The Sphynx is a hairless breed of cat which was developed through selective breeding. The current iterations of the breed originated from barn cats in Minnesota and a couple of stray kittens found in Canada.
It is also known as the Canadian Sphynx based on its roots in Toronto and Ontario. The Sphynx that we’re all familiar with is the American variant, but there are also hairless cat breeds that were created in Russia.
A couple of the most prominent of these are the Peterbald, the Donskoy, and the Ukrainian Levkoy.
How the Hairless Feature Came to Be?
The hairless feature that the Sphynx sports is due to a genetic mutation. It was truly a shocking discovery when the first kittens with this mutation were born, as nobody expected that a cat which lived in a cold area would give birth to babies with no form of protection against the elements of its natural habitat.
The wrinkly-skinned wonder which grew in popularity through the late 1990s and early 2000s, helped along in part by appearances in silver screen feature films such as in the Austin Powers franchise.
Today, the Sphynx enjoys its fair share of fame, clocking in at #8 on the Cat Fanciers’ Association’s (CFA) 2017 leaderboards for most popular cat breed. It ranked just above the Devon Rex, Abyssinian, and Siamese.
7 Facts About Sphynxes That You Probably Didn’t Know
Ancient Egyptian Namesake
The Sphynx cat was named after the Great Sphynx of Giza which stands on the west bank of the Nile River in Giza, Egypt. The mythical creature which the statue portrayed had the body of a lion and the head of a human.
Most people tend to believe that the Sphynx cat also originated in Egypt and was treated as royalty, but this is a tall-tale created out of ignorance.
For a cat without hair, you’d think that a Sphynx would be pretty cool. That’s not the case. In fact, on the average, it’s about 4 degrees warmer than most other cat breeds. This happens because it loses more body heat due to the absence of a coat. Its body becomes warm to the touch and heat-seeking.
You might have seen pictures of people putting clothes on their Sphynx to keep it warm. While it may look cute, most Sphynxes actually do not enjoy wearing clothes of any kind. Not only that, but due to the oily nature of their skin, the clothes will become greasy within only a day or two of being worn.
Best to let them run wild and free, au naturel. Once you go nude, you can never go back!
A Duckling Cat
Contrary to popular belief and contradicting the ‘hairless’ name of the breed itself, the Sphynx is not completely hairless. Instead, most are covered with a fine layer of thin hair. If you run your hand along its back, it feels more like peach fuzz or a duck’s down rather than actual cat hair. The texture should feel like chamois leather.
Even though Sphynxes don’t have an outer coat with which to display intricate patterns and beautiful markings like those of the Persian, Ocicat, or Maine Coon, they have something way cooler. The pattern that they would have had on their coat if they had one is actually embedded directly on their skin.
Amazingly, any of the usual cat markings such as tabby, point, or solid can be found on the Sphynx’s skin. Truly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you can’t judge a book by its cover.
They’re Not Hypoallergenic
Here’s another myth that has continuously been perpetuated by the uninformed. The theory goes that since the Sphynx has no hair, it therefore, will not trigger allergic reactions in sensitive people. This is entirely not true.
The reason why is that it’s not the hair itself that causes an allergic reaction – it’s a protein called Fel d1. This protein is found primarily in the cat’s saliva and sebaceous glands. The fact that the Sphynx now has less hair to cover up its skin means that the sebaceous glands are exposed and can emit the protein more easily.
There have been reports of allergic people that were able to successfully live with Sphynxes without suffering and this may be one of the reasons why the myth has survived up until now. The truth is, more people have reported having their allergy triggered by Sphynxes than those who were able to tolerate.
This Cat Loves to Shower
Most cats hate water but the Sphynx is one of the breeds that doesn’t mind. In fact, it’ll happily splash around and play while you lather it up with soapy suds.
It needs to be washed often because large amounts of body oil tend to build-up on the skin. On cats with a regular coat of fur, a lot of these body oils would normally be absorbed. This can leave a slick, nasty streak of grease on your bedsheets if you let your Sphynx sleep on your bed overnight.
This breed loves to be sprayed with water on a hot day but beware– don’t leave it exposed to direct sunlight and never in an outside area unsupervised.
The Sphynx has been ranked as the friendliest cat of them all. A study was published by the Journal of Veterinary Behavior in which around 129 cats from 14 breeds were ranked in order according to friendliness. And the hairless Sphynx came out on top.
The researchers used cats of all ages, neutered and non-neutered, and mixed males/females. Owners of these cats were asked a series of questions, after which, each cat was assigned a “friendliness score”.
It turns out that the reason Sphynxes are so friendly could be due to their lack of a coat. Being exposed to the elements and needing protection, they may have relied on humans and created a sort of symbiotic relationship. Researchers believe that it could also be because breeders tended to leave Sphynxes with their mothers for longer periods of time.