Donskoy Cat
Because this is a rare breed of feline, you are unlikely to find one in a shelter or rescue. If you are determined to own a Donskoy, your best bet is to search for breeders online or visit cat shows where these cats compete.
Types of Donskoy Cats
Donskoys can have four different types of coats, based on the amount—or lack—of hair.
- Rubber Bald: These Donskoys are born completely bald and remain that way throughout their lives.
- Flock Coat: This variation of Donskoy is born with a peach-fuzz coat the texture of chamois cloth. However, often these cats lose the little bit of fuzz as they grow, and become completely bald.
- Velour Coat: These kittens are born with a wavy, short coat over their bodies, but a bald spot on the top of their heads. Within the first year, the kittens lose their hair, although some continue to have a bit of fuzz on their face, legs, and tail. Others lose all of the hair and become completely bald.
- Brush Coat: These Donskoys are born with a short coat of fur, which is usually bristly or wiry. They generally have bald spots on their head, neck, and back, but do not lose the rest of their fur as they grow. This is the one type of Donskoy that is disqualified from the show ring.
The Donskoy is definitely not your average cat: These hairless felines combine an unusual, elf-like appearance with an outgoing, friendly, dog-like personality. These cats are happy to spend time playing and cuddling with their favorite humans, both young and old, and also typically get along well with other cats and cat-friendly dogs. They do need quite a bit of attention, though, and are not suited to a home where the family is gone for many hours during the day. Plus, they require regular attention to their skin to keep them clean and healthy, and despite the lack of fur, they are not hypoallergenic, although you won't need to worry about hairballs or shedding.
Friendly and good with kids
Easy to socialize
Can develop skin issues easily
Have unique and intensive grooming needs
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 with unusual coats or no fur, consider these breeds:
How much does a Donskoy cat cost?
This rare breed tends to be very expensive. A show-quality Donskoy kitten can cost thousands of dollars, and even a kitten not destined for the show ring can cost hundreds of dollars to over a thousand.
Are Donskoy cats hypoallergenic?
Despite their lack of fur, Donskoys are not hypoallergenic. Like other cats, they produce allergenic dander, which can trigger symptoms in susceptible people.
Is it ethical to breed Donskoy cats?
As with the sphynx cat, there is some dispute about whether or not it is ethical to breed cats with a genetic mutation that potentially can cause health issues. Some cat registries will not recognize the Donskoy because of this. However, there is no clear-cut right or wrong answer to the question, as it is a matter of debate and opinion.