Loyal, affectionate, vocal, playful and highly intelligent are some of the terms used to describe this rare breed, one of the newest in the world. But perhaps a more concise way would be to simply say your best friend and soulmate.
A Peterbald will never leave your side – you will never go to the toilet alone again and bathtime will become a spectator sport that your Peterbald will watch with great fascination. Peterbalds will provide you with a constant form of entertainment with their high-speed and often aerial antics.
Being extremely inquisitive can also be their downfall, so Peterbald breeders will insist that they only play outdoors under supervision. This does not bother a Peterbald as they need their humans close on hand at all times.
Also, they find fascination and awe in anything and everything new in the house and will have to investigate each and every bag of shopping that enters the home. They are a highly social and peaceful breed – they will bond with, and interact with, other cats, dogs and children.
Peterbalds are very in tune with their humans’ emotions and will provide you with extra purrs and headbutts should they feel you need it, often holding your face in their soft paws.
The unique gene that causes the hair loss in Peterbalds expresses itself in varying degrees and hence there are different coats. In South Africa there are three coats recognised for show purposes, which are (in degrees of hairlessness) the chamois, velour and brush coats. There is also a straight coat and very uncommonly seen Ultra Bald or sticky bald. During its lifetime, a Peterbald may display different coats as hormonal and seasonal changes affect the extent of hairlessness. A kitten born with a light brush coat may be bald by the age of two, however, a very dense brush coat will never be a completely hairless Peterbald.
Ultra bald cats are born with absolutely no hair – no eyebrows or whiskers and usually with their eyes already open. These cats will never grow hair and are sticky to the touch. This is an undesirable coat and very rarely seen.
A chamois is 90% hairless and may have a few hairs on the extremities – flocked hair on the paws, a few hairs on the tail and flocked hair on the muzzle. The body should be completely naked. The chamois Peterbalds do require extra upkeep – they build up a lot of oil on their nailbeds, their ears need constant cleaning and their bodies can become greasy because they have no hairs to carry the oils away. For this reason they need bathing at least once a week. This needn’t be feared, or protective gear purchased as, unlike most cats, Peterbalds enjoy a warm bath and rub-down.
A velour Peterbald is covered in short, 1-2mm flocked hair. They have an almost suede-like feel, also described as feeling like a peach skin. They may have longer, brushy hairs on their tails and legs but the body should be entirely suede-like. The velour Peterbalds do not require nearly as much grooming as the chamois Peterbalds except also the more occasional ear cleaning. A wipe down with a warm cloth is usually enough to clean them.
The brush coat is a very unique coat not seen in any other breed. It is a longer hair – about 1cm long, and has a coarse, wiry texture with a kink. The brush coat Peterbald requires little to no grooming, and hence makes a wonderful companion for someone who has not owned cats before.
The straight coat Peterbald has the short, close-lying coat of the Siamese and Oriental cat, but comes with the personality and health of the Peterbald. Unlike the chamois, velour and brush coats which all have curly whiskers the straight coat has normal, straight whiskers.
The varying coats also seem to affect personality – the more naked Peterbalds being more nervous around other cats and strangers and needing even more affection and constant cuddles. The velour and brush coat cats are more rambunctious, playful and curious. All Peterbalds, however, need constant companionship. They would not suit being an only cat and breeders, for this reason, will insist on a companion cat. They would similarly not suit a home where they would be left alone for long periods as they can become depressed or destructive.
Be prepared to devote your time at home to loving, entertaining and feeding – Peterbalds have a higher metabolism than most cats due to their high activity levels and having to regulate their body temperature, so they are inclined to be always hungry. Of course, they are convinced they are human and as such will want to eat whatever their humans are eating, but a high quality vet store cat food will be all they need to thrive on. Although they carry the genes of the Siamese and Oriental cats, they are more out-crossed and so do not carry the health issues of these breeds. In fact, they are recognised as a healthy and robust breed that carries little or no health issues and require little more than dental checks.
There is a conception that people who are allergic to cats will not be allergic to a hairless cat. This is not necessarily the case as it is often a protein that is shed from the skin of cats that causes allergies and not always the hair itself. If this is the case, a hairless cat will cause more, and not less of an allergic reaction. The best way of establishing if you are intolerant to a certain breed is to visit a breeder and interact as much as possible with the cats to ascertain if it causes a reaction.
Although the striking looks and elegance of the Peterbald may be what first catches your attention, it is the endearing personality and sheer devotion that they display that will steal your heart. With their unique voice and constant reverberating purr, they interact and talk to their humans like no other breed. These human-like creatures use their nimble paws almost like hands and will pick up toys and food with them. They will also use their paws to tap you and hold your face when they feel they are not getting enough attention. But, so much more than that, the Peterbald will also forever hold your heart.
In order to understand the Peterbald, we need to look at the history of the cats that formed the modern Peterbald – the Don Sphynx and Oriental Shorthair. The beginnings of the Peterbald was a fateful set of circumstances in 1987 which found a Russian professor, Elena Kovaleva, rescue a kitten from a group of boys playing soccer with it trapped, howling with fear and pain, in a bag. At the age of 4 months old, this fluffy tortoiseshell cat, named Varvara, began to lose her hair from the head downwards. She was treated for various skin issues with no success, but it was only a couple of years later, when she had a litter of kittens that displayed the same hair loss, that it was realised that she in fact carried a unique gene.
These cats were named Donskoy (also known as Don Sphynx) after the river Don where Varvara was rescued. In 1994 in St. Petersburg, Russian felinologist, Olga Mironova, did an experimental mating between a female World Champion Oriental shorthair, Radma von Jagerhov and one of the Donskoy males called Afinogen Myth and the Peterbald was born. There were four kittens born from the two ensuing litters; Mandarin iz Murino, Muscat iz Murino, Nezhenka iz Murino and Nocturne iz Murino and these were the foundation Peterbalds which can still be seen in pedigrees today. To achieve more of the look of the Siamese and Oriental cats, the Peterbalds were continually bred to Siamese and Orientals and today this is still allowed and encouraged to get the correct type. This has resulted in the breed closely resembling the Siamese and Oriental type – svelte, muscular and elegant with a long, whippy tail, wedge shaped head with flared, bat-like ears and almond-shaped eyes.
It is this elegance that greatly separates them from the Donskoy and Sphynx, which they are often confused with. Both the Donskoy and Sphynx have cobbly bodies with round, short heads and ears placed on the top of the head. The Peterbald is available in all the colours of the Siamese and Orientals which they are bred with, which means that they come in over 300 colours in a combination of pointed or self. Accordingly, like the Siamese, the pointed Peterbalds have blue eyes and the solid (self) Peterbalds have green eyes or even, occasionally, one of each colour or odd-eyes, just like their Oriental cousins.