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Sphynx Cat

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Sphynx Cat

Sphynx Cat | Breed Profile | Breed Description

The Sphynx (aka Canadian Hairless) With its almost hairless body, big ears and pixiesh expression, you’ll either love or hate it at first sight. However, if you spend a bit of time around a Sphynx, you’ll find them companionable, intelligent, and friendly all those qualities one looks for in a pet. Sphynx are outgoing and love to show off, which makes them always sought out in shows.

The Sphynx (aka Canadian Hairless) is a rare breed of cat with extremely little fur, or at most a short fuzz over its body, and no whiskers (vibrissae). Their skin is the color their fur would be, and all the usual cat marking patterns (solid, point, van, tabby, tortie, etc) may be found in Sphynx too. 

  

They are sometimes mistaken for Chihuahuas because of their extremely unusual and, some say, uncatlike appearance. They are very affectionate and extroverted and like to cuddle with their humans, other humans, and each other.

Delicate as they may appear, Sphynx tend to be well-muscled and robustly healthy, with a few obvious weaknesses. It is essential to keep a sphynx cat warm and free from drafts, especially during kittenhood, as they have no more protection from cold than a naked human would. Sphynxes are also prone to sunburn and sunstroke because they lack the normal protection of fur. 

They tend to get dirty and greasy, since their skin produces the same oils as a fully-furred cat, but the oil is not spread over fur as usual. As pets they are notably more social than “normal” cats, and happier to be handled, but also require more maintenance including weekly bathing and ear-cleaning. Their natural bathing habits tend to be ineffective on skin, so the owner must compensate a bit.

Sphynx cats are not hypoallergenic, in fact they can be even worse for severely allergic people than furred cats. But because they don’t deposit hair on furniture or clothing, they tend to be easier to clean up after, and therefore often less troublesome to mildly allergic owners. Some notice symptoms but handle it by bathing and cleaning them slightly more often than one would otherwise.

The Sphynx breed is known for a sturdy, heavy body, a wedge-shaped head, and an alert, friendly temperament. Although hairless cats have been reported throughout history (hairless cats seem to appear naturally about every 15 years or so), and breeders in Canada have been working on the Sphynx breed since the early 1960′s, the current American and European Sphynx breed is descended from two lines of natural mutations:

  • Dermis and Epidermis (1975) from the Pearsons of Wadena, MN, USA and
  • Bambi, Punkie, and Paloma (1978) found in Toronto, ON, Canada and raised by Shirley Smith.

Other hairless breeds might have different body shapes or temperaments than those described above. There are, for example, new hairless breeds, including the Don Sphynx and the Peterbald from Russia, which arose from their own spontaneous mutations. The standard for the Sphynx differs between TICA and FIFE.

Sphynx hairlessness is produced by an allele of the same gene that produces the Devon Rex, which has only one of the usual two fur coats. The Sphynx allele is incompletely dominant over the Devon allele; both are recessive to the wild type. Sphynx were at one time crossbred with Devon Rex in an attempt to strengthen this gene, but unfortunately this led to serious dental or nervous-system problems and is now forbidden in most breed standards associations. 

The only allowable outcross breeds in the CFA are now the American Shorthair and Domestic Shorthair. Other associations have different rules. In Europe mainly Devon Rex has been used for outcrosses. A well-known Sphynx is SGC Belfry Ted Nude-Gent, who plays the part of Mr. Bigglesworth, Dr. Evil’s cat, in the Austin Powers movies.

Other hairless breeds might have different body shapes or temperaments than those described above. There are, for example, new hairless breeds, including the Don Sphynx and the Peterbald from Russia, which arose from their own spontaneous mutations. The standard for the Sphynx differs between cat associations such as TICA, FIFE and CFA.

It has been theorized that Sphynx hairlessness might be produced by an allele of the same gene that produces the Devon Rex (re), with the Sphynx allele being incompletely dominant over the Devon allele and both recessive to the wild type. However a different genetic symbol (hr) is given to the Sphynx gene and it is more likely that these are different genes interacting with each other. Sphynx were at one time crossbred with Devon Rex, but unfortunately this led to the introduction of some genetic diseases and is now forbidden in most breed standards associations. Hereditary spasticity and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (a genetic heart defect) were introduced by the Devon Rex breed. The only allowable outcross breeds in the CFA are now the American Shorthair and Domestic Shorthair. Other associations may vary and the Russian Blue is a permitted outcross in the GCCF. In Europe mainly Devon Rex has been used for outcrosses.

In 1999 SGC Apophis Nordstrom of Classical Cats won the TICA International Alter of the Year. In 2006 SGC Classical Cats Valentino won the TICA International Cat of the year. In the Cat Fancier’s Association, GC, RW, NW Majikmoon Will Silver With Age was Cat of the Year for 2006. The following year, GC, RW, NW Enchantedlair NWA Cornflake Girl was Kitten of the Year. These awards are handed out for the highest scoring cats, across all breeds during the current show seaons.

While sphynx cats lack a coat to shed or groom, they are not maintenance-free. Body oils, which would normally be absorbed by the hair, tend to build up on the skin. As a result, regular cleaning (usually in the form of bathing) is necessary,usually one bath a week is sufficient. Care should be taken to limit the Sphynx cat’s exposure to outdoor sunlight at length, as they can develop a sunburn, similar to that of human exposure. In general, Sphynx cats should never be allowed outdoors unattended, as they have limited means to conserve body heat in colder temperatures, and their curious nature can take them into dangerous places or situations.

Although Sphynx cats are sometimes thought to be hypoallergenic due to their lack of coat, this is not always the case. Allergies to cats are triggered by body oils and not cat hair itself. Sphynx cats become coated with these oils while cleaning themselves, which then dry and become airborne. Those with cat allergies may react worse to direct contact with a Sphynx cats than other breeds. However, conflicting reports of some people successfully tolerating Sphynx cats also exist.