Vital Stats:Life Span: 8 to 14 years
The hairless Sphynx is an example of the cat breeds that come about accidentally. A genetic mutation brought about the birth of a hairless kitten to Elizabeth, a black and white domestic cat in Toronto, Canada. Elizabeth’s owner recognized that Prune, as the kitten was called, was unique and set about trying to reproduce him. He, along with other hairless kittens that were born in the mid- to late 1970s, was bred to furred cats, including the Devon Rex. The gene for hairlessness is recessive, so while some of the offspring were hairless, others had fur.
Originally known as Canadian Hairless Cats, according to The International Cat Association, breeders eventually settled on the moniker Sphynx for the unusual breed, a reference to the gigantic limestone sculpture in the Egyptian desert, worn smooth over the millennia through erosion by wind, sand and water. The Sphynx is recognized by the American Cat Fanciers Association, the Cat Fanciers Association and The International Cat Association, as well as other cat registries. Perhaps the world’s most famous Sphynx is Mr. Bigglesworth, played by Ted NudeGent, in the Austin Powers comedies.
The Sphynx is a medium-size cat. He typically weighs 6 to 12 pounds.
It’s a good thing that the Sphynx loves attention because he draws it wherever he goes. He is demanding of human attention and will do anything for a laugh. “Look at me!” is his catchphrase. That makes him easy to handle by veterinarians or anyone else, and it’s not unusual for a Sphynx to be a therapy cat since he is so fond of meeting people.
When he is not receiving the attentions of his adoring fans, the curious and energetic Sphynx is exploring his surroundings, climbing his cat tree or otherwise seeking high places, chasing a bug or just generally getting into mischief. He is extremely fond of teaser toys and puzzle toys that challenge his athleticism and brains.
This is a highly social cat. If you are gone during the day, the Sphynx will enjoy having a friend in the form of another Sphynx, another cat or even a dog. He likes the company and, equally important, he likes having someone to snuggle with so that he stays warm. He loves to be held, and you can expect him to sleep with you, most likely under the covers. Think of it as having a living hot water bottle.
Both pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. Sphynx are generally healthy, although the following diseases have been seen in the breed:
- Urticaria pigmentosa, a skin disease that causes crusty sores on the body.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease that is inherited in some cat breeds such as the Maine Coon. Heritability has not been proven in the Sphynx.
Despite his bald body, a Sphynx requires at least as much grooming as cats with fur and maybe even more. Their skin must be kept moisturized with a gentle, scent-free lotion or oil, and they need weekly baths so as not to leave greasy spots on your furniture and clothing. Use a gentle baby shampoo or moisturizing shampoo and rinse thoroughly, especially between the folds of the wrinkles. If you begin bathing your Sphynx kitten while he is young, he will learn to accept and sometimes even enjoy baths. Baby wipes will help to keep him clean between baths.
Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing. Wipe the corners of the eyes daily with a soft, damp cloth to remove any discharge. Use a separate area of the cloth for each eye so you don’t run the risk of spreading any infection. Check the ears weekly. If they look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball or soft damp cloth moistened with a 50-50 mixture of cider vinegar and warm water. Avoid using cotton swabs, which can damage the interior of the ear.
Keep the litter box spotlessly clean. Like all cats, Sphynx are very particular about bathroom hygiene.
Although the Sphynx feels warm to the touch, he doesn’t have a fur coat to keep him warm. If you’re cold, he probably is too. Buy him a nice sweater or two to help him retain heat.
It’s a good idea to keep a Sphynx as an indoor-only cat to protect him from diseases spread by other cats, attacks by dogs or coyotes, and the other dangers that face cats who go outdoors, such as being hit by a car. Sphynx who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have such an unusual cat without paying for it. If your Sphynx has an outdoor enclosure where he can sunbathe, be sure to apply cat-safe sunscreen to his skin to prevent sunburn.
Coat Color And Grooming
Bald, wrinkled and potbellied, the Sphynx is sometimes proclaimed to be ugly, but only by those who have a shallow understanding of beauty. His unusual body shape and the physiological and emotional warmth he emits are what attract people to him.
Much like an apricot, the hard, muscular body of the Sphynx can be smooth or covered with a fine, soft down. The nose, toes, ears and tail may also have a light covering of fur. To hug him is to melt into the warmth of his suedelike coat. A Sphynx does not have a higher body temperature than other cats, but it seems like it because there is no fur to serve as insulation.
A broad chest and a well-rounded abdomen give him the appearance of having eaten just a little too much at dinnertime, but he should not be fat. Supporting the body are firm, muscular legs set on oval paws with long, slender toes. Thick paw pads make the Sphynx look as if he is walking on “air cushions.” A long, slender, flexible tail is described as whiplike. A Sphynx with a little tuft of fur on the end of the tail is said to have a lion tail. Sphynx kittens are heavily wrinkled, but as they grow the wrinkles smooth out, although some remain throughout the cat’s life. A Sphynx should not be so wrinkled that eyesight or other functions are compromised.
The head of the Sphynx is a modified wedge shape, slightly longer than it is wide, with prominent cheekbones, large ears and large, lemon-shaped eyes. Whiskers and eyebrows are sparse to nonexistent.
The Sphynx comes in all colors and patterns, including white, black, red, chocolate, lavender, various tabby patterns, tortoiseshell, calico, bicolor, and pointed and mink patterns. The color is seen in the pigment of the skin as well as in whatever hair the cat has and can sometimes be difficult to distinguish.
Children And Other Pets
The active and social Sphynx is a perfect choice for families with children and cat-friendly dogs. He learns tricks easily and loves the attention he receives from children who treat him politely and with respect. He lives peacefully with dogs and other cats. Always introduce pets slowly and in controlled circumstances to ensure that they learn to get along together.