Originating in 1966 in Toronto (not ancient Egypt), the Sphynx cat differs from other cats in looks and personality. The first wrinkled kitten was named Prune—rightfully so—and he was the unlikely result of a genetic mutation that rendered him nearly hairless, according to the Sphynx Cat Club.
Though they look like cute, hairless cats, Sphynxes have a thin coat of downy fur that makes them feel like a warm peach. This means Sphynx cats are low shedders, but if you’re seeking a hypoallergenic cat, there’s actually no such thing: Allergens are found in skin and saliva, not just cat fur. These naturally plump cats grow to be 8–10 inches tall and 6–14 pounds.
Caring for a Sphynx
The Sphynx’s hallmark looks aren’t the only features that set them apart from other breeds. Besides their head-turning birthday suits, Sphynx cats have a lovable dog-like personality. They’re social cats who would rather spend all day, every day with their favorite human than exercise their independence. They’re also intelligent and have an insatiable sense of curiosity, making them seem like class clowns.
While a low-shedding cat might sound like the right fit for you, the Sphynx comes with their fair share of special care. Rather than daily brushing, Sphynxes require a high-quality diet and routine baths to prevent oily skin.
Sphynx Cat Health Issues
As a cat with uncommon features, a Sphynx can be affected by genetic conditions as well as secondary infections. Working with a reputable breeder who screens their cats’ health can help ensure your Sphynx has a long and healthy life. However, because they’re prone to certain health conditions, pet insurance may be beneficial for your Sphynx kitten.
Sphynx cats have large ears, with little to no fur or ear tufts. This makes it likely they’ll accumulate more dirt, oil, and ear wax than cats that do have fur, which can cause secondary yeast and bacterial ear infections. Weekly cleaning with a good ear cleaner can go a long way to preventing infection.
Skin and Coat Disorders
Fur plays a crucial role in a cat’s well-being; it shields their skin from the sun, absorbs oily skin secretions, and prevents dirt buildup. Due to their near nakedness, Sphynxes require baths to stay clean, and to prevent secondary bacterial and fungal skin infections. But bathing them too frequently could result in overly dry skin. Talk to your vet about how often you should be bathing your Sphynx and which shampoos are best.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
While HCM is the most common heart disease in cats, it can remain undiagnosed in its early stages because there may be no apparent symptoms. But as the disease progresses, cats may experience breathing difficulties and lethargy, potentially leading to heart failure.
Because HCM can be prevented in kittens with DNA screening of the breeding stock, prospective pet parents looking to purchase from a Sphynx breeder should verify their kitten’s genetic testing results. At-home DNA kits may also detect HCM in cats before symptoms appear, and preventative measures such as echocardiograms can help catch the disease early.
What To Feed a Sphynx
Sphynx cats are active and require a high-quality commercial diet that gives them the energy they need. Feeding your hairless cat food that meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) nutritional guidelines for their life stage will provide essential nutrients and vitamins.
Like all cats, Sphynx kittens should be fed food formulated specifically for kittens or all life stages. When they’re around 1 year old, kittens should switch to food formulated for adults.
How To Feed a Sphynx
To prevent you cat from becoming bored, incorporate food puzzles, lick mats, and foraging into your cat’s mealtime. Sphynxes are incredibly intelligent, and love using their dexterous paws to mimic natural foraging and hunting instincts.
That said, cats aren’t known to be good at regulating their food intake, so provide several small meals throughout the day. Leaving food out for them to eat freely can lead to obesity.
How Much Should You Feed a Sphynx?
There are no one-size-fits-all portion sizes for cats. Instead, the number of calories your Sphynx cats should consume depends on their age, lifestyle, and ideal body condition.
Sphynxes have a higher metabolism than most other cat breeds, and a charming, round belly rather than a slim build. While bags and cans of cat food offer feeding guidelines, your veterinarian is the best resource for determining the right portion size for your cat.
Nutritional Tips for Sphynx Cats
A complete and balanced meal that meets the AAFCO's statement of nutritional adequacy will provide your cat with the necessary essential nutrients, vitamins, fats, and proteins. However, choosing high-quality food enriched with skin-healthy ingredients like omega-3 and -6 fatty acids may improve your naked cat’s health. Your veterinarian may also recommend additional supplements for any health issues your Sphynx is susceptible to.
Behavior and Training Tips for Sphynx Cats
Sphynx Personality and Temperament
The inquisitive Sphynx is high-energy and attention-seeking. They’re also intelligent and masters at using their long toes to pry open doors, cabinets, and drawers—so you might need to do some cat-proofing around your home.
Not everyone appreciates the Sphynx’s antics, but those who do find a fulfilling bond with their hairless housemates. Much like the Devon Rex, with which the first Sphynx kittens were bred to establish the breed, Sphynxes are said to be dog-like because of their outgoing personality and love of playing fetch.
Sphynx cats form close bonds with those in their household, including children and other pets. You’ll likely find your Sphynx right on your heels or cuddled up with another warm, fuzzy body. They’re alert felines that are eager to be a part of every activity—and will be chatting throughout the day.
Because they’re highly social, Sphynx cats shouldn’t be left alone for long periods and are best suited for a home with attentive playmates.
Besides the Sphynx being highly food-motivated, their intelligence and close relationship with their pet parents make them ideal candidates for training activities. With a little patience and a lot of positive reinforcement, they can learn tricks quickly. They may even do well with clicker training.
Fun Activities for Sphynx Cats
Exploring new corners of the house
Cuddling with their human or furry companions
Solving food puzzles
Playing with children and other pets
Sleeping under the bed covers
Sphynx Grooming Guide
While they don’t need to be brushed, Sphynx cats shouldn’t be considered low-maintenance kitties. These cats require a lot of upkeep.
These near-naked beauties need regular baths—but don’t overdo it or their skin will become dry, flaky, and irritated. When choosing a shampoo, look for those formulated especially for cats and without harsh scents or skin-drying ingredients.
Due to their lack of fur, Sphynx cats should be indoor-only cats. But if you decide to take them outside on a harness (or even if they just like to spend time snoozing in a window perch), dress them in an ultraviolet (UV)-blocking shirt or apply pet-safe sunscreen to prevent feline sunburn. Also consider applying UV-blocking film to windows.
Because these are cats with no hair, Sphynxes can get chilly and might need a cat sweater to stay warm when it’s cold and drafty.
As long as you keep up with regular baths, Sphynxes don’t need special care for their downy fur or sparse whiskers.
Sphynxes have large, round eyes that come in all color combinations. According to the Canadian Sphynx Cattery, their eyes should be checked daily for mucus secretions. Clear secretions can be gently wiped with a soft towel and water, while colored eye secretions may indicate the need for a check-up with the veterinarian.
To prevent ear infections, routinely check your Sphynx’s ears for dirt or wax buildup, and clean them when necessary.
Considerations for Pet Parents
Some say Sphynxes are a handful; others say they are dog-like and curious. Either way, preparing your home for Sphynx kitten requires minor cat-proofing and lots of places to perch, climb, and scratch.
Even though they don’t have much fur, Sphynxes require lots of special care and upkeep, especially when it comes to their skin and ears. Make sure you have plenty of time in your schedule to dedicate to bathing your cat, and it’s a good idea to consider pet insurance.
Sphynx Cat FAQs
How much are Sphynx cats?
The typical Sphynx cat price begins at $2,000. In addition to upfront costs, other expenses such as food, bathing supplies, and medical care should be taken into consideration.
Are Sphynx cats good house cats?
Sphynx cats make excellent house cats and shouldn’t be let outside due to their lack of fur. They can live happily in an apartment or larger house as long as they have quality socialization with humans or other pets.
Are Sphynx cats hypoallergenic?
Because Sphynx cats have a thin layer of soft, downy fur instead of a traditional coat, they’re commonly called “hypoallergenic” cats. While they do shed less than other breeds and can be a good fit for some people with allergies, there are still allergens in their skin and saliva. No cat breed is truly hypoallergenic. So before bringing home a Sphynx kitten, spend time with the breed to see how your allergies react.
Featured Image: iStock/Petra Richli
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