Section 4 – FOREIGN – Group 2
The intriguing Sphynx cat never fails to draw a reaction from people and is certainly something of a conversation piece – some people love the bald, wrinkled look, some are fascinated by the cat, while others are less than enthusiastic! The most distinctive feature of the cat is its lack of fur.
The Sphynx is of medium size, boning and body conformation with surprising weight for its size. The head shape is a modified wedge, with prominent cheekbones and whisker pads. The body is warm and soft to the touch, with a chamois leather-like texture to the skin. The Sphynx is sweet-tempered, lively, intelligent and amenable to handling.
The Sphynx cat first appeared in Ontario, Canada in 1966 when a black and white domestic shorthair named Elizabeth gave birth to a litter of kittens which included a hairless male. His name was Prune and, when he was old enough, he was mated back to his mother which resulted in a litter of coated and hairless kittens, some of which were exported to Europe and acquired the breed’s name. In 1988, the first Sphynx to enter the UK from Holland was a four year old female called Tulip. Tulip became a great ambassador for the breed and was put on exhibition at three GCCF shows where she gained much admiration from the public. Tulip lived to be over fifteen years old.
Despite appearances, the Sphynx is not a totally naked cat. Their body is covered with a soft down, which is almost imperceptible to both the eye and the touch. The texture of the skin is likened to that of a warm peach or a chamois cloth. Sphynx have some fine hair over the bridge of their nose and on their feet. This can also be found on their tails and the back of the ears – and on the scrotum of the males. Degree of coat depends on several factors e.g. climate, hormones and hereditary predispositions. Their bodies are warmer to the touch than that of other cats but, in fact, their temperature is no higher. Sphynx are very clever and they will pop under a blanket when it is getting cold or find a warm human body or dog or cat to curl up with. Kittens are very wrinkly but as they develop they grow into their skin, maintaining some of the wrinkles, especially on the head. Sphynx are indoor cats as they can easily get burnt by the sun and have little protection should they come across a feisty neighbourhood cat. They can go out under supervision and weather permitting, ideally on a harness, in an enclosed safe garden or a purpose-built run. Males are generally 25% larger then the females and they come in all colours and patterns.
The Sphynx cat is possibly one of the most affectionate, sociable and intelligent cats in the world. They are in your face 24/7 and very much ‘people cats’. They will greet you, snuggle up and sleep with you and you will have no say in the matter whatsoever. Vocal, almost to the point where you find yourselves having a two-way conversation, Sphynx hate being alone. They can learn to play fetch and love to play. They enjoy the company of children and other animals and make a wonderful addition to any family that is prepared to lavish the time and attention they crave. The Sphynx is very outgoing and they are often described by their owners as elf-like or child-like due to their inquisitive and intelligent nature. They crave human company and can often be found following their owners around the house. They live quite happily with other cats and dogs. As they are so gregarious they should never be kept as the only cat in a household – but should have some form of feline company, ideally another Sphynx.
As the Sphynx lacks a coat, body oils cannot be absorbed by the fur but these can be removed by bathing, which most Sphynx seem to enjoy. Attention should be given to their ears and feet as they can get very dirty with wax but are cleaned easily with cotton buds (but do be careful not to go into the ear canal with a bud). Sphynx are not delicate and, contrary to popular belief, do not require extra heat; in fact, this will make them sweat more. An ordinary cat bed with a blanket that they can wrap up in is perfectly acceptable. Female Sphynx cats weight 6 to 8 lbs and male Sphynx cats weigh 8 to 11 lbs. They usually require a slightly higher caloric intake than other breeds because their bodies are constantly working hard to keep them warm. Sphynx cats have a lifespan of 15 years or more.
The Sphynx is not a hypoallergenic cat despite the claims of some people. If you are allergic to the proteins in a cat’s saliva, you will be allergic to the Sphynx as well. Some people who are allergic to cats do tolerate the Sphynx breed better than normal coated cats. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) has been reported to affect young to middle aged Sphynx cats. The certain disease is usually discovered during a routine annual health check. The vet will hear a faster heart rate and perhaps congestion sounds in the lungs, while the pulse feels weak. Luckily, HCM can be treated with special medical care. However, breeding only from Sphynx that are free from this gene will ensure that they will not develop the form of HCM associated with it.