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Cairn Terrier & Maltese Mix (Cairmal): Info, Pictures, Characteristics & Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

cairmal 2

Height: 8–13 inches
Weight: 8–18 pounds
Lifespan: 12–15 years
Colors: White, grey, brindle, multicolored, black, charcoal, white and grey
Suitable for: Semi-active families and individuals, apartment living, seniors, those looking for companion dog
Temperament: Loyal, friendly, playful, rugged, bold, spirited, affectionate, intelligent, sensitive

Cairmals are a unique mix between a working breed and a companion breed, the rugged Cairn Terrier and the doting Maltese dog. With varying levels of energy, Cairmals are a true wild card when it comes to temperament and exercise needs. Energy aside, Cairmals are easygoing and adaptable to most living environments.

Although their small bodies can seem fragile, Cairmals are sturdier than the average lapdog and come from the tough Cairn Terrier. Let’s take a closer look at this rare designer dog breed to see what it takes to own one:

Divider 1Cairn Terrier Maltese Mix Puppies


Cairmals are a rare designer dog breed and can be difficult to find, so they might be more expensive than the average hybrid. If you find a breeder who has these pups, be sure to do your research and ask plenty of questions.

You could also try checking a local shelter, however, you won’t have the same information available that would be provided through a reputable breeder.

These spirited pups are friendly and affectionate. They make wonderful companions so if that is what you are looking for and their other attributes appeal to you, this may be the breed for you.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Cairmal

1. Cairmals are excellent apartment dogs.

Cairmals are very adaptable to their environments, including urban and apartment living. Aside from some excessive barking if they’re being ignored, Cairmals will do just fine in most apartment settings. As long as they’re exercised daily, these small dogs will make the perfect companion.

2. Cairmals are first-generation hybrids.

As with other rare or new designer dog breeds, Cairmals are almost always first-generation hybrids. This means they come from two purebred dogs, instead of two Cairmal parent dogs. With time and selective breeding, established generations are a possibility.

3. Cairmals have wiry-textured coats.

While Cairmals are bred with the longhaired, hypoallergenic Maltese, most Cairmals end up with a coat that is more similar to the Cairn Terrier. Although shorter than Maltese coats, Cairmal coats will need to be brushed and hand-stripped to prevent matting.

The parent breeds of Cairmal
The parent breeds of Cairmal: Left – Maltese (Archibald Marajas, Pexels) | Right – Cairn Terrier (doanme, Pixabay)

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Cairmal 🧠

Cairmals are designer-breed hybrids, so their temperaments can vary quite a bit compared to purebred dogs. They’re also a mix of two different types of small dogs, which can make it even harder to tell what your Cairmal puppy’s temperament might be. The best way to find out is to look at the personality traits of both parent breeds to get a better idea:

Cairn Terriers are tough working dogs that were originally bred for hunting small quarry in the unforgiving Highlands. These little Terriers are focused and determined on whatever they’re currently doing, which can be a challenge for new dog owners. Intelligent and sometimes a little too brave for their own good, Cairns will not hesitate to stand their ground. However, once they’ve burned through their energy for the day, Cairn Terriers become extremely affectionate and enjoy spending time with their families

Maltese dogs, by contrast, were bred for companionship, which is why they’re often the choice for seniors and apartment dwellers. Unlike Cairn Terriers, Maltese dogs enjoy the lapdog life and will become quite attached to whomever they choose as their “favorite” person. While they can be stubborn with training, Maltese dogs enjoy pleasing their owners and can learn a wide variety of tricks. However, they still need plenty of exercise to stay healthy and happy, especially since they’re prone to problems like obesity.

Cairmals will generally be a mix of these two different temperaments, but some may have more “Cairn” traits and others will have more “Maltese” traits. It’s best to prepare for a dog that will be at least more active than lapdogs, though most will not need long hours of exercise.

Are Cairmals Good for Families? 🏡

Cairmals can be good for semi-active families with calmer, older children. Although Cairn terriers are famous for their sturdiness, Cairmals are still considered fragile due to their small bodies. For this reason, as well as their low tolerance for teasing, we do not recommend them for families with young or rambunctious children.

Does Cairmals Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

Generally, Cairmals do well with other dogs and may even benefit from having a dog “sibling”. They should adjust fine to any dogs similar in size as long as they’re introduced slowly, but bigger dogs might take a longer period of adjustment. As for cats and small animals, it will depend solely on your Cairmal puppy and how strong its prey drive is.

Use your best judgment and carefully acclimate all new pets to the established pets in your house.

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Things to Know When Owning a Cairmal:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Cairmals require a diet made specifically for small dogs, especially since they’re prone to obesity and other diet-related issues. We recommend a diet of at least 20% crude protein with essential vitamins and minerals for complete nutrition. Dry dog kibble is also important and should be added to their meals since the kibble helps reduce plaque and tartar buildup.

Since small dogs’ systems are quite sensitive, we highly recommend asking your veterinarian for diet recommendations for a more customized plan.

Exercise 🐕

Cairmals may come from a companion dog, but they’re crossed with an energetic working breed. That means not all Cairmals will be happy little lapdogs all day, so exercise is essential to keep them happy and healthy. A few brisk walks a day plus an hour of off-leash playtime should be enough, though it will depend on how much of the Cairn Terrier’s energy level your Cairmal has inherited.

You’ll also need to exercise your Cairmal’s mind since both parent breeds are quite intelligent. Puzzle toys are a great way to build their confidence while also giving them a fun challenge!

Training 🦮

Training your Cairmal needs to start from day one, with a big emphasis on housebreaking. Most little dogs are notorious for being hard to housebreak, but it’s usually due to their tiny bladders. Start housebreaking as soon as possible and set an alarm for every hour, which will help prevent accidents.

Obedience training will be a great bonding experience for you and your Cairmal, especially if they’re food-motivated. Positive reinforcement training methods with a wide variety of treat rewards are recommended while avoiding harsh methods that will cause this sensitive hybrid to shut down.

Early socialization is important for your Cairmal, so consider taking a group puppy class at your local training center. This will not only teach the basics of obedience, but it will give your puppy a chance to really shine and meet new dogs. If group classes are not an option, consider hiring a professional dog trainer if this is your first dog.

Grooming ✂️

Grooming your Cairmal should be relatively easy, though it will depend on how close your Cairmal’s coat is to that of the Maltese. At a minimum, expect to brush it out once a week and to hand-strip the coat whenever necessary. If your Cairmal’s coat grows out, a trip to the grooming salon to get a trim will help maintain it.

In addition to coat maintenance, your Cairmal’s nails will need to be trimmed at least once every four weeks. Lastly, consider brushing your Cairmal’s teeth twice a week to help prevent dental decay.

Health and Conditions ❤️

Most Common Health Conditions of the Maltese
  • Dry/Sensitive Skin
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Dental Issues
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Cataracts
  • Deafness
Most Common Health Conditions of the Cairn Terrier
  • Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease (LCPD)
  • Portosystemic shunts
  • Diabetes
  • Cataracts
  • Obesity
  • Dry Skin
  • Hip Dysplasia

Divider 3Male vs Female

Cairmals are similar in temperament when it comes to females and males, but males will be slightly bigger. Aside from this, the choice of female versus male is purely a personal one. The decision should be made with all individuals involved in your Cairmal’s life.

Divider 5Final Thoughts: Cairmal

Cairmals may not be popular now, but they’ll quickly become a top designer dog breed. These small dogs are great for those looking for a little more than a lapdog, without the high energy levels of working breeds. Cairmals are adorable and loving dogs that can do well with apartments or rural living, as long as they have their family around.

If you’re looking for a cute mix of tough and snuggly, the Cairmal will exceed your expectations.

See Also:

Cavalon (King Charles Spaniel Papillon Mix): Info, Pics, Facts, Traits

Cairland Terrier (Cairn Terrier & Westie Mix): Pictures, Care Guide, Temperament & Traits

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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