History of this Amazing Breed
In 1966 a domestic cat gave birth to a hairless kitten in Toronto Canada. When taken to a vet, it was discovered to be a natural genetic mutation and the Sphynx cat, as we know it today, came into existence. This cat and a few other naturally hairless cats have been found worldwide; produced by Mother Nature, they are the foundation for this unusual breed. Donskoy's and Peterbalds are not the same breed and have a slightly different mutation. Cat breeders in North America and Europe have bred the Sphynx to normal coated cats and back to hairless cats for more than thirty years. The purpose of selective breeding such as this was to create a genetically sound cat with a large gene pool and hybrid vigor. When properly bred, the Sphynx is a very robust breed with few serious health or genetic problems. Sphynx are susceptible to HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy).
Breeders are recommended to screen all their breeding adults for signs of this heart disease on a regular basis. Currently, there is no DNA test for HCM in Sphynx Cats. Breeders who don't check for HCM by echocardiogram are harming the breed by neglect. Crossing fingers and "hoping" your cats don't have this disease does nothing for our hairless breed.
There are some breeders out there that say, we don't test because it wouldn't make a difference. This is incorrect. A echo-cardiogram is done of the heart to screen for HCM. They are looking for early signs of the disease when they are screening our cats. We do not know if they are showing early signs of the disease or are affected until screened, usually between age 1 to two years. All our breeders parents are scanned negative and we Hcm scans at K-state veterinarian cardiologist by age 2. A breeder could unknowingly be breeding a cat with a genetic heart problem and selling the kittens to unsuspecting buyers if they do not even screen their cats for the HCM. YES, The scans are expensive anywhere from $500 to $800 per cat, each time, but they are SO WORTH IT.
Sphynx are not always totally hairless and there are different degrees of “hairless-ness.” The re hairlessness can change with age, hormones or other factors. There can be a fine down on the body which makes the cat feel like a warm peach. Some short hair is usually present on the nose, ears and sometimes on toes and tail. Seasonal and hormonal changes in the cat may also effect hair development. We have one girl that gets very fuzzy when she is pregnant and then looses it afterwards. Some Sphynx have broken or a few whiskers while others have none.
The texture of Sphynx skin has been compared to a suede hot water bottle or warm chamois, and some cats almost have a buttery feel to the skin. The skin is loose on the body which leads to that extra wrinkling effect you see on the cat. All colors and patterns are possible and may be presented at any stage of maturity. The color and/or pattern of the cat are seen in the pigment of the skin and the few hairs that are present.
One of the most often questions asked about Sphynx is, “Don’t they get cold?” If it is too cold for you, then it will probably be too cold for a hairless cat. However, these cats are smart enough to find a warm spot in the house, curled up with a dog or cat or warm human, on top of your computer, or they will be snuggled under your bed covers. If their paws, nose or ears feel cold, you may need to turn up the heat slightly or get them a heated bed. We use one setting/low heat heating pads and they love this!
Sphynx are medium sized substantial cats and not fragile in any way. As with most cats, adult males are larger than females. Females tend to average from 7-10 pounds and males a few pounds heavier (10-15). Sphynx have sturdy boning, good muscle development and a bit of a firm belly (or round) as if they just finished a nice dinner (slightly pot belly but not overweight). They have an open-eyed and intelligent expression with extra wrinkling on their head which some see as a worried or inquisitive look. Sphynx are extremely lovable, known to perform silly antics and can be downright clumsy in their attempts to be the center of attention. They have abundant energy and are mischievous, always wanting to be with you, on you or showing off for you. Sphynx seem to prefer human attention but enjoy the company of dogs and all other breeds of cats if properly introduced.
Because of the lack of hair that would normally absorb body oils, Sphynx need periodic bathing, ear and nail cleaning. A bath is usually not too difficult with Sphynx, as most cats have been acclimated from kitten hood with bathing and proper grooming from their breeders. It usually doesn't take a long time and is over quickly. Some of ours love it while some simply tolerate it.(see more under basic care)
Some people who suffer from cat allergies usually can tolerate living with Sphynx over some other breeds. This is because there is rarely any airborne hair to deal with and the reactive chemical (fel d-1) in their saliva is lower than many breeds. Regular bathing also keeps the dander at bay along with washing bedding and not allowing the cat to sleep on your pillow. However depending on the type and severity of the individual’s allergic reactions, there are some who still cannot tolerate any feline dander. Sphynx are not allergy free, but we have noticed many with allergies can live happily with Sphynx.