Are all domestic cats wrinkly like hairless cats but we just can’t see it?

This is a interesting question. It is certainly peculiar that we are seeing many hairless cats with incredibly wrinkly skin particularly on the top of their heads. I’m not sure that there is a caste iron answer to the question as to why hairless cats have wrinkly skin. Certainly, cats with fur do not have wrinkly skin to the same extent. Important: it is very variable. Some Sphynx and Don Sphynx cats don’t have a lot of wrinkly skin. This may help in answering the question. And there will be some natural wrinkling when the body moves as skin is elastic and it will bunch up.

Picture of Sphynx cat
Picture of Sphynx cat. Photo in public domain.
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However, it does not take a lot of work to find out that your domestic cat companion, sitting on your lap, has a smooth forehead. All you have to do is part the fur on the forehead and have a peek. It is certainly smooth. There is no reason why it should not be smooth. And there is no reason, on the face of it, why the hairless cat breeds should have heads which look as if their brain is exposed! You know the look that I mean: the skin is so crinkly it looks like the folds of the brain.

Wrinkly skin on head of Russian bred Don Sphynx
Wrinkly skin on head of Russian bred Don Sphynx. Photo: Maria Potapenkova
Odd-eyed hairless cats
Odd-eyed hairless cats with peculiar wrinkles under the head and elsewhere: Sophie and Poppy. Photo: Sarah Jenkins.

I can’t find an answer on the internet so I’m going to speculate. There are three different things about the hairless cats in connection with their skin: the hairlessness is caused by a genetic mutation, their skin is exposed to the elements and it needs to be constantly cleaned.

The mutated gene causes the hair follicles to stop producing hair strands. Does this gene affect the amount of fat in the epidermis of the skin? Does the gene affect the elasticity of the epidermis and dermis of the skin? I think these are the sort of questions that one should be asking.

I suspect that the mutated gene has an impact not only on the production of hair strands but on the production of the tissues that make up the skin of the cat.

Elf hairless cat
Elf hairless cat. Photo: Dana Danilova. She is a photographer at Семейный фотограф Дана Данилова. And she studied псхология at МГГУ им. М.А. Шолохова.

In addition, the fact that the skin is exposed to the elements may also be a contributing reason. Perhaps it causes the skin to dry out. This is another issue because people who own Sphynx cats have to clean their cat regularly because the sebaceous glands in the skin deliver oils which have nowhere to go except to be deposited on the skin surface. This attracts dirt which needs to be wiped off. Perhaps it is this constant cleaning of the skin which contributes to the skin losing its elasticity or moisture which in turn causes it to become wrinkly. As I said, I am speculating to try and find an answer.

Sphynx cats don't have eccrine sweat glands except on their pawpads.
Fairly smooth-skinned Sphynx cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick.

The degree of wrinkliness is quite variable. Some hairless cats look incredibly strange because of this unusual skin defect as I would call it. While in other cats it is not so pronounced.

If you have any ideas on this I would be pleased to hear them in a comment.

2 thoughts on “Are all domestic cats wrinkly like hairless cats but we just can’t see it?”

  1. Hi! I just encountered a cat that seems to have mange. Has all his fur, except on the top of his head, it’s more sparse. Not bald, but thinning. And that skin is wrinkly. Then I looked up photos of cats with mange and the head wrinkles tend to be common. In fact, the worse the mange, the more wrinkly. What’s the connection? Thanks for this post.

    • Hi Ames, I don’t think there is a connection between mange and wrinkly skin. It is just that hairless cats are very wrinkly but that degree of wrinkliness is specific to hairless cats. Ordinary domestic cats might have some wrinkly skin to a lesser extent which becomes visible when the fur is removed. That’s my thought but I am not a vet. Thanks for sharing.


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