Sphynx

Sphynx cats are famous for their nearly nude appearance, but there is so much more to these charming, intelligent, and affectionate cats. Learn more about living with a sphynx.
By Hilary Braaksma
August 24, 2020
Sphynx
Coat Length
Pattern
Other Traits
Temperament
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Sphynx

height
  • 8—10 inches
weight
  • 6—14 pounds
life span
  • 9—15 years
good with
  • children
  • seniors
  • dogs
  • cats
  • families
temperament
  • sociable
  • affectionate
  • bold
intelligence
  • high
shedding amount
  • infrequent
playfulness
  • high
activity level
  • hyper
vocalness
  • howler
coat length
  • hairless
colors
  • chocolate / brown / sable
  • cinnamon
  • lavender / silver
  • fawn
  • blue / gray
  • black / ebony
  • cream / beige / tan
  • lilac
  • white
  • red / orange
patterns
  • bi-color
  • solid
  • tabby
  • calico / tri-color
  • color point
other traits
  • hypoallergenic
  • requires lots of grooming
  • friendly toward humans
  • friendly toward other pets
  • friendly toward strangers
  • strong loyalty tendencies
  • good lap cat
  • tolerates being picked up

The sphynx cat breed is striking and utterly unmistakable, thanks to its natural baldness. Their unconventional looks have gained the sphynx its fair share of fans—and a few who are less than impressed by the breed’s unique appearance. This distinctive house pet is sure to draw lots of attention and opinions.

Aside from having showstopping looks, sphynx cats are a loving and friendly breed who crave your attention and affection. These clownish cats are intelligent, engaging, and devoted pets.

Because they’re a relatively uncommon breed, these hairless cats can cost a pretty penny. A sphynx kitten from a reputable breeder usually costs between $1,500 and $6,000, depending on pedigree.

Appearance

The sphynx, while considered a “hairless cat,” isn’t necessarily hairless. These cats are covered in a fine down coat that's hard to see and super-soft to the touch. Your sphynx friend may have a few sparse whiskers and eyebrows, or none at all.

The skin of a sphynx cat is often pigmented or patterned the way a traditional coat might be on other house cats. Sphynx come in a wide variety of colors, with similar shades and markings to other cat breeds. From darkly colored black sphynx cats to pretty, patterned calico kittens, there is no shortage of variety with this breed.

The defining physical feature of the sphynx cat is the apparent lack of hair, but this breed does have other distinctive features. Notable traits include lemon-shaped eyes, long finger-like toes, big ears, and a big, rounded belly. Despite their rounded midsection, sphynx cats are actually incredibly active, athletic animals with muscular bodies. 

Another trait of the sphynx is lots of visible wrinkles. Sphynx cats aren’t actually more wrinkly than other cat breeds, but the lack of thick fur highlights this universal feline trait.

Sphynx are considered a medium-size cat, and typically weigh 6–14 pounds.

Temperament

These beautiful baldies are curious, outgoing, and super smart. While they’re certainly not aggressive, a sphynx won’t be shy about their needs. This showboating breed loves to be loved, and they’ll go out of their way to get your attention.

Sphynx cats are silly, fun-loving, natural-born entertainers who will clown around to get your attention. These social, playful cats love affection as much they love attention, and will spend hours glued to your side. The sphynx is a true lap cat who loves cuddling up with his people or snuggling under warm blankets together. Their needy nature can be a tall order for some pet owners, but the sphynx rewards human patience and kindness with top-notch companionship. These cats are loyal, dedicated pets who will love you endlessly.

Don’t be surprised if your sphynx lets himself into any room, cupboard, or cabinet in the house. These cats are incredibly agile, with dexterous, finger-like toes that they use to poke, prod, and open doors. This naked breed is also noisy, so expect to have a lot of deep and meaningful cat chats with these vocal pets.

Living Needs

Sphynx cats are an active breed, with considerable need for physical and mental stimulation. They can and will entertain themselves, thanks to their high intelligence, but they thrive with tons of attention and affection from owners. These sociable animals don’t do well being left a lot on their own—they’ll need an owner who has a lot of time and love to give.

The sphynx is especially adept at climbing and perching—there is no bookshelf too high or ledge too narrow for this pet. Space to move around, cat trees, and owners who don’t mind their homes becoming jungle gyms are a good fit for this athletic breed.

These nearly naked cats tend to be sensitive to the sun and the cold. You’ll probably find your sphynx frequenting warm spots around the house, like a sunny window, a warm vent, or under the covers with you. If you live in a climate with cold weather, get your sphynx something nice to wear when the house gets chilly. Your sphynx is likely to be tolerant of water than most cats, a beneficial trait considering they’ll need a lot of baths.

Because of their hairlessness, sphynx are considered a hypoallergenic breed. Potential owners should know that allergens can come from other sources like dander and saliva, not just fur—but their lack of shedding does help ease allergy symptoms.

Cats of this breed are gentle, easy-going souls who get along well with kids, dogs, and other cats. If you have the time and patience this pet needs, you’ll find a loving, charming friend in the sphynx.

Care

A lack of hair doesn’t mean less grooming—these cats’ coats need plenty of upkeep. The lack of fur to soak up and separate oil secretions means your sphynx’s skin can get greasy, dirty, and smelly. Your pet sphynx will need at least weekly bathing, regular ear cleaning and nail trimming to keep them looking and feeling their best. This hairless cat is actually just as susceptible to fleas as their furrier cat counterparts—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 with Royal Canin. “Nothing too drying should be used.”

Sphynx are naturally active animals, so you won’t need to go out of your way to get them moving. It's good to 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.

These clever, curious cats take to training quickly and love to learn. Positive reinforcement and lots of attention are key to training this breed. Some sphynx cats have even been trained to play games of fetch!

Socialization comes naturally to the sphynx, and they’ll get along with almost any member of the family, pet or human. If anything, their social butterfly status can get them into trouble—keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t wander off to explore the neighborhood.

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, which are a perfectly healthy feature of this cat breed. Check in with your vet to know when, what, and how often to feed your individual sphynx cat.

Health

Sphynx are generally healthy cats with an expected lifespan of 9–15 years. “Common health conditions diagnosed in the sphynx include dental disease, skin problems such as oily or greasy skin, and heart problems. HCM, or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, is the most common heart disease in cats, and sphynx cats can be affected,” says Lenox.

Reputable 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.

History

In 1966 in Ontario, Canada, a domestic shorthair cat gave birth to an almost hairless kitten named Prune. Prune was recognized as being genetically special, and Prune, her offspring, and other naturally naked cats were bred with Devon rexs in an attempt to create a hairless breed. The result of this breeding was originally referred to as the Canadian Hairless Cat, but was later changed to sphynx because of its 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 the shallowness of the 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 next 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. Another Minnesota breeder also working with offspring of Epidermis and Dermis crossed the cats with Cornish rexes to continue the hairless cat line.

At nearly the same time (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 rex cats and the breed was finally off to a strong start! Breeders continued developing this hairless breed until the sphynx cat became the strong breed known today.

Fun Facts

  • Sphynx cats consistently appear on lists of the most affectionate cat breeds.
  • The most famous sphynx in recent history may be a cat named Ted Nudegent, who played Mr. Bigglesworth in the hit movie Austin Powers.