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Getting to Know the Sphynx

By Lynne Thomas
from The Cat Fanciers' Association Complete Cat Book

One of the questions most asked about this breed is, "Don't they get cold?" They do. If it is too cold for you, it will be too cold for a hairless cat. However, these cats are smart enough to find a warm human, dog or cat to curl up with or they will get under your bed covers. In the winter, many Sphynx breeders put sweaters on their cats when they take them out in their carriers. They also make sure that the carriers are covered. A hot water bottle can come in handy when you have Sphynx cats in a colder environment. Their hairlessness does not mean they are fragile. These are hearty cats with a strong immune system with no serious inherited breed- related problems, no skin problems, no breeding problems and a low kitten mortality rate. For some, they are perfect cats.

The oldest cat on record was a Sphynx named Grandpa Rex's Allen. He was estimated to be 32 years old when he passed in 1998. Many Sphynx have lived to be 18 years or more. Yearly veterinary examinations and vaccines are normally all the medical expenses that a Sphynx pet owner will have for a very long time.

Even though the Sphynx gene is called hairless, these are not totally hairless cats. There is fine down on the body that feels like a warm peach. Some light hair is often present on the nose, tail and toes. The touch of a Sphynx has been likened to a suede hot water bottle, a horse's warm muzzle or a heated chamois. Sphynx kittens are very wrinkled but as they get older and the body fills out, some of these wrinkles disappear. It is desirable for an adult Sphynx to have as much wrinkling as possible. They come in every color that a cat can be and the color is seen in the pigment of the skin and in the few hairs that they have. It can be difficult for Sphynx breeders to determine the correct color of their kittens.

Without hair, there are other clues like the color of the paw pads and nose leather.

These are substantial cats, medium sized but strong. An adult female will weigh between six and eight pounds and a male will weigh between eight and eleven. Sphynx have good muscle development, and should have a bit of a belly as if they just finished dinner. They have an open-eyed, intelligent face and a friendly expression. They have a bouncy gait and often use their toes as fingers. Sphynx cats are unique even when asleep. They contort themselves into what seems to be extremely uncomfortable positions often with a leg up in the air and they can sleep deeply and soundly like that for a long time.

Their Personality


The Sphynx personality is also unique. Kittens are precocious from the beginning of their lives. They often open their eyes when they are two or three days old, walk, and climb out of the kittening box by the time they are three weeks of age. A three-week-old Sphynx kitten will (change often to ) usually start eating its mother's food and using the litter box. Their temperament remains the same as their kittenhood antics indicate. Sphynx delight in making direct eye contact with people and they flirt outrageously. They literally bend over backwards to get human attention. A Sphynx will always be ready to get into some mischief.

A Sphynx cat will greet every stranger that comes to visit. In a flash, they will leap onto an unsuspecting person's shoulder, purr, and head-butt. They follow you everywhere and have to "help" you with all the household chores. This means that they will position themselves in the pile of crumbs and dust when you sweep the kitchen floor. They sit in the litter box when you want to scoop but the real trick is trying to make the bed with three Sphynx on the sheets.

You can forget about having fresh cut flowers when you own a Sphynx. It is wise to put child safety locks on all your cupboard doors and never ever leave food out where a Sphynx can get it. They eat a lot and they eat almost anything. Stealing people food is a Sphynx game in which they excel.

Sphynx cats love to be looked at and they enjoy the attention that they get at cat shows. They are fearless and perform silly antics for your entertainment and they are sometimes downright clumsy, on purpose it would seem. These cats prefer the company of people but are great with dogs, and other cats. They rarely have a problem slipping into any situation. A Sphynx thrives on human attention and should never be left alone for long. They need at least one constant companion animal. A dog or cat makes a good friend for a Sphynx but they seem to prefer the company of another Sphynx. Two Sphynx interact and play with each other in their own special way. They love children of all ages, grandparents and the delivery boy. They are always with you, on you or showing off for you. A Sphynx will be under the covers at night and stay tucked up against you until morning. These amazing cats are very loving.


When grooming the Sphynx it is important to understand that even though they are almost hairless, they are not a "no maintenance" breed. Because of the lack of hair that would normally absorb body oils, Sphynx cats need to be bathed periodically. Every cat is different but generally, a pet Sphynx that is altered should need bathing every two weeks. This is not a difficult task with a cat that has been used to a bath from kittenhood and it takes no time at all to dry a Sphynx.

Their ears get dirtier than those of other cats and the fold of skin behind each claw collects oil secretion. These two areas need particular care and cleaning. An un-neutered male gets dirty very quickly and needs bathing every few days. A well-groomed Sphynx at a cat show should be scrupulously clean and needs a bath each morning of the show. Often by the afternoon of a cat show, a Sphynx will need a wipe down with a washcloth and no-rinse shampoo.

The Sphynx can be important for people who are allergic to cats. While we know that there is no such thing as a non-allergenic cat, some people who suffer from cat allergies can tolerate Sphynx cats. However, each individual's allergic reactions are different and there are those who cannot live with this or any other cat breed. If you are allergic to cats, it is best to contact a Sphynx breeder and make an appointment to handle a cat before you buy one. Determine for yourself if you get an allergic reaction to it. Most Sphynx breeders have had a lot of experience selling to allergic people and would have a good idea of the type of allergy sufferer who could comfortably live with a Sphynx cat. It has been proven that frequent bathing does reduce the allergens shed by any type of cat.

What is a Hybrid?

Because the Sphynx is a mutation that occurred naturally by the whim of Mother Nature, this is a breed that had its start from the gene pool of ordinary domestic cats. The Sphynx gene for hairlessness is a simple recessive. When we breed a normal-coated cat to a Sphynx, all the kittens will have a normal coat. This first generation of hybrid is called the F-1 generation. When an F-1 hybrid is bred back to a Sphynx, 50% of the resulting kittens will be hairless F-2, or second-generation. In the F-2 litter, the kitten that has a normal coat is called a hybrid and the kitten that expresses the gene for hairlessness is called a Sphynx. When a Sphynx is bred to a Sphynx all the kittens will be hairless.

Since the mid 60's when the Sphynx was in its infancy as a breed, these hairless cats were selectively mated to many different normal-coated cats of the pedigreed and non-pedigreed variety. That is how they survived and became the hearty breed they are today. All the outcrossing that has been done is the reason that Sphynx cats can be produced in any possible color or pattern. All eye colors are accepted as well.

The Cat Fancy today recognizes that the Sphynx gene pool is still extremely limited which is why there are allowable outcrosses. CFA allows Sphynx breeders to outcross their cats to American Shorthairs or to Domestic Shorthairs. The Domestic Shorthair of unknown ancestry is registered in CFA as a Domestic Sphynx Outcross and is given a registration number.

By concentrating on hybrid breeding, not as many top show quality cats will be produced as when breeding Sphynx to Sphynx but that is to be expected. Health and temperament are first and foremost considerations of breeders who have hybrid programs. In a few more generations, the cats from hybrids will be serious contenders for top honors on the show scene.

Sphynx pet buyers might like to consider adopting a hybrid Sphynx. Breeders frequently have adults and kittens available and they charge very little for them. Hairless or coated, they all have the special personality traits of the Sphynx breed. The same health guarantee would apply to a hybrid kitten as it does with all of their kittens. These cats and kittens may have normal coats but they are raised with the same love, care and attention as the hairless Sphynx. Taking a hybrid would also be making a great contribution to the Sphynx breed. Placing these cats in good homes allows the breeder to move on to the next generation or to take in another outcross breeding cat. Breeders can only keep a limited numbers of cats.

Breed History

In terms of its history, where did the Sphynx come from? The answer is Canada. This is the only natural Canadian breed of cat. In 1966, in Toronto, a domestic cat gave birth to a hairless kitten. It was discovered to be a natural or spontaneous mutation and the Sphynx cat, as we know it today, came into existence. This cat and several others found in other parts of the world have been the foundation for the breed. Cat breeders in Europe and North America have bred the Sphynx to normal-coated cats and then back to hairless for more than thirty years. The purpose of these breedings was to create a genetically sound cat with a large gene pool.

There are differing opinions as to their exact origins. Very little factual documentation is available from the first breeders. We know that the hairless cat was presented to CFA at a Board of Directors meeting in the early 1970's. David Mare, who was on the Board at the time, named them Sphynx and became a Sphynx breeder himself.

At the turn of the Century, there were two hairless cats in Mexico that were known to be the last of their line. No one knows what became of them but they did not breed or contribute to the genetic makeup of the Sphynx of today. Two natural mutation Sphynx from Toronto were sent to the Netherlands to Dr. Hugo Hernandes. Punkie and Paloma were sisters and they were bred primarily to Devon Rex. Many of the Sphynx pedigrees of today go back to these two cats and were extremely influential in the development of the breed. In Europe and in North America, there were Sphynx breeders outcrossing their hairless Sphynx to other pedigreed cats. Most of the time it was because they were already involved in the Cat Fancy with the breed they used for Sphynx outcrosses.

In 1975, a Sphynx named Epidermis was born on a farm in Minnesota and a year later another Sphynx named Dermis was born from the same mother. These two cats were incorporated into the Sphynx gene pool and bred to American Shorthairs and then to Devon Rex. There have been a few other natural mutation Sphynx turn up over the years. They have been test-mated and then became a part of the gene pool once they had been proven to have the same gene.

The Sphynx is one of CFA's newest and one of its most unusual breeds. On February 6, 1998, at the CFA Board meeting in Houston, the Sphynx breed was accepted for registration. The Sphynx was so popular that the breed advanced to Provisional and immediately advanced to Championship status at the same CFA Board meeting in February 2002.

The hairless Sphynx cat is one of the most rare and unusual breeds in the Cat Fancy. They have few health problems due to outcrossing and generally live long trouble-free lives. The temperament of the Sphynx cat is demanding and loving while at the same time, very mischievous. This is the perfect breed of cat for people who spend a lot of time at home and want a cat that is an interactive member of the family. A Sphynx thrives on attention, needs people and animal companionship and loves to be on display at cat shows. Availability of Sphynx kittens is very limited but the pleasures of living with a Sphynx, or two, make them well worth waiting for. Practically everyone who shares their lives with Sphynx cats claim that they are pure enchantment.

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