The Sphynx Cat Breed Title

Photo Credit: Sunny Ripert via Flickr

Cats are more than just a pretty coat! The Sphynx cat can prove it. This breed is rare, but it has gotten a lot of attention. For example, a Sphynx cat named Ted Nude Gent starred in all of the Austin Powers movies as Mr. Bigglesworth. What is the secret behind these hairless wonders? Read on.

No Hair, Don’t Care

SPH Slavir Fidel

Photo Credit: Nickolas Titkov via Flickr

Okay, it’s not true that Sphynx cats are bald. There are actually varying degrees of hairlessness in this breed. Even those that appear to be totally bald have a layer of very fine, almost imperceivable hair. Some Sphynx cats will even have visible amounts of hair on their ears, nose, tail, and toes. The amount of hair that a Sphynx cat has can also vary based on seasonal and hormonal changes. Despite their sparse coat, Sphynx cats aren’t any colder than you are at any given moment. They are great at finding something (or someone) warm to cuddle with when they get chilly.

Just because a cat doesn’t have a normal coat of hair doesn’t mean they are lacking in style. The skin of a Sphynx cat is pigmented in the same colors and patterns that are seen in normal-coated cat’s coat. Sphynx cats can have some very beautiful markings!

Don’t be deceived the a Sphynx cat’s wrinkles. Those are just areas of loose skin. Every cat has that kind of loose skin, but they don’t look wrinkly because of their coats. A Sphynx’s cat’s skin feels soft, like warm suede. They feel warmer than their normal-coated peers because their skin temperature is 4ºF warmer than the average cat.

An unusual coat is not the only thing that differentiates the Sphynx cat breed from the rest. The have large ears, lemon-shaped eyes, and a very expressive face. The visible wrinkles on their forehead make these cats capable of making the funniest worried expression ever seen.  They also have long toes with very thick paw pads.

Sphynx Cat Breed History

Brothers

Photo Credit: Shannon Badiee via Flickr

While the Sphynx breed is relatively new, hairless cats are not. The hairlessness is caused by a naturally occurring recessive gene. The Book of Cat by Frances Simpson (1903) describes hairless cats that were kept by a cat fancier in New Mexico. At the time, they were known as “Mexican Hairless” cats.

The first viable attempt to create the Sphynx cat breed came in 1966. Two Domestic Shorthair cats gave birth to two hairless kittens in Toronto, Canada. A breeder was quick to obtain these two kittens and start a breeding program. To broaden the gene pool, American shorthaired cats and Devon Rex cats were used in breeding. Hairless cats would be bred to normal coated cats and then the hairless cats from that pairing would be bred to other hairless cats.

In 1976, a completely unconnected hairless kitten was born on a farm in Minnesota. A year later another hairless kitten was born on the same farm. These two hairless kittens were sold to a breeder in Oregon who started her own breeding program for them. Later the breeding program from Canada and another from the Netherlands joined forces with the program in Oregon to create the Sphynx cat breed as we know it. The Sphynx breed was recognized officially by the CFA in 2002.

Groomed for Greatness

Uthello contre la baguette

Photo Credit: Sunny Ripert via Flickr

A well bred Sphynx cat is likely to be very healthy and genetically strong. However, these cats do need regular bathing. These cats do not have the hair necessary to absorb body oils like normal coated cats do. A build up of the oils can cause skin problems.

Though the Sphynx cat breed has very little hair, it is not truly a hypoallergenic cat. Humans that are allergic to cats are most likely allergic to a protein called Fel d1. This protein is found in the saliva and skin of cats.  As hairs shed, flakes of dead skin containing Fel d1 go with them (onto the couch, into the air, etc). With a Sphynx cat, there is not much hair to help these flakes get all over  your home. Depending on how sensitive you are to Fel d1, a Sphynx cat could still cause allergy symptoms.

Full of Personality

Sphynx cats don’t disappoint when it comes to personality. They are very lovable and devoted to their humans. A Sphynx cat will follow you around your home and will love to sit in your lap and cuddle. They prefer to be with their humans, but they do will with other cats and with dogs.

This breed is 100% cat! Sphynx cats are full of energy and mischief. They love to be the center of attention. Just like other cat breeds, they will jump, climb, play, and perform acrobatic stunts. A Sphynx cat will show off anytime he/she can.

If you are considering adding a Sphynx cat to your family, please check out the adoptable Sphynx cats on Petfinder.

Have you ever met a Sphynx cat?

Sources & Digging Deeper

Sphynx – CFA

Sphynx Cat – Petfinder

Sphynx – Animal Planet

Sphynx – TICA

Human Allergies to Cats

Scientists figure out what causes cat allergies, could pave way for treatment – CBS News