Sphynx Cat Breed-History, Appearance & Temperament



At a glance    History     Appearance    Temperament    Are Sphynx cats hypoallergenic?

Sphynx at a glance:

  • Origin: Toronto, 1966 and Minnesota
  • Lifespan: 12-14 years
  • Eyes: Hazel, green, yellow, blue, copper
  • Energy: Medium to high
  • Temperament: Playful, outgoing, curious, loving
  • Weight: Males 4-5 kg (8.8 – 11 lbs), females 3.5-4 kg (7.8 – 8.8 lbs)
  • Colours: All colours and patterns
  • Grooming: None

Sphynx cat
Image Sunny Ripert, Flickr
Anchor

About:

The Sphynx cat is an almost entirely hairless cat who originated from Toronto. The skin has a delightful chamois feel due to the presence of soft down hairs giving it a fuzzy peach appearance.

They have a reputation for being the clown of the cat world, with an inquisitive, outgoing and friendly personality they get along with everyone.

Hairless cats have cropped up from time to time throughout the world as a result of this spontaneous mutation. The condition resulting in hairlessness is known as hypotrichosis which is caused by a recessive gene, meaning both parents must carry the gene for it to be passed onto their offspring.

History:

Sphynx cat

Mexical Hairless:

Two hairless cats named Nellie and Dick were given to Mr. and Mrs. F.J. Shinick in 1902 by local Indians, these were named Mexican Hairless cats. Other hairless cats have turned up in Australia, Europe, and the United States. It is not known for sure if these spontaneous mutations are all the result of the same gene, three hairless conditions have been looked into, occurring in France, Canada, and England, and symbolised by h, hr and hd, respectively. It is believed to be closely linked to the Devon Rex gene re. [1]

Sphynx in Canada:

The Sphynx story began in 1966 in Toronto, Canada. A black and white domestic female by the name of Elizabeth gave birth to a hairless male kitten, named Prune. A local science student became interested in this unusual cat, and along with his mother Yania Bawa, a breeder of Siamese, obtained both Prune and his mother, Elizabeth. Prune was mated back to Elizabeth and this mating produced more bald kittens.

A breeding programme was planned to mate these bald cats to American Shorthairs. The CFA granted these cats new breed status, however by 1971 the status was revoked due to concerns over fertility. Unfortunately, these lines eventually died out.

Sphynx in the US:

The Sphynx of today is descended from four cats. Epidermis, Dermis, Paloma, and Punkie. A farm cat from Minnesota by the name of Jezabelle and owned by Ethelyn Pearson gave birth to a bald female kitten who was named Epidermis. The following year Jezabelle had a second bald kitten, named Dermis.

Canada:

Meanwhile, back in Toronto, three more hairless cats occurred to the same queen, but in separate litters. Bambi was the first, a male who was neutered, then in 1979 and 1980 two females, Paloma and Punkie were born. These two cats were sent to Dutch breeder Dr. Hugo Hernandez. Hernandez mated Punkie to Mewsi-Kal Starsky (who was from the original Canadian lines originating from Elizabeth/Prune). These matings produced no kittens, so Hernandez then mated Punkie to a Devon Rex named Curare van Jetrophin. The resulting litter produced five kittens. Two males from this litter (Q. Ramses and Q. Ra) were used, along with Punkie’s half-sister, Paloma.

The descendants of these matings, along with the descendants from the Minnesota line (Dermis and Epidermis) went on to become the foundation cats of the Sphynx we know today. Domestics, American Shorthairs, and Devon Rexes have been used in breeding programmes to increase the gene pool. The h gene is recessive, and in order for a hairless cat to be produced, it needs one copy of the h gene from each parent.

Appearance:

Sphynx cat

As has been mentioned, the Sphynx isn’t a completely bald cat but has a fine layer of peachy fuzz on the skin. Some hair may also be found on the extremities such as the nose, tail, ears, and feet. Sphynx cats have no whiskers.

Wrinkles are a desired trait in the Sphynx. Due to the minimal hair, the Sphynx feels surprisingly warm. The feel of the Sphynx has been compared to that of a chamois.

The medium-sized body is long but with great muscle definition. It has a deep chest and legs which are in proportion to the body. Hind legs are slightly longer than the front legs. They have medium-sized, oval paws and a long, tapering tail. Sphynx cats have huge ears, broad at the base.

The head is wedge-shaped with rounded lines. There is a slight nose stop. The eyes are large and slightly slanting with the outer corners pointing towards the ears.

The Sphynx comes in every colour and pattern.

Personality:

Sphynx cat

The Sphynx is an extremely outgoing, friendly and loving breed of cat. They love to climb and be up high, they have boundless amounts of energy and are always on the go. The Sphynx has been described as “part cat, part dog, part monkey“.

They get along well with people, including children and other pets. Due to their intelligence, they can be easier to train than other breeds, often learning tricks and happily walking on a leash. They do require a lot of company and shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time. If you are out for long periods of time, consider getting two cats. Anchor

Health:

Sphynx cat
Image Kirsteen Titchener, Flickr

The Sphynx cat is an overall healthy breed of cat but as with all cats, there is a higher incidence of certain conditions. In the Sphynx this includes the following:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Spasticity

Sphynx cat care:

Sphynx cats produce more ear wax than other cats due to the lack of hair which requires regular cleaning. Also, due to their lack of coat, they can be prone to oiliness and may need fairly regular bathing. Only ever use a shampoo designed for cats on your Sphynx. Human shampoos contain harsh chemicals which are not good for a cat’s sensitive skin.

Due to their lack of coat, Sphynx cats should not be outdoor cats. Make sure your Sphynx is kept warm, especially during the winter months.

All cats need their teeth cared for with daily brushing with a cat toothbrush and toothpaste. Raw chicken necks and cubs of steak are also good for dental care.

A yearly visit to the veterinarian is important to ensure your Sphynx remains healthy and well, progressing to bi-annual visits once your cat reaches seven.

Are Sphynx cats hypoallergenic?

No, the protein which causes allergies in humans is found in the saliva and sebaceous glands of all cats, including the Sphynx. Admittedly, due to the lack of hair, there is no shedding, but they still shed skin and peachy fuzz into the environment.

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References: [1] Robinson’s Genetics for Cat Breeders and Veterinarians – Carolyn M. Vella, Lorraine M. Shelton, John J. McGonagle and Terry W. Stanglein.