The Sphynx is a rare breed of cat known for its lack of a coat.
The contemporary Mutant breed of Sphynx started in 1966, in Roncesvalles, Toronto when a hairless kitten named Prune was born. The kitten was mated with its mother (backcrossing), which produced one more naked kitten.
The Sphynx appears to be a hairless cat, but it is not truly hairless. The skin texture resembles that of Chamois leather. It may be covered with vellus hair. Because the Sphynx cats have no pelt to keep them warm they huddle up against other animals and people. They even tend to cuddle up and sleep with their owners under the covers. Lack of coat makes the cat quite warm to the touch. Whiskers and eyebrows may be present, either whole or broken, or may be totally absent. The skin is the colour their fur would be, and all the usual cat marking patterns (solid, point, van, tabby, tortie, etc.) may be found on Sphynx skin.
Sphynxes generally have wedge-shaped heads and sturdy, heavy bodies. Standards call for a full round abdomen, also known as pot bellies.
Sphynxes are known for their extroverted behavior. They display a high level of energy, intelligence, curiosity, and affection for their owners.
While Sphynx cats lack a coat to shed or groom, they are not maintenance free. Body oils, which would normally be absorbed by the hair, tend to build up on the skin. As a result, regular cleaning (usually in the form of bathing) is necessary; one bath a week is usually sufficient. Care should be taken to limit the Sphynx cat’s exposure to outdoor sunlight at length, as they can develop sunburn and skin damage similar to that of humans.
Although Sphynx cats are sometimes thought to be hypoallergenic due to their lack of coat, this is not always the case for cat-specific allergies. Allergies to cats are triggered by a protein called Fel d1, not cat hair itself. Fel d1 is a tiny and sticky protein primarily found in cat saliva and sebaceous glands. Those with cat allergies may react worse to direct contact with Sphynx cats than other breeds.
The Sphynx cat also appear to have more ear wax than most hairy domestic cats because they have little to no hair in their ears to catch and protect them from a build up of impurities in their ears, like dirt, skin oils (sebum), and ear wax which accumulates more frequently in the hairless sphynx breed. The Sphynx cats ears will need to be cleaned on a weekly basis, usually before bath time. The Sphynx breed also tends to accumulate oils and debris under their nails as well as the skin fold above the nail due to the lack of fur, so, like the ears, the nails and surrounding skin folds need to be cleaned properly as well. This is generally done at bath time along with a weekly nail clipping. The sphynx breed does require more grooming than a typical domestic cat with fur.
The Canadian Sphynx is recognized by cat fancy associations as being a healthy robust breed. Lack of hair can cause health issues with kittens in the first weeks of life due to susceptibility to respiratory infections. Reputable breeders will not let their kittens go to new homes without being at least 12 weeks of age to ensure the kitten is mature enough to cope in a new environment. Due to their lack of protective fur, skin cancer may be a problem if exposed to sunlight for long durations of time.
The breed does have instances of the genetic disorder hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Studies are being undertaken to understand the links in breeding and the disorder.
Sphynx cats have particularly sensitive digestive systems, especially if they are small cats. It is not uncommon for them to have severe diarrhea for weeks at a time after the use of medication, anesthesia, or even diets of anything less than 80% protein. Even moving to new homes can sometimes set off digestive issues.
Sphynx cats can catch common feline diseases and should be immunized in the same way as cats of other breeds.
More info: http://www.cfa.org/client/breedSphynx.aspx
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