The Sphynx is one of the most unique cat breeds out there, known for their velvety hairless body, comical face wrinkles, and larger than life personalities. Their strange appearance and entertaining nature have won them fans all over the world, but this cat's stunning looks also come with added responsibilities.
Sphynx Cat Breed Origin & History
The Sphynx is also known as the Canadian Hairless Cat because this curious breed originated in Ontario. In 1966, a litter of domestic shorthair kittens in Toronto, Canada included a hairless kitten. While this was the result of a genetic mutation that's happened in cats throughout history, it was decided that this kitten would be used to make an official hairless cat breed.
The original hairless cat was called Prune. Throughout the mid to late 1970s, Prune and other hairless kittens were bred to furred cats, including the Devon Rex breed. The hairless mutation is recessive, so some offspring still had fur.
As hairless cats started to become more common, breeders decided to call it the Sphynx, named after the big limestone sculpture in Egypt. By 2002, the Sphynx was recognized by the American Cat Fanciers Association, the Cat Fanciers Association, and the International Cat Association. Almost all Sphynx cats born today are descended from three hairless kittens born in Toronto in the late 70s.
Sphynx Cat Breed Personality
It's hard not to notice a Sphynx. Seeing their hairless body comically spread across the couch in a human-like lounging position is enough to get most people laughing and taking photos. Luckily, the Sphynx is all for it. In fact, they often demand attention!
Sphynx cats love meeting new people but are especially affectionate with their family. They will follow their owners from room to room, hanging out in a nearby cat tree or sleeping underneath the covers with you. They usually enjoy being held as well.
While the Sphynx is more than content to lavish you with purrs all night long, they are also a very energetic cat breed that loves to explore — even if it means getting in trouble. They like to chase toys and bugs, dig around in cabinets, explore countertops, and make themselves at home on just about any surface. This is also due to their immense curiosity and intelligence, meaning they're always up to try and solve a puzzle toy — especially if the result is more treats. Fiesty and athletic, the Sphynx is a rambunctious breed that does best with an attentive family who can handle a spunky cat with a sense of humor and a tendency to be mischievous.
Sphynx Cat Breed Physical Characteristics
Okay, we won't beat around the bush: the biggest defining characteristic of the Sphynx is their lack of fur. Wrinkly and pudgy, the Sphynx has a unique look that might not be for everyone. But even the most devout Sphynx fans may not know that these hairless cats actually do have some fur, usually on the bridge of their nose and on their ears.
The Sphynx is considered a medium-sized cat breed. They are usually eight to 10 inches high and 13 to 15 inches long. Their average weight is between 10 and 12 pounds, with males being a bit larger than females. Sphynx have a broad and muscular body with a rounded chest. They sometimes appear to have a potbelly. The CFA defines their thin tail as "whip-like."
The Sphynx has a very distinct head shape, with sharp cheekbones, prominent whisker pads, a strong chin, and very large, rounded ears that rival the length of their face. The Cat Fancier Association describes their big eyes as "lemon-shaped" in the breed's standards. Their forehead is full of wrinkles, giving them an often grumpy appearance.
The Sphynx breed standard states that all eye colors are accepted, but that they should be "harmonious" with the Sphynx's coat and skin color. Some common eye colors include green, blue, and yellow-orange.
Legs & Paws
The Sphynx has medium-sized proportionate legs that appear sturdy and toned. Their rear legs are slightly longer than the front. The Sphynx's front paws have five knuckles while their back paws have four. All of their paw pads are thick and cushion-like.
While Sphynx cats appear hairless, they actually have some fur on their feet, face, ears, and tail. It's also very common for Sphynx to not have whiskers. Because of their lack of fur, it's also a bit difficult to distinguish their coat's color and pattern. For this reason, all colors and patterns in any combination are acceptable for Sphynx cats.
Sphynx Cat Breed Care
While some Sphynxes have velvety soft peach fuzz and others feel buttery smooth and completely bald, all Sphynx lack the long hair needed to absorb their skin's oils. This means they need regular baths, usually once a week, to maintain clean skin.
Bathing & Grooming
When bathing your Sphynx, use warm water and a medicated pet shampoo. Make sure no shampoo residue is left since they have delicate skin. After they are completely free of soap, you can pat them down completely dry with a towel so they don't get too cold.
Since Sphynx cats have no fur they don't need to be brushed. Instead, keep a close eye on their nails, skin, and ears. Their lack of inner ear fur means they can get buildups that may lead to complete ear canal blockage. Use a soft cloth or wet wipe on their ears after a bath. You can also check their eyes for any dirt or dust buildup since Sphynxes also lack eyelashes.
Their lack of feet fur makes them susceptible to dirt, dust, and other blockages between their nails. To keep their nails clean you will want to regularly clip their claws. Just make sure you are using a cat nail clipper so you don't accidentally cut their nails too close to the quick. You can also bring them to a vet or groomer for this process.
Something to be on the lookout for is acne. Just like humans, Sphynx can get acne when dirt builds up in their skin. You'll want to clean blackheads by scrubbing them lightly with warm water and mild antibacterial soap. Ask a vet before using certain products on the Sphynx's sensitive skin.
Related: Home Remedies for Dry Skin on Cats
Because of their lack of fur, Sphynx should also be strictly indoor cats. They are extremely vulnerable to hot and cold temperatures. Always provide plenty of blankets and cuddles for your Sphynx. Some people will also dress up Sphynx in sweaters or other warm clothing, but only do this if your cat isn't bothered. Remember to wash their clothes quite often since their skin can get oily and sweaty.
Sphynx can also overheat quite easily and can even get sunburns. Limit their sun exposure whenever possible.
Health & Health Problems
Sphynx have an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years. This hairless cat breed needs some extra care, as described above, but there are also some genetic issues you should be aware of if you want your Sphynx to live a full and healthy life.
Since they are a hairless kitten, young Sphynx often have respiratory issues. Always be mindful of coughing, a runny nose, or congestion. These are some common symptoms of a serious respiratory problem.
This cat breed is also prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease. You'll notice your feline has chest pain, dizziness, swelling, and shortness of breath. They can also get hereditary myopathy, which can affect their muscle function.
Sphynx often have sensitive digestion systems, which means you will want to find a brand that offers a variety for sensitive stomachs. Cat food for sensitive stomachs will often have FOS prebiotics, natural products, and very little or no carbohydrates like corn and wheat. Stick to natural, healthy treats as well.
Hairless cats also have fast metabolisms since their bodies have to work harder to stay warm. You might notice that your Sphynx eats more than the average cat for this reason. Always make sure to have enough healthy cat food available for your Sphynx — and watch their weight as well. A chubby Sphynx is cute, but it's certainly not healthy.
Children, Family & Other Pets
The Sphynx is a cat that loves to socialize. For this reason, owners will often get two Sphynx to keep their cat happy. This is one cat that hates being alone. While their favorite human is their top choice when it comes to hanging out, they also thrive when another cat is also in the home. Try adopting a bonded pair of Sphynx or purchasing siblings, allowing them to develop together.
Although Sphynx enjoy feline companions, they may still have trouble getting used to their new friend if they weren't already bonded. Make sure both cats are fixed to avoid extra aggression and then introduce them by scents first. Giving each cat a toy or blanket used by the other cat will help them get used to each other's scents and become familiar with one another.
Let them meet the new cat from afar, maybe on the opposite sides of a closed door. At this stage, they should both have their own food bowls, litter boxes, and toys. Make sure both cats have their own territory as well, so they feel safe and not threatened by the newcomer. This could be a pet bed, cat tree, or cat shelf. As they get more familiar, try playing with them at the same time so they associate the new cat with happiness and fun.
The Sphynx breed is also known to get along well with other pets, including dogs. If you're not home often, a dog can sometimes be a good substitute for these ever-social hairless cats. They also enjoy the company of children due to their loving nature. This breed is a never-ending source of entertainment for children as well. Just make sure you are always there to supervise their interactions.
More About This Breed
Since the Sphynx is known for being hairless, like the bambino, they are often of interest to people allergic to cats. But this cat breed is actually not hypoallergenic. Sphynxes produce Fel d1, the allergenic protein in a cat's saliva, and skin secretions that causes allergic reactions.
The Sphynx is naturally warmer than most cats. The average feline internal temperature is 99.5 to 102.5 degrees. But the Sphynx has an internal temperature four degrees higher to make up for their lack of fur. This makes them even better cuddlers since they can feel a bit like a heated pillow.
This special cat breed doesn't come cheap. The starting price for Sphynx kittens is often around $1,000. A pedigreed Sphynx cat for showing can be $1,500 or more. Always make sure to go to a reputable breeder to ensure that they don't have questionable and unknown health issues.
Despite their price tag, Sphynxes are still extremely popular in the United States. They are currently listed as the 8th most popular of all the cat breeds, according to the CFA. The most well-known Sphynx is probably Ted Nudgegent, the cat who played Mr. Bigglesworth in the Austin Powers films. He was trained to sit still for up to 45 minutes while Mike Myers pet him. His double was a Sphynx called Mel Gibskin.
If you're looking for a cat with a lot of personality — and little fur — the Sphynx is for you. Playful, athletic, and curious, the Sphynx is a source of non-stop entertainment. They're also a great cuddler. If you have the time to give them proper attention and skincare, the Sphynx is a loyal companion suitable for all families.