Breed of the Month
This article is written by one of our in-house veterinarians, Dr Carla Paszkowski BVSc.
Keen to learn something new? Great! Be sure to make a cuppa, take a seat and get comfortable.
This breed of the month segment is part of our monthly newsletter - and, as the title suggests, we'll be talking about a dog or cat breed in every edition, covering everything from general breed facts to interesting historic titbits and more. Who knows - maybe you'll find your next dream dog or cat here!
December: The Sphynx
Breed Origin: Canada
Coat type: Extra Short, Virtually Hairless, or Completely Bald
Energy Level: Active
Temperament: Affectionate, social, attention-loving, playful, friendly, brave.
Grooming and Maintenance: High maintenance - a weekly bath and regular moisturising is required.
Common Health Ailments: Can be prone to urticaria pigmentosa (a skin disease causing crusty lesions), and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a heart disease). Oily skin which requires bathing.
Average Life Span: 8 - 14 years
No; it's not a house elf. And no; it's not just a cat suffering from alopecia. The Sphynx is a virtually fur-free, smooth-skinned, wrinkly little breed of feline. This unique and quirky breed is sure to turn heads wherever they go - not just because of their wrinkled, hair-free appearance, but also because of their attention-loving attitude. With an aptitude for mischief and a love of the limelight, this social cat will make a fun pet for any family.
I bet you're thinking the Sphynx originated from ancient Egypt. It's easy to imagine these regal guys being bred and adored by feline-worshipping pharaohs, however this isn't the case. The Sphynx was actually developed accidentally in Canada during the 1970s. In fact, the Sphynx was originally known as the 'Canadian Hairless Cat'. Breeders eventually decided on the 'Sphynx' name in reference to the limestone statues in Egypt, as these structures are similarly smooth in appearance.
How did they come about? While the genetic gene for hairless cats has been seen from time to time, breeding of the Sphynx began in the 1970s. A black and white female gave birth to a wrinkled, hairless wee kitten, who was affectionately named 'Prune'. Because of his special appearance, Prune was selected for breeding, and was successfully bred with haired cats to produce both haired and hairless offspring (the hairless gene is recessive).
The Sphynx has a unique appearance. With large bat-like ears, and inquisitive lemon-shaped eyes, they might be mistaken for an elf or extra-terrestrial creature.
The coat, or lack thereof, is perhaps their most striking feature. The colour varies, and can sport patterns and pigmentation - just like regular haired cats. In fact, whatever colour a Sphynx's skin is correlates to what their fur pattern would be, if they didn't have the hairless gene.
Although the Sphynx appears hairless, they do actually sport a fine fuzz-like layer of hair. This gives them a soft, suede-like feel. Because they don't have a usual insulating layer of fur, they do tend to lose their body heat just like humans. This is why they feel warm to touch, but it's also why they tend to seek out warm places and sources of heat more than other breeds. We recommend a few different jumpers to keep a Sphynx warm during winter.
Where Have I Seen Them Before...?
Not sure where you've seen these cats before? You may remember Dr Evil had a Sphynx cat named Mr Bigglesworth in the Austin Powers movie series. A Sphynx was also featured in the popular TV show Friends, when Rachel adopts a particularly scratchy hairless kitty.
Not quite bald
Although this breed may appear completely hair-free, they actually sport a very fine, short coat of fuzzy hair similar to a peach. This gives the skin a velvety soft, suede-like feel.
This breed is perfect if you want a cat but not the excessive cat fur sticking to your clothes, furniture, and carpet. A Sphynx will allow you a virtually fur-free home! However, it's important to know that this breed is not considered hypoallergenic, as their skin still produces regular amounts of allergy-causing dander.
The Sphynx is incredibly social and loves being the centre of attention. They are known to show off for their family; climbing and performing acrobatics on high surfaces. They also love being around their humans and will follow you from room to room, getting involved in all your daily activities.
As quite a playful and mischevious breed, these guys tend to do well with children and other pets. However for their own safety, it's best to keep them as indoor-only cats. For any indoor cat, we recommend providing a nice tall cat tree to help satisfy their climbing instincts.
The Sphynx's high level of playfulness means they require lots of mental stimulation and toys. They thrive on games and puzzles, so be sure to provide a couple of interactive toys.
Bathing Sphynx cats tend to have oily skin, and need to be bathed weekly to avoid becoming greasy. It is also ideal to keep them regularly moisturised with a natural, gentle moisturiser such as Aloveen Conditioner.
Sun Protection: Due to their hairlessness, it is also important to keep them protected from the sun. An indoor lifestyle is usually sufficient to keep them protected.
Warmth: The Sphynx is just as prone to getting cold, due to their sparse and exposed skin. Always keep your Sphynx protected from cool temperatures with a snug hideaway bed to curl up in (igloo beds or bolster beds are great!) and plenty of warm winter jumpers!
The Sphynx cat is a unique breed, but is still taxonomically within the domestic feline species, so their nutritional demands don't differ too much from other cats. A kitten diet is required until they are fully grown, which may be slightly older than 12 months of age as they are classified as a large breed.
Fun facts about the Sphynx:
- They were originally called 'The Canadian Hairless Cat'
- They might appear hairless, but they actually sport a fine, peach-like fuzz
- Due to their lack of normal fur, they lose a lot of body heat. This makes them feel warm to the touch.
- Even though the Sphynx is mostly hairless, it is no more 'hypoallergenic' than any other breed, as they still produce normal levels of allergy-causing dander.
- The Sphynx cat needs a weekly bath to keep their oily skin in good shape.
- The Sphynx is currently the 8th most popular breed in the USA.
- They are exceptionally friendly and affectionate to humans. Some speculate whether this is merely just due to their lack of body warmth, and their desire to steal ours with intense snuggles...
Recommended for the Sphynx:
This diet from Royal Canin is specially formulated for indoor cats. With high digestibility, adapted calorie content, and specific fibre content, it is perfect for a healthy indoor Sphynx.
Aloveen Oatmeal shampoo and Conditioner are gentle, soothing formulations The shampoo also contains superfine colloidal oatmeal and aloe vera which soothes the skin. The shampoo also contains superfine colloidal oatmeal and aloe vera which soothes the skin.
Coats are always needed in winter for hairless cats. Woolen jumpers are perfect for the active, slinky Sphynx cat, as they don't usually contain velcro or any irritating clips.
The highly active Sphynx will benefit from plenty of high surfaces to explore, and cat trees are a great way to achieve this.