Let's talk Sphynx

There is no mistaking the Sphynx cat. Unique among felines, the hairless breed is covered instead in a down-like coat flowing with sweet wrinkles. Highly personable and a mega-cuddler, lovers of the breed can’t get enough of their attentive characteristics. The Sphynx is fine if left alone but overjoyed to be with their humans, and will let you know in no uncertain terms when they need more attention.

Official name: Sphynx

Other names: Canadian Sphynx, Canadian Hairless Cat

Origins:  Ontario, Canada

Sphynx adult black and white
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 2 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behavior. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations. Every pet is different, even within a breed. This snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication alone. For a happy, healthy, and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as meeting their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs). Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child. Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice. All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.
Illustration of standing Sphynx cat
0 - 0 cm0 - 0 cm
4 - 7 kg3 - 4 kg
4 to 12 months1 to 7 years
7 to 12 yearsFrom 12 years
Sphynx cat leaning against a podium
1/7

Get to know the Sphynx

All you need to know about the breed

Not all cats were created equal. The Sphynx is the most extraordinary of cats—no real coat to speak of?! —and the most typical of atypical felines. Not just good but great-natured, their doting expression shines out from lemon-shaped eyes crowned by inches-high ears. There’s no other way to put it: This is one cool cat.

Although the breed appears to be from the ancient world, they originate from the cold climes of Canada: In 1966, the first Sphynx cat was born to a domestic cat, and was nothing more than a genetic mutation. The breed has also been called by the name Canadian Hairless Cat.

The Sphynx cat temperament is divine. They are always up for a cuddle or a turn on your lap. This is a velcro-cat, for sure: both lively and affectionate. The breed loves to be held and truly craves attention—and when they don’t receive it, they will all but get in your face to ask for more. Not a huge talker, the breed is nonetheless communicative, but it’s all because they dig being part of the pack.

Now, about that coat… that fur… that covering… The Sphynx is encased in a soft, fine down-like topper that doesn’t have many matches in the animal kingdom. Think Chamois. The breed can be totally hairless as well, sporting skin and nothing else. Applying a vet-approved moisturizer or scent-free oil is necessary to protect the coat—which means weekly baths with moisturizing or baby shampoo to keep oils from mussing the furniture. The skin naturally folds over the Sphynx body.

As if all this wasn’t enough, the Sphynx cat's fur comes in a variety of chic color combinations—ranging from blue, to black tortie and white, to red and white.

And don’t they look smart? That’s because they are. Their wise gaze gives them a sort of feline one-upmanship, as if they might possess all the knowledge in the world. We’ll never know. And that is perfectly fine.

Five Sphynx cat kittens sitting in a wooden crate
2/7

2 facts about Sphynx

1. Not a hypoallergenic breed

Despite their lack of fur, the Sphynx cat is not a hypoallergenic breed—meaning possessing a coat that makes them non-allergy-provoking to the humans in their midst.

2. A live hot water bottle

One would think a cat without fur would be cold to the touch: Not so the Sphynx. This is a cat that runs hot: The breed has a higher body temperature and burns calories faster than other felines. Your cat will still, however, need to be kept warm for optimum health.

3/7

History of the breed

One look at the Sphynx cat's unparallelled appearance and thoughts of exotic origins in the Far East come to mind. Actually, it’s just the opposite: They originate from Toronto, Canada. Not that Canada isn’t exotic, mind you. In 1966, the first known Sphynx was born to a domestic cat named Elizabeth, a unassuming black and white feline who produced a genetic mutation.

The kitten, known as Prune, was quickly bred by their owner with other hairless cats and the breed took hold. The Sphynx breed was crossed at that time with the Devon Rex, a breed emanating from England with similarly large ears and a very short coat. The hairless kittens, however, prevailed.

The Sphynx has been also called by the name Canadian Hairless Cat, but eventually acquired the present name because their appearance resembles cat-like images found in ancient Egypt.

4/7

From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Sphynx

1
2
3
4
5

1.Ears

Very large ears 3-4 inches in height, set far apart and high on head

2.Head

Triangular head, long rather than wide, prominent cheekbones

3.Body

Lithe, muscular body, skin folded over most of surface, warm to the touch

4.Tail

Long, thin, whip-like tail in line with back

5.Coat

Hallmark hairless coat covered in down-like fur
5/7

Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Sphynx

They can be prone to cardiac problems

When properly bred, Sphynx cats are healthy and lead a robust life. The breed does, however, run the risk of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a cardiac condition that can be hereditary, characterized by a thickening of the walls of the heart. It sounds dangerous, but can be controlled by medication if the condition arises. Make regular visits to your veterinarian to rule out any possibilities.

How hairless are they?

The interesting part about the hairlessness of the Sphynx cat is that there are different degrees of hairlessness. Some cats have the feel of suede, whereas others have a smooth, buttery sensation to their coat. Certain Sphynx possess slightly thicker patches of fur on their nose and ears or their toes and tail. The Sphynx’s covering is like a silky down, but in no way is there no hair at all.

Why the big belly?

The Sphynx anatomy is such that they are sound all around, even though they look fairly delicate. Perhaps it’s the absence of fur—but they are in reality hardy cats, and that includes their mid-region. Often called a pot belly, their tummy is firm and taut, as if they’ve just finished a big bowl of kibble. What to feed a Sphynx cat, then? Ironically, because of their lack of hair, they should eat more than other cats who would normally have enough plush covering to keep themselves warm. Because of this, breeders greenlight eating kibble at will—food left out to snack on.

Your vet may also discuss your Sphynx cat’s weight management as a preventive measure. These simple tools can help you stay on top of potential problems.

Healthy diet, healthier cat

Tailored health nutrition has a fundamental role to play in maintaining the health and beauty of Sphynx cats. Food provides energy to help with vital functions and a complete nutritional formula for Sphynx should contain an adapted balance of nutrients. Feeding them in this way will offer a diet that’s neither deficient nor excessive, both of which could have adverse effects on your cat’s health.

Clean, fresh water should be available at all times to support good urinary regularity. Cats are also naturally adapted to eating small servings - between 7 and 10 times a day. Giving them the recommended daily ration of kibble once a day will let your Sphynx cat regulate their own consumption.

The following recommendations are for healthy animals. If your cat has health problems, please consult your veterinarian who will prescribe an exclusively veterinary diet.

Growth is an essential stage in a kitten’s life. It is a time of big changes, discoveries, and new encounters. When it comes to their energy, protein, minerals, and vitamin requirements, a Sphynx kitten’s are much greater than those of an adult cat. They need energy and nutrients to maintain their body, but also to grow and build it. A kitten’s growth comes in two phases:

Construction - From Birth to 4 Months:

Weaning is the transition a kitten makes from liquid - or maternal milk - to solid food. This period naturally corresponds to the time when they cut their milk teeth, at 3 to 6 weeks old. At this stage, kittens are not yet able to crunch, so a soft meal (rehydrated kibble or an adapted wet food) helps facilitate the transition between liquids and solids. Between 4 and 12 weeks after birth, the natural immunity a kitten receives from the mother’s colostrum - or first milk - decreases while the kitten’s immune system gradually develops. This critical time, called the immunity gap, requires a complex of antioxidants, including vitamin E, to help support their natural defences. Kittens go through an intense and particularly delicate period of growth during which they’re prone to digestive upset. Their diet at this time should not only be rich in energy to meet their essential growth needs but should also contain highly digestible protein for their digestive system that’s still maturing. Prebiotics, such as fructo-oligosaccharides, can also support their digestive health by helping to balance intestinal flora. The result? Good stool quality, all around. The kitten’s food should contain omega-3 fatty acids - EPA-DHA - which helps support the proper neuro-cerebral development.

Consolidation and Harmonisation - From 4 Months to 12 Months:

From the fourth month, a kitten’s growth slows down, so a food lower in fats is recommended. This is particularly important after a cat is sterilised. Between 4 and 7 months, a kitten’s milk teeth fall out and are replaced by permanent ones. When the adult teeth have come through, a kitten needs to eat kibble that’s of the right shape and texture so it can be easily grasped and so that they’re encouraged to crunch, thus supporting oral hygiene. Until they’re 12 months old, a Sphynx kittens’ immune system is still gradually developing. A complex of antioxidants, including vitamin E, can help support their natural defences during this time of big changes, discoveries, and new encounters. An adapted level of energy and precisely balanced vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B, can help support the cat’s healthy growth while contributing to the skin’s role as a barrier and to maintaining its health. The digestive system matures progressively, with digestive aptitudes reaching full maturity toward twelve months of age. A cat is then able to consume adult food.

The main nutritional goals for adult Sphynx are:

Meeting their high energy needs. To compensate for their hairlessness, Sphynx cats have a very high metabolism which helps to regulate body temperature in what’s called thermoregulation. The process uses large amounts of energy, so their food should be rich in fats and proteins to meet their nutritional needs

Helping to preserve the health of their skin and contributing to reducing skin irritation by supporting its role as a barrier with targeted nutrients, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

Supporting cardiac function and maintaining cardiac health. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a hereditary heart disease known to affect the Sphynx. A diet rich in taurine can help contribute to superior cardiac muscle function.

Supporting good oral hygiene thanks to a kibble shape that’s the right size for their jaw, with a texture that induces chewing and ensures that the tooth penetrates deeply into the kibble

Helping to maintain a healthy urinary tract system

A senior cat - one over the age of 12 - may sometimes have difficulties with absorption. To maintain the weight of the ageing cat and minimise the risk of deficiency, they should be given an extremely digestible food filled with essential nutrients.

As they get older, cats increasingly suffer from teeth problems, and in some senior cats, the sense of taste and smell may decline as well, which can lead to a lowered intake of food. To ensure they continue to eat enough, the shape, size, and hardness - meaning texture - of their kibble needs to be tailored to their now potentially more fragile jaw.

Note that the best energy level for any cat still depends on their lifestyle, even those who are ageing. A senior cat that continues to go out regularly will benefit from a diet with a slightly higher fat content. On the other hand, ageing does not reduce an indoor cat’s risk of obesity. Their calorie intake should still be closely monitored. A food with a moderate fat content then may be optimal.

Sphynx cat standing with one paw raised on a decorative wooden table
6/7

Caring for your Sphynx

Grooming, training and exercise tips

That lithe body looks trim and slim. Sphynx are in fact born athletes, and have a natural propensity to climb—especially to things way out of their reach. They are huge fans of play, not a cat to sit around on the couch for hours. Their need for movement makes them even more fascinating, and keeps them in shape to boot. The breed benefits from a high metabolism—which is just as well, considering their big appetite. A word of caution: Whereas many cats get their exercise outside, this is one that should be kept indoors and out of the sun due to their delicate skin.

The Sphynx cat fur may be less plentiful, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need grooming—it just comes in a different form. Their down-like coat requires almost more attention than their fellow furry felines. Protect it best by slathering unscented oil or moisturizer on them frequently—much like humans do to their own skin to make it soft and silky. For the best care of your Sphynx cat, weekly baths should also be had with a moisturizing pet-safe shampoo to keep oil from getting on household items. The Sphynx’ skin falls in delicate folds over their body, and needs attention when bathing to keep it clean; in a pinch, baby wipes can help.

Known as a very affectionate breed, the Sphynx personality is an enthusiastic one, eager to please and to learn. This cat exhibits a high level of intelligence and a huge amount of energy, traits that contribute to their taking discipline well. The Sphynx is extremely loyal, so the cat-human bond is one they enjoy and respect. They respond best to training that includes positive reinforcement.

7/7

All about Sphynx

Sources
  1. Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/
  2. Royal Canin Cat Encyclopedia. Ed 2010 and 2020
  3. Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/
  4. Royal Canin BHN Product Book

Like & share this page