A complete breed guide for Sphynx cats

Last Updated 8 JUNE 2022

This article is written by Pet Circle Veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski BVSc.

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.

We've put together a complete guide with everything you need to know before adopting a Sphynx. If you need any further info, check out our Discover Education Portal or our complimentary Vet Pet Plan service.

Place of origin: Life Expectancy: Other names:
Canada 8-14 years 'Hairless Cats'
Energy level: Tendency to vocalise: Coat colours:
Very active High A variety of colours
Coat type: Average Weight: Coat markings:
Extra Short, Virtually Hairless, or Completely Bald 3.5-6kg A variety of patterns
Shedding factor: Overall grooming needs: Temperament:
Almost none High maintenance: weekly bath and moisturising is required. Affectionate, social, attention-loving, playful, friendly, brave.

Sphynx History

The Sphynx

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).

Sphynx Distinguishing features

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.

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.

Don't let your Sphynxie get cold! 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.

Top Cat Jumpers to keep your Sphynx warm

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Sphynx Personality

Credit: @sybill_minnie_sphynx on Instagram.

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.

Best toys and accessories for The Sphynx

Catit Senses Super Circuit

Ideal for playful intelligent cats like the Sphynx, the Catit Senses Roller Circuit is interactive and will keep any indoor cat entertained for hours.

Frolicat Bolt

This interactive Laser toy provides a moving laser spot for endless fun and chasies.

Scrunch and Sticks Cat Furniture

The highly active Sphynx will benefit from plenty of high surfaces to explore, and cat trees are a great way to achieve this.

Go Cat Go Teaser Snakey

Teasers can help your cat exercise their body and mind. The fluffy streamers on these teasers help kick in natural instincts and encourage play.

Sphynx Grooming

Credit: @sybill_minnie_sphynx on Instagram.

Bathing Sphynx cats

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.

Sphynx Sun Protection

Due to their hairlessness, it is important to keep Sphynx cats protected from the sun. An indoor lifestyle is usually sufficient to keep them protected.

Protection from the cold

The Sphynx is 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!

PAW Nutriderm Replenishing Shampoo

This gentle shampoo is perfect for delicate Sphynx skin.

Aloveen Gentle Oatmeal Shampoo

An oatmeal-based shampoo, Aloveen is gentle and soothing for Sphynxes.

Igloo Beds

Cosy Igloo beds are a must for Sphynx cats, as their hairless skin means they are prone to heat loss.

PetKit Cosy

PetKits Cozy is a futuristic cat bed with remote temperature control to keep your Sphynx comfortable.

Sphynx Diet and Nutrition

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.

Because they are best suited to an indoor life, it's important to keep their weight in check. An indoor cat diet might be perfect for the indoor Sphynx, or a general calorie-reduced recipe.

These guys will also benefit from a formula containing some extra skin support, to keep their skin healthy.

Feeding regular wet food meals along with dry kibble is a simple way to increase your Sphynx's water intake to ensure adequate hydration and help support urinary tract health.

Top recommended food for the Sphynx

Royal Canin Indoor

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.

Hills Science Diet Indoor

With highly digestible ingredients and natural fibre, as well as a clinically proven antioxidants, this diet is perfect to help your indoor Sphynx maintain a healthy weight.

Feline Natural

This premium, high-meat cat food is available in cans (pictured) or freeze-dried formulas. The natural ingredients and a high meat content are perfect for the outdoor or active Sphynx.

Advance Light

A light formula food is perfect for a less active Sphynx, as they can be prone to weight gain.

Sphynx Common Health Problems

While usually a fairly healthy breed, the Sphynx can be prone to urticaria pigmentosa (a skin disease causing crusty lesions), and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a heart disease). Due to their oily skin, they are also predisposed to skin conditions such as yeast dermatitis and ear infections.

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...

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

New Kitten Checklist

How To Choose the Perfect Cat Furniture

Teach Your Cat to Walk on a Lead in 3 Steps

What is the Best Grain Free Cat Food?

Why Do Cats Knead?

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