The first time I saw a hairless cat (much like everyone else) was as a kid obsessing over the Austin Powers trilogy and the iconic duo that is Dr. Evil & Mr. Bigglesworth. I never imagined that I’d own one (let alone two), but three years ago I met a sphynx cat for the first time in the flesh – the most incredible cat named Enzo. He belonged to my friend James, and I was absolutely smitten. He was so affectionate, playful, and so pink. I had to have one.
I was determined to find a rescue, but little did I know that this would prove to be a near impossible task. Sphynx cats rarely pop up in the adoption circuit, and when they do, they’re adopted immediately. After almost a year of searching, I was home in South Florida for the holidays and decided to run a search in the area. Two hours away in Port St Lucie there was a year-old sphynx available for adoption. I figured if someone was trying to get rid of this “luxury” cat at such a young age, there had to be something wrong. So, when I emailed the owner asking “why?”, her response killed me – it was because at a year old, the cat suddenly started sprouting fuzz on her feet and tail. The next day I brought her home and named her Oona. Now, two years later, she has actually grown quite a bit of hair which leads me to believe that she’s more of a Devon Rex than a sphynx, but I think she’s perfect. I’ve never seen a cat that looks like her.
Six months after adopting Oona, I realized she needed a buddy. I knew it could take up to a year to find another adoptable Sphynx, a process I was all too familiar with, but 24 hours after I decided it was time to start looking for a second cat, a Facebook post appeared in my feed. Two hairless cats were found in an abandoned building and were being held at animal control on 110th. It was pouring rain, and I ran out the door in pajamas and with no umbrella. Once I got to animal control I was met by an employee who informed me that these cats weren’t available for adoption until the following day at noon, and just within the few hours that their existence had been known amongst the adoption community – they had already received over 200 adoption applications. Despite the high volume of applicants on the internet, it was an in-person, first-come first-served basis.
At 7am the next morning, I made the trek back up to 110th street from Brooklyn and when I arrived I asked the receptionist to start a list on paper to secure my place in line as #1 for when they opened. It was 8am and I had five hours to kill before then, so I sat in a nearby park with coffee and a book. Three Cuban coffees and a guava pastry later, the adoption center was open. When I returned to the lobby, there were at least 25 people there to see the same cats. Thankfully they honored the list that my crazy ass started at 8AM, and I was the first person admitted into the room. I met a tiny, grey, *completely* hairless cat, and despite being severely underweight, his affection was overwhelming. I adopted him immediately. His adoption/medical forms claimed he weighed 5.8 pounds, but he actually only weighed 4. He couldn’t keep any food down for the first week that I brought him home, and considering how malnourished he was, I was really worried that he was going to die. I held off on giving him a name for fear of growing too attached. Eventually he did start gaining weight, and has since doubled in size. However, I never did get around to naming him. Everyone who meets him has their own name for him, some of which include Elvis, Piggy, Skin Monster, Romeo, Stinky, and Noonie. I just call him Little Cat.
I’ve always considered myself a cat person (because much like a cat), I’m independent, I don’t require much attention, and I’m not very affectionate. I’ve always taken some weird pride in that. Oona and Little Cat have really defied those stereotypical feline personality traits. I feel like everyone and their mother says this about their own cats, but Oona and Little Cat really are more like dogs than cats. They’ve definitely softened me – and they’ve taught me that I’m not as much of an ice princess as I thought. Hairless cats also require quite a bit of upkeep, so it is a lot of responsibility. They need to be bathed regularly because they get sweaty and oily just like people do. They even get blackheads. This is probably really gross, but it is a thing – you know that they need a bath when they smell like portobello mushrooms. I swear to god it’s thing! It’s all over the internet – I am not alone in this theory! I actually really wanted to name Little Cat after a mushroom somehow because of it, but I was too indecisive.
Samantha Raye is an artist/actor and the creator of the Instagram account @tasteofstreep.