Cat Breeds 101: The Sphynx

Sphynx kitten, 4 months old, portrait in front of white backgrouThe Sphynx cat is hard to miss- between their big eyes, their long tails, and “hairless” bodies, Sphynx cats can tend to create quite a stir. The Sphynx cat is a relatively newer breed that has exploded in popularity in the last fifty years. Their docile and silly nature will surely convince anyone put off by their odd looks that the Sphynx cat is one special breed. Here, we’re going to talk all about the wondrous Sphynx cat and all of their delightful qualities.

Where does the Sphynx cat come from?

The Sphynx cat is a newer breed, only hopping onto the scene in the 1960s. Hairless cats have popped up throughout history previous to the development of the breed, however the Sphynx is the first mainstream breed of hairless cats. Work on the Sphynx cat began in the 1960s in Europe, but the foundation for the breed wasn’t developed until the 1970s in North America.

Today’s Sphynx cats are descendants of two specific sets of hairless cats; Dermis and Epidermis from Minnesota, and Bambi, Punkie, and Paloma from Toronto. The Toronto trio was the first set of Sphynx cats to attempt to get provisional showing status in 1966. However, their status was revoked shortly after since there wasn’t a large enough gene pool or a specific enough breed standard to continue.

In America, hairless kittens began to regularly pop up in a Domestic Shorthair litter owned by a Minnesota couple. In 1975 and 1976, Epidermis and Dermis were born, only to become a key role in the Sphynx breeding program. Once these breeding cats were established, breeders had a hard time furthering the breed since the gene pool was so scarce. By now, the breed has survived, and there are many Sphynx cats on multiple continents. The breed may have a much larger population than it did fifty years ago, but the breed is still sparse in comparison to the population of cats as a whole.

What do Sphynx cats look like?

The Sphynx cat is recognizable for their lack of fur, but what many people don’t know is that they are not actually hairless. The Sphynx cat is covered in a very fine layer of down, similar to that of peach fuzz on a human. Sphynx cats often lack whiskers, but some have a few that may be whole or partial. Their skin can be all pink, or any colors that a cat can be. For example, there would be a calico-patterned Sphynx. This cat would have a pink body base with black and orange spots.

Sphynx cats can come in a variety of patterns and colors.

Sphynx cats can come in a variety of patterns and colors.

Sphynx cats expose what all cats would look like without their fluffy fur; this is why their wrinkly and rolly skin is so prominent. Although these cats lack fur, they are still warm-blooded and it can be safely assumed that they appreciate the same temperature conditions as humans. You’ll need to keep the house warm during the cold months or if you live in a colder area. One of the great benefits of Sphynx cats is that they produce no airborne hair and have a lower level of allergen-producing materials in their saliva. This makes the Sphynx a great cat option for those cat-lovers with mild allergies.

What do Sphynx cats act like?

Sphynx cats are notoriously lovable, energetic, and curious. The Sphynx breed has been known to have clumsy tendencies, providing hours of endless entertainment for their human owners. The Sphynx cat will become attached to his/her owner(s), but will also try to be the center of attention with guests. They aren’t known to be shy or fearful, even in a home with dogs. A Sphynx cat will need to live with a family that is frequently at home, as they are prone to becoming lonely and depressed without regular human contact.

Sphynx cats are avid groomers, despite their lack of fur. This lack of fur makes Sphynx cats much less prone to hairballs, as they haven’t got much hair to lick up! Since the Sphynx is missing this outer coat of fur, they’re less able to absorb body oils, requiring regular bathing. Sphynx cats have usually become acclimated to bathing from an early age by their breeders, so getting this breed of cat in the bath shouldn’t be as difficult as you’d imagine. Sphynx owners will also need to keep their nails trimmed, as to prevent harmful scratches to themselves and the cat. Since they lack hair in their ears that would otherwise keep dirt out, Sphynx cat owners will need to clean their cat’s ears on a weekly basis.

What is the general health of a Sphynx cat like?

"What wrinkles?"

“What wrinkles?”

The Sphynx breed is not prone to as many health ailments as many pure breeds. However, their unique skin provides for some skin problems that don’t affect cats with full coats. Some health ailments that Sphynx cats are prone to include:

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: This is the most common form of heart disease in felines, and thickens the heart muscle. All cats have the possibility of being affected, but it is more common in pure breeds. This can be tested for by your veterinarian (link) through an echocardiogram.
Hereditary myopathy: This ailment affects muscle function in cats. This condition is rare, but in its worst form, the muscles don’t allow the cat to swallow resulting in death.

If you are adopting a Sphynx from a breeder, they should be able to fully disclose their health predictions based upon their previous breedline. No breeder can guarantee that their cats are 100% free of being affected by Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and you shouldn’t trust a breeder that makes this claim. Responsible breeders will be open and honest about their breedline and disclose all possible health problems with you.

Inviting a Sphynx cat into your home is an exciting decision, and the best way to go about adopting is by finding a Sphynx rescue in your area, keeping an eye on your local shelters, or finding a responsible and ethical breeder to purchase from. Sphynx cats can cost anywhere between 1,000-2,000 for kittens and less for adults, so you may want to consider adopting an adult Sphynx. Make sure that you’re ready to take care of this high-maintenance breed before adopting, and enjoy your “hairless” friend!