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The sphynx cat breed is striking and utterly unmistakable, thanks to their natural baldness. Their unconventional looks have gained the sphynx a fair share of fans-and a few who are less than impressed by the breed's nakedness. But no matter how you feel about their head-turning appearance, these clownish cats are intelligent, engaging, and devoted pets. The sphynx is a loving and friendly breed who craves your attention and affection-especially the scritches that come with your love.
Because they're a relatively uncommon breed, these hairless cats can cost a pretty penny. If you're looking to buy a sphynx cat, get ready to dig deep into your wallet: A sphynx kitten from a reputable breeder usually costs between $1,500-$6,000, depending on pedigree.
The sphynx, while considered a "hairless cat," isn't necessarily hairless. These felines are covered in a fine down coat that's hard to see, but immediately apparent (as in, super soft) to the touch. The Sphynx Cat Club actually refers to this down as "giving the overall feel of soft, warm chamois leather." A sphynx can also have a few sparse whiskers and eyebrows that give her even more personality, or none at all.
The sphynx cat's skin is often pigmented or patterned, just like a traditional house cat's coat. And like furrier felines, sphynxes come in a wide variety of colors and markings. From darkly colored black sphynx cats to patterned tortoiseshell kittens, there's no shortage of variety.
Sphynx are considered a medium-size cat; females can weigh as little as 6 pounds, while larger males can tip the scales at 14 pounds. While the defining physical feature of the sphynx cat is the apparent lack of hair, this breed has other distinctive characteristics as well, once you've looked past the nudity. Notable traits include piercing lemon-shaped eyes; long, finger-like toes (perfect for biscuit baking); large, bat-esque ears; and a big, rounded belly. Despite this rounded midsection, sphynx cats are actually incredibly active, athletic animals with muscular bodies.
Another sphynx trait is lots of visible wrinkles. These kitties aren't actually more wrinkly than other cats, but the lack of thick fur highlights this universal feline trait.
These beautiful baldies are curious, outgoing, super smart, and aren't shy about communicating their needs-literally. Sphynxes are noisy, so expect to have a lot of cat chats as your pet follows you from room to room.
Sphynx cats are silly, fun-loving, natural-born entertainers who will clown around to get your attention (and pats). These social, playful cats love to be loved and will spend hours glued to your side. On chilly mornings (or even on not-so-cold days), they won't turn down an opportunity to snuggle under warm blankets with you. Their needy nature isn't for every pet parent, but those who love the sphynx will be rewarded with top-notch companionship that's hard to find anywhere else. These cats are loyal, dedicated pets who will love you endlessly.
"[Sphynxes are] part dog, part cat, part monkey, and part human," says Blake Gipson, breeder behind Bemisu Sphynx. "They're really, really adaptive and they're very intelligent. They're a very interactive breed and they haven't met another living thing they haven't expressed curiosity about."
Don't be surprised if your sphynx lets himself into any room, cupboard, or cabinet in the house. These cats are just as curious as the old proverb implies and are incredibly agile, with dexterous, finger-like toes they use to poke, prod, and open doors. You might want to do some light cat-proofing before bringing home a sphynx kitten!
Sphynx cats are an active breed with considerable need for physical and mental stimulation. They can (and will) entertain themselves with toys and scratching posts, but they need attention and affection from their favorite humans to be truly happy. These sociable animals don't do well on their own for long periods of time-they'll need an owner who has a lot of time and love to give.
While sphynxes love to chase ping-pong balls and bat around feather toys, two of her favorite pastimes are climbing and perching-there is no bookshelf too high or ledge too narrow for her to sit on. Space to move around, cat trees, and owners who don't mind their homes becoming jungle gyms are a good fit for the athletic sphynx.
Because sphynxes are always walking around in the nude, these cats tend to be sensitive to the sun and the cold. You'll probably find your sphynx frequenting warm spots around the house, such as a sunny window, a warm vent, or even wiggling her way under the covers with you. If you live in a cold climate, keep your kitty warm with a fuzzy (and stylish) sweater or coat.
But their nakedness does have its perks: A sphynx is likely to tolerate water more than most cats, which is great because their hairless body requires lots of baths. Their lack of fur also means the sphynx is considered hypoallergenic. And while there's no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic pet, they can be a good choice for cat-lovers who tend to sneeze or itch around kitties.
Though active and playful, sphynxes are gentle, easygoing souls who get along well with kids, family dogs, and other cats, especially if they're introduced as kittens.
If there's one thing you need to know before bringing home a sphynx, it's that her lack of hair doesn't mean less grooming. In reality, she's going to need plenty of upkeep. Cat fur soaks and separates oil secretions, and without it, your kitty's skin can get greasy, dirty, and even smelly. Sphynxes need at least weekly bathing, regular ear cleaning, and nail trimming to keep them looking and feeling their best. And take note: This hairless cat is actually just as susceptible to fleas as their furrier counterparts, so you'll still need to take the regular flea precautions.
"Cat owners should ask their veterinarian about what type of soap or shampoo to use [for a sphynx]," says Catherine Lenox, DVM, DACVN, and board certified veterinary nutritionist at Royal Canin. "Nothing too drying should be used."
Sphynxes are naturally active animals, so you won't need to go out of your way to keep their paws moving. As long as you provide them with plenty of cat toys to keep them busy, you can expect them to have the same schedule as pretty much every other cat-long sleeping hours with high-energy bouts of running, jumping, and playing.
As social butterflies, a sphynx cat will get along with almost any member of the family, whether four-legged or two. If anything, their tendency to seek out attention and insatiable curiosity can get them into trouble-keep an eye on your sphynx to make sure she doesn't wander off to explore the neighborhood. As with any cat, she should never be outside unsupervised.
Spyhnx cats have a big appetite to match their big bellies, and require more food than most cats. Keep an eye on their weight, but don't be worried about their rounded midsections that are a perfectly healthy feature of this breed. Check in with your vet to know when, what food, and how often to feed your sphynx.
Sphynx cats are generally healthy cats with an expected lifespan of 9-15 years. But, like all breeds, they are susceptible to certain health issues.
"Common health conditions diagnosed in the sphynx include dental disease, skin problems such as oily or greasy skin, and heart problems," Lenox says. "HCM, or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, is the most common heart disease in cats, and sphynx cats can be affected."
According to the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, sphynx cats are also susceptible to a condition called hereditary myopathy. This causes muscle weakness that can leave a cat unable to exercise or even walk normally.
Reputable sphynx breeders will screen for health issues in your kitten. It's important to stay on top of your cat's vet appointments and screenings-HCM and other health problems can go undetected until later in your cat's life.
The result of this breeding was originally referred to as the Canadian Hairless Cat, but was later changed to sphynx because of their resemblance to the cats in Egyptian hieroglyphics. The cats that were the result of some of these early breeding efforts were prone to health issues due to their shallow gene pool, and despite attempts to revive the line, Prune's line died out in the early '80s.
The sphynx cat of today is actually the result of two naturally occurring, spontaneous mutations of shorthair cats. The first happened in 1975 when a couple of Minnesota farm owners found that a farm cat had given birth to a hairless kitten-a female cat they named Epidermis. The following year, Epidermis was joined by an equally bald sister dubbed Dermis. Both were sold to an Oregon breeder who crossbred the kittens to develop the sphynx line.
In 1978, a Siamese breeder in Toronto found three hairless kittens-dubbed Bambi, Punkie, and Paloma-roaming the streets of her neighborhood. Those kittens were crossbred with Devon rexes, and the breed was finally off to a strong start! Breeders continued developing the sphynx until the the cats became the strong breed known today.
- The sphynx's scrunchie features aren't unique to the breed. All cats have wrinkles-you just can't see them underneath all that fur!