Sphynx are polarising hairless cats. Whilst some animal lovers view this Canadian breed critically and talk of torture breeding, others enthuse over these unusual felines. If a Sphynx cat has no tactile hairs, it is classed as torture breeding. You can form your own impression of the Sphynx cat in this article.
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The Sphynx cat looks secretive – and is highly controversial.
Appearance: Hairless cats
Although they are also eye-catching, this cat breed has nothing in common with its namesake, the ancient Egyptian Sphynx.
The Sphynx is a medium-sized muscular cat that can weigh up to 7kg. Large open ears sit on the angular head. According to the standard, their eyes are lemon-shaped and are set at a slight tilt above prominent cheekbones.
The almost complete lack of fur is one typical feature of the breed. The Sphynx's body is only covered by a light, barely visible fuzz. Loose hanging, slightly wrinkled skin is also characteristic. Wrinkles on the head are obligatory based on the standard.
Their skin colours are as varied as the fur colours with cats with normal hair. The Sphynx can also be spotted or have white parts.
Attention: Unfortunately there are Sphynx cat breeds with no tactile hairs. This is torture breeding, because tactile hairs are classed as the sensory organs of cats.
Character of the Sphynx: Cuddly cat
Sphynx cats are intelligent, playful, lively and affectionate. Many of them love cuddling with fellow felines and humans. They are very devoted to their owners and are mostly friendly towards other pets like dogs.
If you would like to take a Sphynx into your home, it shouldn't be a problem for you if it occasionally makes noises. Sphynx cats are one of the more talkative varieties. However, their miaow isn't loud at all. They simply let off soft chirping sounds quite often.
Are there any peculiarities when dealing with a Sphynx cat?
The Sphynx has the same needs as all other cats. However, there are a few details to take into account.
Cuddling, playing, happiness
Well socialised Sphynx cats need at least one fellow feline to be happy. Another Sphynx or an equally affectionate cat is best.
A Sphynx should also not be allowed unsecured outdoor access. Its unusual appearance combined with its highly trusting nature makes it a popular target for thieves. As an alternative to outdoor access, you can set up a cat-proof balcony for your pets to let off steam as they wish in suitable weather conditions.
Like all cats, hairless cats need regular and varied activity. For instance, intelligence toys can be used to mentally stimulate Sphynx cats. These active four-legged friends can even learn retrieval.
Find out more about playing with indoor cats.
“Special fur”: Grooming hairless cats
Cat fur isn't for decoration, but fulfills practical protective functions in day-to-day life. If you share your home with one or several Sphynx cats, you should be aware that hairless cats can be more sensitive. They get injured more quickly during scraps with fellow cats due to their lack of fur.
In addition, many owners report that contrary to some prejudices, the Sphynx doesn't need higher indoor temperatures to feel at ease.
By the way: Contrary to popular belief, the Sphynx doesn't have a higher body temperature than other cats. Since hairless cats have no insulating fur, they will merely feel warmer than cats with fur.
There is a problem that this cat breed shares with humans: The lighter the skin, the more sensitive it is to sunburn. Hence, light hairless cats can get a slight tan during the summer. However, cat suncream is not necessary based on the experience of most owners. If in doubt, ask your vet.
Since hairless cats have no fur that absorbs the sebum from the skin, a light layer of sebum is deposited over time. As a result, some cat owners give their Sphynx regular baths. Alternatively, you can simply rub the Sphynx down every few days with a damp cloth.
Are hairless cats suitable for allergy sufferers?
It is often claimed that Sphynx cats can be kept as pets without any problems by allergy sufferers. This can apply to certain individuals, but there is no guarantee of this.
This is because allergens aren't just found in the fur, but in the cat's skin scales and saliva too. Hence, cat hair allergy sufferers can also have an allergic reaction to Sphynx cats. If you suspect pet fur allergies, ask an allergist for advice. It can also be helpful to spend a few hours in the breeder's home.
How healthy is a Sphynx?
Sphynx cats are comparatively rare, therefore the available gene pool is quite small. As a result, it is easier to encounter certain diseases. The lack of tactile hairs, a problematic feature of torture breeding, also affects some cats of this breed.
Is the Sphynx a torture breed?
Hairless cats born without tactile hairs are considered a torture breed. Tactile hairs serve as a sensory organ and are indispensable for cats.
Breeders that who breed animals without formed whiskers can and should be reported to the official veterinary surgeon responsible for the region.
The small gene pool is another risk relating to breeding the Sphynx. This often leads to inbreeding and the associated diseases.
However, responsible breeders know how this problem can be prevented through well-considered pairings with low inbreeding coefficients. Before they are deployed for breeding, they also test parent animals for the cardiac disease HCM and the kidney disease PKD, because the Sphynx breed has a tendency to suffer from both.
According to estimations, the Sphynx needs around 20% more food than cats with fur due to its lack of hair. Thermoregulation is more complex with hairless cats: the Sphynx loses heat quicker due to its lack of a coat. Hence, more energy is needed for heat compensation.
The problematic origin of Sphynx cats
The Sphynx cat is rare and also highly controversial. This is because – and this is something all interested parties should definitely bear in mind – their unusual appearance was originally an arbitrary defect, which was then deliberately further bred by humans.
The origins of the Sphynx cat
The Sphynx cat comes from Canada, not from the Aztecs as is often read. In 1966, a domestic cat gave birth to a hairless kitten by chance. This was the start of Sphynx breeding.
The owner continued to breed with this hairless cat named Prune. Some of the kittens had fur, whilst others were hairless. They did though show severe health problems and their immune system could not develop properly. As a result, this was almost the end of the breed.
However, more hairless cats were located in the mid-1970s and breeding could continue. The Sphynx has been recognised as a breed since 1971. Mr Bigglesworth from the film 'Austin Powers' is probably the most famous member of this breed.
Criticism of breeding hairless cats
Sphynx cats with no tactile hairs are considered a torture breed. The Canadian Sphynx isn't the only hairless cat subject to criticism. Hawaiian Kohana cats are also completely free of body hair.
The Levkoy, which is not recognised by any reputable association, came from paring the Scottish Fold and hairless cats like the Sphynx. Some breeders write that the crooked ears bring to mind an exotic flower. In fact, the ears are simply deformed – a mutation associated with severe spinal damage.
Attention with making a purchase
The Canadian Sphynx is rare. Patience is required if you are looking for this breed. Long waits are very likely. You absolutely must wait for a responsible breeder instead of rushing into buying a Sphynx kitten.
Unfortunately there are many unscrupulous breeders who offer hairless cats with no clear proof of origin or extensive examinations of the parent animals. Many join dubious associations not recognised by the Fédération Internationale Féline (FiFe) in order to obtain alleged paperwork.
Don't buy any kittens if their breeder gives them away before the age of 12 weeks. Also only buy from where the parent animals have been tested for the hereditary diseases HCM and PKD. All animals deployed for breeding absolutely must have tactile hairs.
Find out here what you should focus on generally when visiting breeders: 10 questions for a cat breeder.
There are more hairless cat breeds along with the Sphynx.
This includes the Don Sphynx, a Russian cat breed. The Don Sphynx is found in five varieties, one of which is the hairless version. On a positive note, this Russian Sphynx always has whiskers. Cat breeders have also created another hairless cat, the Peterbald, with the hairless Don Sphynx variety and Siamese cats.
The Devon Rex breed looks similar to the Sphynx despite its fur and is also very people-focused. Incidentally, its wavy fur is due to the same mutation as the hair changes in the Canadian Sphynx.
Sphynx cats: A highly controversial breed
There are undoubtedly many charming and appealing hairless cats. But before buying a kitten, every animal lover should ask themselves why it has to be a hairless cat? The exotic and different look that some Sphynx owners emphasise should definitely not be the focus - it is a questionable motivation for cat breeding.