Rare kittens are seeking new homes after stray mum arrived at Mayhew Animal Hospital.
Heavily pregnant stray cat Ellie was recently taken to Mayhew by a concerned member of the public after she followed him home in an attempt to find a safe place to give birth.
The cat was in desperate need of a warm secure environment, with her litter due at any moment. Mayhew’s Cattery team immediately settled her into a cabin with a private sleeping area and made sure she was comfortable.
Shortly after arriving at the London animal hospital, Ellie have birth to a litter of five kittens, and whilst one was furry, just like mum, four had no hair at all, except for their whiskers.
With no knowledge of Ellie’s background, staff at Mayhew suspected this was a sign that 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 just two and a half weeks old.
A spokesperson for Mayhew said: “The surviving kittens seemed to go from strength to strength, and with the remaining 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 the recessive gene, one each from the mother and the father, as s 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 hairless 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 Ellies.”
The Mayhew cattery team soon concluded that that the kittens are likely to be Cornish or Devon Rex cross-breeds, based on the shape of their head and the tiny amount of fuzz on their paws.
The kitten’s skin pigmentation also shows the markings they would have had if they’d grown a fur coat, making them easy to tell apart and identity. The most famous of all hairless breeds is of course the Sphynx, which shares he curious distinguishing feature.
Mayhew added: “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 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 Elanor are each waiting patiently to find their forever home.”
Hollie and Elliana are looking for a home together, as are Gabrielle and Eleanor, and staff at Mayhew are seeing experienced owners who understand the cat’s unique needs.
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 you think you would be able to give these unique kittens their forever home or to see other cats available for adoption at the rehoming centre you can visit www.mayhew.org/cats/.