The Ukrainian Levkoy has inward-folding ears and little to no hair. These cats have soft, elastic skin; an excess of which leads to a wrinkled appearance.
Health and welfare of cats with folded or curled ears
There are several breeds of cat with ears that do not stand up in the normal way – some folding downwards and some curling backwards. The most well known is the Scottish Fold cat where the Scottish Fold gene mutation detrimentally affects cartilage, most obviously seen making the ear cartilage fold (click here for more information). However, the cartilage defect affects their joints as well as the ear cartilage and folds can suffer from severe and painful degenerative joint disease throughout their lives. As the disease progresses the joints stiffen, bones fuse and movement becomes more difficult and extremely painful. Folded or curled ears can also make it difficult for the cat to clean its ears, so owners may need to remove any wax or dirt accumulation from the ear to help prevent discomfort and infection.
We do not have enough information to know whether gene mutations resulting in curled (rather than the folded) ears causes similar problems in cartilage at other sites (such as joints), but there are comments from breeders of these cats that the ears are fragile and may be easily damaged when handled and there is anecdotal mention of narrowed ear canals.
Unfortunately these breeds are now being crossed with other breeds with different genetic mutations with very little concern for the cat.
Health and Welfare of hairless cats
Cats have hair and fur for important reasons – it provides protection, warmth and helps with communication. The hairs also provide information about the cat’s environment, as they are very sensitive to touch. Because keeping its coat in perfect condition is very important, the cat has developed a barbed tongue for effective grooming and spends a large amount of time on this activity. Depriving a cat of its hair coat will have many detrimental consequences including exposing delicate skin to harmful ultraviolet light, and making skin injury much more likely. Because there is no hair on which to distribute the oil produced by the skin, the oil accumulates and can make it feel greasy, mark furniture or collect in the cat’s nail beds. Hairless cats have to be bathed on a regular basis. The skin may be prone to yeast infections and obviously the cats are susceptible to cold and to sunburn if they go outside.
Our position on breeding cats is that first no harm should be done. We know both of these genetic defects can cause problems for the cats – yet another designer cat, produced by mixing cats with genetic defects, has been presented as a breed.
We have limited the information about inherited disorders to those conditions that are known and proven to exist within a breed. For many breeders and many conditions, insufficient information may be available at this time to know whether any particular breed is necessarily free of any particular condition.
In general, pedigree breeds use a much smaller gene pool for breeding than domestic cats and therefore have a higher risk of developing inherited disorders. In addition, a number of ‘newer’ pedigree breeds are derived from matings between one or more ‘older’ breeds, and in these situations perpetuation of inherited problems that were seen in older breeds is likely within the newer breeds.