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    • Rescue Stories
    • 23 Oct, 2018

    These kittens were not what we expected

    Fur-less and fabulous! Our team got an unexpected surprise as stray cat gives birth to rare hairless kittens…

    Heavily pregnant stray cat Ellie was recently brought to us by a concerned member of the public, after she followed him home in an attempt to find a safe place to give birth. With her litter due at any moment, Ellie was in desperate need of a warm, secure environment to have her kittens, so our Cattery team immediately settled her into a cabin with a private sleeping area and made sure she was comfortable.

    Shortly afterwards, she gave birth to a litter of five – and had a surprise in store for us! Whilst one of the kittens was furry just like their mum, the other four had no hair at all, except for their whiskers.

    With no knowledge of Ellie’s background, we suspected this may be a sign her litter was premature – a concern that increased as one of the hairless kittens got weaker as the days went on, and sadly passed away at just two and a half weeks old.

    sphynx kitten

    However, the surviving kittens seemed to go from strength to strength, and with the remaining three hairless siblings showing no forthcoming signs of fur as they grew, we soon realised there was a simple, natural explanation for their unusual appearance – a rare recessive gene.

    • To be born hairless, kittens must have two copies of this recessive gene, one each from the mother and the father, as a single copy would be cancelled out by the dominant gene for fur.
    • Since the mother, Ellie, is furry, she must have a dominant fur gene and a recessive hairlessness gene.
    • This leaves the possibility that the unknown father either carries two recessive genes and is hairless himself, or that his genetic make-up perfectly matches Ellie’s.

    We soon concluded that these kittens are likely to be Cornish or Devon Rex cross-breeds, based on the shape of their heads and the tiny amount of fuzz on their paws. The kittens’ skin pigmentation also shows the markings they would have had if they’d grown a fur coat, making them easy to tell apart and identify. The most famous of all hairless breeds is of course the Sphynx, which shares this curious distinguishing feature.

    sphynx kittens

    Adopt our hairless kittens

    Like most pedigree breeds, hairless and semi-haired felines are prone to more health problems than the average cat. Had Ellie not found her way to Mayhew and given birth in a safe place, it’s unlikely any of her litter would have survived – being so tiny and vulnerable, the hairless kittens especially would have been dangerously exposed to the elements and at a great risk of developing hypothermia and respiratory problems; not to mention being an easy target for urban predators.

    Thankfully, all four kittens are thriving and have a happy ending in their sights, as they are now vaccinated, neutered and ready for adoption. Mum Ellie has already settled in to her perfect home, whilst twelve-week-old Elliana, Hollie, Gabrielle and Eleanor are each waiting patiently to find their forever families.

    Hollie and Elliana are looking for a home together, as are Gabrielle and Eleanor, and we are seeking experienced owners who understand their unique needs and love their quirks as much as we do.

    Anyone looking to adopt either pair will also need to commit to giving each kitten regular baths and ear-cleaning to help prevent the build-up of oil, dirt and wax; and provide an enclosed garden and lots of cosy bedding and indoor hideaways to ensure they’re protected against extreme temperatures and too much sun.

    If this sounds like you, or if you’d like to see our other cats available for adoption, please visit our our cat pages.

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