Donskoy Cat: Never a Dull Moment with Them Around

Studio image of a Donskoy Cat
Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

What do you wish for in a cat? Many cat parents look forward to the warm cuddles, soft purrs, and sweet companionship that kitties offer. Most cats will effortlessly meet such a wish list, but there are kitties that come into our lives and offer us more than what we bargained for. Among them is the Donskoy cat—an intriguing hairless feline that will add lots of cheer and fun to your home.

Donskoy cats are outgoing, playful, and extremely loyal. In fact, they have been described as cats with the loyalty and enthusiasm of dogs. They stick with you through thick and thin. It perhaps has something to do with the fact that the first discovered Donskoy cat was a bullied stray who found her forever home when a kind-hearted human decided to help her and take her in. Just like with dogs, they are obedient and easy to train.

Close-up image of a Studio image of a Donskoy Cat

Some people, however, shy away from owning Donskoy cats majorly because they are a hairless breed. How do I take care of a Donskoy? Are Donskoy cats sickly? These are some of the questions that many cat parents contend with. This article will enlighten you regarding this unique feline. We will also explore all the features that make these cats a great treasure. Read on for more fascinating facts that will undoubtedly endear you to the Donskoy.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: Above Average

  • Grooming: High Maintenance

  • Health: Good

  • All Around Friendliness: High

  • Exercise Needs: Above Average

Cat Breed GroupSemi-Hairless, Natural Breed
Weight6 - 12 lbs
Lifespan12 - 15 years

The Donskoy bears many names. This breed is also commonly referred to as the Don Sphynx, Don Hairless, Russian Donskoy, or as the Russian Hairless. It is a hairless cat breed that was discovered in Russia in 1987 by Elena Kovaleva. Elena rescued a distressed kitten in Rostov-on-Don city in Southern Russia. She named the kitten Varvara. Soon after, Varvara started shedding her fur, and no amount of veterinarian treatment could help.

Hairless Varvara later had her own litter—a combination of both hairless and furred kittens. The furred kittens would later shed their hair. This greatly alarmed the residents of the area who dismissed the breed as unhealthy.

One professional breeder known as Irina Nemikina, however, decided to experiment with the breed. This led to the formation of a new breed which Nemikina named the Don Sphynx. Nemikina chose this name because of the river Don, where Varvara was first discovered, and she also named the cats Sphynx after the famous hairless cat.

Close-up image of a Studio image of a Donskoy Cat

The Donskoy was officially acknowledged by the World Cat Federation (WCF) in 1997. In 2005, it was officially recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA). Donskoys are intelligent, explorative, playful and, affectionate cats. They are medium-sized, muscular, and are donned with large imposing ears. They have a wedge-shaped head, and their eyes are almond-shaped.

Their feet are oval-shaped with long, slim webbed toes that bend inwards. This enhances their ability to grasp objects. Their coats are flanked by wrinkles, especially around their cheeks, chin, forehead, ears, and the base of their necks.

Image showing mother cat and Donskoy kitten

Their coats are warm to the touch and are mainly hairless, though, some have little hair that has a velvety feel. Their front legs are shorter than their back legs. Donskoys also sport a pot-belly—completing their pear-shaped bodies.

Overall, the Donskoy’s physical appearance is quite intriguing and people meeting them for the first time can’t help but stare. Donskoys are not loners; they thrive in company. They actually detest being left alone and will not hesitate to vocalize their displeasure about it. They are therefore ideal for homes with other pets and children.

Main Highlights

  • The breed was discovered in 1987 in Russia and is today officially recognized by both the World Cat Federation and the International Cat Association.

  • Being a hairless breed, Donskoys are considered hypoallergenic since they are better tolerated by some cat allergy sufferers.

  • Since Don Sphynx cats lack fur, they tend to eat more especially during cold winters to keep themselves warm. They therefore often have a pot belly.

  • Hairlessness in Donskoy cats is caused by a dominant gene. This means that even if there is only one Donskoy parent, the litter is likely to have hairless kittens. This is unlike the Canadian Sphynx whose hairless trait is caused by a recessive gene.

  • During the cold seasons, Don Sphynx cats adapt by growing winter coats. They grow a warm layer of fur on their chests and the tips of their tails. When the weather gets warmer, they shed the hair.

  • Donskoys should be kept as indoor cats as their hairless coats are sensitive and susceptible to sunburns and scratching by objects. They should also be kept warm during cold weather.

  • Donskoy males are significantly more muscular and bigger than their female counterparts.

  • Don Sphynx cats are very vocal. Whether expressing glee or displeasure, these cats love to make themselves heard. New owners may need to be prepared for this as it can get a tad excessive especially when it’s the mating season (if the cat hasn’t been spayed or neutered).

  • A litter of Donskoy cats will usually have a majority of totally bald kittens while others may have hair initially but lose it in the course of time.

  • Don Sphynx cats are very accommodative of both humans and other pets. They are easy to handle and easily cooperate during vet visits and other procedures like nail trimming and bathing.

Breed History

In the city of Rostov-on-Don in Russia, the first Donskoy cat was rescued by Elena Kovaleva from some boys who were having a field day playing with the kitty. This kitten whom Elena named Varvara soon after began shedding her hair.

Assuming Varvara was ill, Elena sought treatment for her, but the shedding persisted. Varvara later had kittens of her own who were a mix of both hairless and furred kitties. The ones with hair later shed it.

Close-up of a donskoy--cat

With this turn of events, the breed was dismissed as weak and unhealthy by the area’s residents. This hairless trait, however, piqued the interest of one breeder—Irina Nemikina—who started breeding the cats. This led to the formation of a new hairless breed which Irina named the Don Sphynx.


Donskoys are medium-sized and have elegant, muscular bodies. The male Donskoy is significantly more muscular and larger than the female. On average, Donskoy cats weigh between 6 and 12 lbs.

Personality and Character

Donskoys ooze friendliness and warmth. They are very affectionate and loving towards both humans and other pets. Children enjoy having them as pets because they are super active, inquisitive, and playful.

donskoy cat sleeping next to a mouse toy

Donskoy owners are privileged to have some of the most loyal feline companions. They are wholeheartedly devoted to their owners and have been said to have the loyalty of dogs. Donskoys are also very intelligent and are easy to train. They easily pick up voice commands and exhibit great enthusiasm while learning new tricks. They simply do not disappoint.

Health and Potential Problems

The Don Sphynx is generally a healthy cat with minimal health complications, but there are some potential problems that you will want to be wary of. The most common of which include:

  • Sensitive Skin. Without a protective coat, Donskoys need protection from harsh weather. If they have to be outdoors, they need to have their coat protected using sunscreen. They also need to be kept warm during the cold seasons. Their soft, hairless skin is also easily damaged by rough objects. Donskoys should therefore mainly be kept indoors.

  • Dental Diseases. Donskoys are prone to tooth decay and gum diseases. Daily dental hygiene is therefore paramount. Ensure you use feline toothpaste and a soft cat toothbrush for this. Luckily, Donskoys are easy to handle and do not resist their grooming routines. Additionally, there have been assertions that Don Sphynx cats are prone to feline ectodermal dysplasia, causing them to have abnormal tooth development. These assertions, however, lack substantial evidence.

Care Features

Donskoys are relatively easy to care for. They tend to have greasy coats since they have no fur to absorb their natural oils. They, therefore, need to be wiped down daily and bathed weekly.

Ignoring this grooming practice can spark off skin problems such as dandruff in these cats. Their skin also needs protection from harsh weather and rough objects. They, therefore, should be kept indoors.

Donskoy cat sitting with her eyes closed

Donskoy owners should also adhere to all the prescribed vaccinations, vet visits, and parasite control measures. Additionally, these cats are hyperactive and very playful. They should be kept occupied with stimulating toys and plenty of play opportunities.

Feeding Schedule

Donskoys lose heat through their skin and therefore need a good meal to keep their body warm. During winter especially, they should be offered more food for their body to generate more warmth.

Donskoys need high-quality feline food to thrive. Their body needs large amounts of protein and fat. They should, therefore, be kept on feline diets that have meat as the primary ingredient.

Donskoy kittens at one place

They should never be fed on a carbohydrate-based diet as they can easily become diabetic. As opposed to large meals, they should be offered small portions throughout the day.

Donskoys are sometimes hard to please when it comes to their palate. If a certain diet does not appeal to them, they easily starve themselves in protest. Donskoy owners should, therefore, be keen to ensure that their felines enjoy their meals.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Some Donskoys are born completely bald while others have fur. Haired Donskoys may shed their fur with time. Donskoys sports four types of coats that come in a variety of colors.

  • Rubber Bald. They are born entirely bald.

  • Flocked. These cats are born with a fine layer of downy hair which feels like chamois leather.

  • Velour. They sport wool-like coats and are born with a bald spot on their head (often known as a monk’s cap). These coats will disappear in their first year, leaving patches of hair on their legs, face, and tail. They, however, can lose all their hair and become totally bald with time.

  • Brush. They are born with a thick coat of soft wavy fur but lose portions of this coat over time. They will, therefore, have bald patches on their head, back, and neck.

Donskoys have a fascinating way of adapting to cold weather. They grow winter coats—namely a layer of hair on their chest and tail. When the weather gets warmer, they shed the coat. Being a hairless breed, the oils on their coat are not absorbed and they, therefore, need to be wiped down daily to clean off their natural oils. They also require a weekly bath.

The Donskoys’ large ears trap in a lot of wax. Their ears, therefore, need to be cleaned regularly. Daily dental hygiene is also paramount as these felines are prone to tooth decay.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

Donskoys are very playful and active. They are also outgoing, social, and friendly towards both humans and other pets. They, therefore, make great family pets in large households. Furthermore, they thrive in company and detest being left to their own devices.

Wrap Up

Donskoys are undoubtedly a fascinating feline breed. They are simply not your ordinary cat; they come wrapped in surprises. They will catch your eye and intrigue you with their hairless skin, large ears, wrinkles, almond-shaped eyes, and pot belly.

Their personality is even more intriguing. They are very affectionate, warm, intelligent, playful, and outgoing. They will go out of their way to entertain and play with both humans and other pets. They are therefore ideal as family pets in large households.

Side view of a Donskoy Cat

If you are planning to adopt a Donskoy, be prepared to offer them lots of play activities and stimulation. Also, be ready to usher in a very loyal friend. Donskoys are very loyal to their owners (some may even call them obsessed).

They are generally a healthy breed with minor health challenges. Their owners should pay special attention to the type of food they offer them. Donskoys will starve themselves if they do not like the food they are offered.

Furthermore, they require enough food to keep their body warm. During cold weather, they should be offered extra servings. As they are prone to tooth decay and gum disease, they also require daily oral care.

Close-up image of a Side view of a Donskoy Cat

Cat parents who are looking to adopt Donskoys should also be prepared to groom them regularly. They have greasy coats which require weekly baths and should be wiped down daily. Fortunately, unlike many feline breeds, Donskoys are easy to handle. You don’t have to dread giving them baths or trimming their nails; they make it easy for you.

We hope you are as fascinated as we are by this hairless feline. Does the loyal and affectionate Donskoy sound like the cat you have been looking for? Or are you looking for a cat breed that’s not just hairless, but also short-legged and curly-eared? Talk to us in the comments.

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.