ALL CAT BREED PROFILES

Sphynx Cat: Irresistible Charm in a Hairless Feline

Studio image of a Sphynx Cat
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

You know you want a pet, but you are torn. Should you get a cat or a dog? You admire the loyalty and high energy exuded by dogs. But you also cherish the warm, loving cuddles and comely nature of cats. What if we told you there are cats that can offer you both? Cats that can greet you at the door and give you undivided attention and loyalty? The Sphynx cat is one such cat.

The Sphynxs are hairless felines that will capture your heart with their looks and keep you captivated with their intriguing character. They are very loving and loyal to their owners. But that’s not all; they even go out of their way to entertain their owners with acrobatic moves and other hilarious antics. Little wonder then, that the Sphynx is a highly sought-after breed.

Sphynx mother cat with her kitten lying in bed

This article will explore the cat’s unique personality which endears them to many pet lovers. We will also discuss their potential health problems, feeding schedule, care features, and grooming needs.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: Low; can’t tolerate the sun, the heat, and the cold
  • Grooming: High Maintenance; needs to be bathed and wiped-down frequently
  • Health: Good; watch out for skin conditions
  • All Around Friendliness: Very Good; cheerful and funny
  • Exercise Needs: Moderate
Cat Breed GroupSemi-Hairless, Natural Breed
SizeAverage
Weight6-12 lbs
Lifespan13-15 years

The Sphynx is one of the most famous feline breeds and is a favorite of many. They are donned in loose, hanging skin that forms wrinkles mainly around their ears, muzzle, and shoulders. These cats are medium-sized; they have a muscular body and a strong bone structure.

These cats are not entirely hairless. They are covered with a fine layer of downy hair that feels like suede or chamois leather. Their coat comes in all colors and markings common to felines.

A Sphynx Cat taking a bath

These cats always seem to have something up their sleeves. They are highly extroverted and intelligent. They love to entertain their owners by pulling off acrobatic moves and other hilarious antics.

They are also very curious and explorative. They are often found getting into various mischiefs around the house. They, therefore, need to be offered lots of play and stimulating activities to keep them from destroying things in your house. They thrive on attention and are very vocal while demanding the same.

Main Highlights

  • The Sphynx resulted from a natural genetic mutation where a hairless kitten was found in a domestic short-haired litter in Toronto, Canada. However, it took many years of selective breeding to create the modern Sphynx. Initial efforts were faced with many challenges with many of the hairless kitties dying or being born weak. Today, the breed is strong and approved by most cat registries for championships.
  • The hairless trait in the breed is caused by a recessive gene. This is unlike the Donskoy cat whose hairless trait is dominant.
  • Being hairless, these felines lose heat through their skin. They should, therefore, be kept warm when it’s cold outside.
  • There is a misconception that Sphynx cats require less grooming since they are hairless. On the contrary, they require more careful grooming than haired felines. This is because the oils on their skin are not absorbed (by the fur). They, therefore, have greasy coats that need to be bathed at least once per week.
  • Sphynx cats are easy to handle during vet visits and regular grooming.
  • These cats thrive on human attention. They are also very loyal to their owners. They are among the ranks of cats that tend to exhibit dog-like traits.
  • The Sphynx are high energy cats that need plenty of stimulating activities—such as toys and cat trees among others—to harness their energy.
  • Since they have no protective fur, they need to be kept as indoor cats. This will shield them from sunburns and bruises on their delicate skin. Whenever they venture outside, their coat should be protected with feline-approved sunscreen.
  • The Sphynx is considered hypoallergenic as they are better tolerated by some cat allergy sufferers. This means that they produce less of the allergy-causing protein Fel d 1.
  • Sphynx cats have a pot belly. This is a part of their body structure and should not be a cause for alarm. Although these felines should not be overfed, they do need hearty meals to keep their bodies warm.
  • These cats are very vocal. They particularly love to engage their owners in endless chats.
  • Being highly intelligent, these felines can be trained on a number of activities. One of the most famous Sphynx felines is Ted NudeGent. This Sphynx played the role of Mr. Bigglesworth in the movie series Austin Powers.

Breed History

The first Sphynx was discovered in 1966 in Toronto, Canada, as the result of a genetic mutation. This hairless feline was found in a litter belonging to domestic short-haired cats and was named Prune.

Immediately efforts kicked off in an attempt to recreate the hairlessness in other kittens. Prune was mated back to the mother, and this resulted in more hairless felines. Two families—the Tenhove and the Bawa—took up these hairless kitties in a bid to create the breed.

Sphynx Cat in a studio

Initial attempts by these two families seemed to yield fruit with the CFA approving the breed for provisional showing. In 1971, however, this approval was revoked after it was noted that the breed’s standard was inconsistent and also lacked a viable gene pool.

Later on, in the mid-1970s, two more hairless kitties were discovered among the litter of another domestic short-haired pair in Minnesota. These were incorporated in the breeding efforts of the Sphynx. More hairless cats were later discovered in Texas and Arkansas.

The initial breeding efforts by the Tenhove and Bawa families were not successful. The breed seemed weak with many of the litters dying and others facing major health challenges.

Black Sphynx Cat looking at the camera

Further efforts among breeders from North America and Europe involving persistent selective breeding over the years gave rise to the modern Sphynx. These breeders crossed the Sphynx to haired felines and back to the Sphynx. The breeders did this repeatedly to create a strong and healthy breed.

Thanks to their relentlessness, the Sphynx today has a genuine and credible gene pool. CFA later accepted the breed for championships in 2002. The breed is also recognized by the International Cat Association and the American Cat Fanciers Association among other cat registries.

Size

The Sphynx is a medium-sized feline who weighs between 6 and 12 lbs. Their body is muscular, and they have a strong bone structure. Like with most felines, male Sphynx cats are bigger than the female.

Seal Tabby and White sphynx kitten

These cats have a wedge-shaped head upon which rest large imposing ears and lemon-shaped eyes. Some sport whiskers and eyebrows while others come with none. They also have defined cheekbones.

They have a powerful neck and strong legs with thick, oval paws. They also sport a pot belly and whip-like tails. A particularly intriguing feature of their coat is that their hairless skin still forms patterns that mimic the way their coat would have appeared to be if they had fur.

Personality and Character

Sphynx cat personality is one of the key aspects that endear them to many cat lovers. These felines are very affectionate and warm towards both strangers and their owners.

They, however, have a special attachment to their owners and are often said to have the loyalty of a dog. They also tend to be very vocal and chatty. Sphynx cats thrive on attention, and they know how to demand it.

These cats are also extremely extroverted. They are curious, intelligent, and explorative. These are high-energy felines that are often found perching in high places and seeking play opportunities.

sphynx kitten in a studio

As such, they should be availed stimulating toys, play activities, cat trees, and scratch posts where they can direct their energy. Sphynx cats are easy to train and enjoy games such as playing fetch.

To add to the fascinating Sphynx cat temperament, these felines love being the center of attention so much so that they treat their owners to various antics and performances. They easily pull off acrobatic moves and other tricks. They are also fond of greeting their owners at the door.

Health and Potential Problems

The Sphynx are generally very healthy felines with only a few health issues reported among them. Sphynx cat lifespan is between 13 and 15 years. Here is a list of the health issues that you may find in these felines:

Potential Problem #1: Sensitive Skin.

Being hairless, Sphynx cats have extremely sensitive skin. Their skin is prone to sunburns and damage from harsh objects. Whenever they have to be outside, their coat should be protected using feline sunscreen.

Close-up image of a Sphynx Cat

Furthermore, prolonged exposure to sunlight may lead to skin cancer. Sphynx cats should, therefore, be exclusively kept as indoor cats in order to shield them from harm.

Potential Problem #2: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

This is a heart disease where the left ventricle cannot properly pump blood into the aorta. This happens when the muscles of the left ventricle are unusually enlarged. This is a serious feline heart condition that is progressive and can lead to heart failure. The affected feline may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Labored breathing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Limb paralysis
  • Fatigue and body weakness
  • Blood clots
  • Unusual heart sounds
  • Fainting
  • Weak pulse

Felines suffering this disease need close veterinarian care and will be hospitalized for this. A wide range of medication will be administered to manage the disease. Oxygen therapy will also be recommended if the cat has breathing problems. To minimize stress triggers, the vet may recommend that you isolate the sick feline. Dietary changes may also be recommended.

Potential Problem #3: Hereditary Myopathy

This is a condition where the cat’s muscles become weak and defective. The disease presents early in the feline’s life—mainly between three to six weeks of age. It causes a problem in the transmission of signals from the nervous system to the muscles.

Close-up image of a Sphynx Cat

Symptoms exhibited by felines suffering this disease are:

  • Fainting
  • Weakness in head and neck muscles
  • Inability to walk
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Muscle tremors
  • Fatigue

This disease has no cure. Luckily, most affected felines are able to gain some form of stability with time.

Care Features

Sphynx cats should be kept as indoor cats due to their delicate, hairless coat. They should always be protected with feline sunscreen whenever they have to be outside. Keeping them indoors will also keep their delicate coat safe from harmful animals and objects.

These felines easily lose warmth through their coat since they have no protective fur. During cold weather, care should be taken to ensure they are warmly dressed.

Sphynxcat on a vintage chair

Owners of Sphynx cats should also ensure they take parasite prevention measures. The Sphynx cat’s delicate skin should be shielded from the menace.

Since these felines are highly active, owners should ensure that they have access to plenty of play activities and toys. Cat trees, scratch posts, and teaser toys are some of the ways these felines can be kept active.

Sphynx cats thrive on attention, especially from their owners. Their owners should seek to spend time with them daily to keep them content.

Feeding Schedule

Sphynx cats lose heat through their skin and therefore have a higher metabolism rate than haired felines. They, therefore, need to eat more food than haired felines in order to keep warm.

Sphynx Cat lying down on the sofa

They should be offered high-quality cat food with meat as the primary ingredient. As opposed to large meals, Sphynx cats should be fed with small portions of food on a frequent basis.

Sphynx cats also benefit more from dry cat food as opposed to wet food. A constant supply of fresh water is paramount especially with dry cat food to avoid dehydration.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Sphynx cats are not entirely hairless; they are actually covered with a layer of very fine hair. Their coat comes in all the common colors among felines. Their coats also have the patterns that would have formed if they had fur.

These felines require more regular grooming than furry cats. This is because the oils on their coat are not absorbed. Their coat, therefore, tends to be greasy and can leave oily marks on your furniture or wherever your cat rests.

Beautiful sphynx cat sitting in the sun

These cats should, therefore, be wiped down daily and bathed weekly. A feline vet-approved shampoo should be used. The feline should be given a thorough rinse since residues of the shampoo can cause skin problems. Special attention should be given to the folds between the wrinkles.

Daily dental care with a feline toothpaste using a soft cat toothbrush is necessary to prevent gum diseases. The Sphynx’s large ears also tend to trap in a lot of dirt and wax. Their nails also trap oils and should be cleaned and trimmed weekly.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

The Sphynx is a very friendly breed. Since they love playing, they tend to get along well with children. These felines are also accommodative of other pets. They, therefore, make great pets for large households. These cats are very affectionate—not only towards their owners but strangers as well. They will often greet guests at the door.

Wrap Up

The Sphynx is truly one of nature’s unique gifts to the feline community. These felines resulted from a natural genetic mutation. After many years of selective breeding, the modern Sphynx was successfully created.

People meeting these felines for the first time can’t help but stare. Their hairlessness and heavily-wrinkled skin have many wondering whether they are really felines. Some people even shy away from owning them due to their hairless nature. But beneath their physical features lies a very warm and affectionate personality.

These cats often welcome and greet their owners at the door. Their loyalty is also unrivaled. In addition, these cats are fond of acrobatic performances and do not waste any chance to entertain those around them.

Two Sphynx kitten sitting in a basket

Some cat allergy sufferers will find that they are able to tolerate this feline better. If you suffer from cat allergy and would like to try a Sphynx, it is wise to spend some time with the feline first to see if you can really tolerate them. Aim to get the feline from a reputable breeder who will allow you to do this.

Would you be willing to give the Sphynx a chance? Do you think you can cope with their high energy and high grooming needs? If you don’t think so, we suggest you try this low-maintenance cat breed instead. Despite their long hair, they don’t shed much, and they have a very calm temperament. We would love to hear your thoughts about this hairless breed. Talk to us in the comments!

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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