About Sphynx Cats
The Sphynx cat is a relatively new breed of cat that has been in existence since the 1960’s. It is best known for being a hairless cat and opinions are divided as to whether it is incredibly cute or incredibly ugly! With its bat-like ears, wrinkly skin and pensive, grumpy expression the Sphynx is nothing if not unique.
Originally coming from Canada, the Sphynx was bred accidentally. A Domestic Short Hair cat had a litter in which one of the kittens happened to be completely bald. This genetic mutation was not planned for but was one which the breeder thought was appealing. This male cat was called ‘Prune’ due to his strange, wrinkled appearance. When this unusual cat was old enough, he was bred back to his mother, producing several more hairless kittens. Over the next few decades, breeders continued to develop this new hairless breed and it was not long before they became popular pets and show cats. While these cats were initially called ‘Canadian Hairless Cats’, they were eventually given the name ‘Sphynx’, thanks to their resemblance to the famous Egyptian cat sculptures.
The history of the Sphynx has not always been plain sailing and some cat fancier associations refuse to recognise the breed over concerns that breeding a cat based on a genetic mutation may lead to reduced health and lifespan.
The fascination with the Sphynx centres around the way it looks. Hairless cats have been in existence since ancient times, though many became extinct over time. Since the development of the Sphynx, similar breeds are popping up internationally, including the bald ‘Donskoy’ cat which was developed in Russia in the 1980’s.
The Sphynx is unique not only because of its lack of fur, but also because of its general appearance. Their skin has a very light, downy covering that is often likened to chamois leather and is incredibly soft. While the skin is particularly wrinkled when kittens, it does become smoother as they grow and fill out. For most, their wrinkles remain prominent on their forehead and neck.
Their heads are relatively small with a wide forehead and a narrow muzzle. Many owners love their ears which are large with a rounded tip. Their oval-shaped eyes are widely set apart and can be a number of colours, including piercing blue or dazzling green.
The body of the Sphynx is well-muscled and built in proportion with quite wide chests and well-rounded rumps. Their elegant tails are long and slim, though are off-putting to some as they can resemble big rats’ tails!
Any Sphynx owner will tell you that these cats are just full of personality. They are sometimes compared to small dogs as they are very sociable and love to spend time around people. It is not unheard of for a Sphynx to greet their owner each day when they return home from work and they seem to ‘listen’ intently while being spoken to. It would not be unusual to see a Sphynx following their owner from room to room, simply happy to be in their presence.
Their attachment to people can be a bit of a double-edged sword as some cats are very reliant on their owners and can become stressed and anxious when home alone. Unlike other breeds, the Sphynx cat is very much prone to separation anxiety and should ideally be kept in a home where there is at least one person with them for most of the time.
Sphynx cats are quite content in their own company and when around their two-legged friends but are not big fans of other cats. Real ‘lone rangers’, they can become grumpy and distant if a new feline friend is introduced to the family. Similarly, they dislike having to share their territory with dogs and will tend to remove themselves from the situation, leaving the room when the dog enters. Of course, this is just a general rule of thumb and there will be exceptions. This is especially true in those felines that have been raised with other pets since little and are used to them being around.
Though it is true that Sphynxes are loving and affectionate with people, they do not have a huge amount of tolerance for young children and can have quite low thresholds when it comes to putting up with things like ear pinching or tail pulling! As such, those with young children should probably opt for a different breed of cat.
Their lack of fur means that they have specific requirements and do not do well in cold climates. It also puts them at high risk for sun burn. Most will be kept as indoor-only cats for this reason and an effort should be made to keep the home a similar temperature at all times. Due to their lack of fur, many Sphynx cats will be on the constant look out for heat and are known to be sun-bathers, basking in any ray of sunshine that comes in the window. They also love to cuddle up close to owners and to sleep in their beds. During the winter, some owners will provide their Sphynx cats with cat clothes such as jumpers, though not every individual will tolerate this!
Very active and moderately athletic, the Sphynx loves to play around and get some exercise. Their curiosity and intelligence mean that they particularly enjoy playing with interactive toys and puzzles and will often solve any problem put to them in good time. They benefit from having access to lots of different toys and are big fans of laser pointers and wind-up mice. More so than other cats, the Sphynx is known for being an intelligent breed and can actually be trained to learn several commands.
Happy when down low and up high, these cats enjoy having a climb every now and then and will certainly make good use of any cat trees in the home. They are particularly fond of those cat trees that contain ‘hideaway beds’ so that they can catch some shut eye without being interrupted!
Not surprisingly, grooming of the Sphynx is fairly minimal. However, owners should not assume that there is no grooming required at all. It is important to gently brush the downy coat of the Sphynx once a week or so to spread their natural oils and remove any dead skin or debris that has built- up. Bathing in a mild shampoo every few weeks is often needed to prevent the body oils from accumulating. Each cat will have different requirements, and some may even need weekly baths. It’s important to introduce this routine to them from a young age so they learn to tolerate water and baths as a normal part of their life.
As well as their brushing and bathing, owners should be confident cleaning out the wax from the ears of their Sphynx and trimming nails if they become too long. Claw clipping is especially needed in older cats who can grow quite thick claws and do not tend to use their scratching posts as much.
Sphynx cats are known to have relatively good health and tend to live into their early teens.
Owners and breeders should be aware that the Sphynx is prone to a heart disease known as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM is the most common heart disease we see in cats. It causes the walls of the heart to thicken dramatically, reducing their ability to function and to pump blood effectively around the body. The sooner the condition is diagnosed and treatment can start, the better the prognosis. HCM will eventually lead to heart failure and cats will show signs that include a fast breathing rate and a reluctance to exercise. Some unfortunate cats may also develop blood clots, which can cause issues all over the body but are best known for causing sudden hind limb paralysis. The best way to tell if a Sphynx has HCM or not is to take an ultrasound (echocardiogram) of their heart. As high blood pressure and hyperthyroidism can also cause similar changes, these diseases should be ruled out. Sadly, there is no cure for HCM and it is a progressive disease, but cats do respond well to medical therapy which can keep the symptoms under control for some time.
A curious cat that loves to play and bond closely with its family, the Sphynx can make a wonderful addition to a home with grown-up children. They are quite affectionate and do not like to be left alone for prolonged periods of time.
Guest post author: Kate Davis
Author bio:Dr Kate has always had an affinity for cats, so it was a short step for her to become a cat writer.
Kate’s longtime interest is to help people to better communicate with their pet companions, and in doing so, to help them to strengthen their relationships with their cats and dogs.
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