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Getting to know the Sphynx cat

Among the most unusual of the domestic feline breeds are the hairless cats—such as the Sphynx (also referred to as the Canadian Sphynx) and the Russian hairless breeds, the Peterbald and the Donskoy. of the three, the Sphynx is best known in the US, and while its physical appearance might be startling at first, this unique breed has all the intelligence, curiosity, loyalty, and playfulness you could want from a housecat. And if a little extra care time isn’t daunting, the Sphynx might be the ideal breed for you.

Origins of the Sphynx Cat

While most cat breeds can trace their lineage back centuries, the Sphynx is a relatively new breed—developed during the 1960s through selective breeding of a few (accidental) hairless cats in Canada and Minnesota. The Sphynx is so new, in fact, that the breed’s origins can be traced to a handful of specific animals—“Dermis” and “Epidermis” (two barn cats from Minnesota) and “Bambi,” “Punkie,” and Paloma” (three stray cats from Toronto).

Sphynx’s Physical Description

Genetically, the Sphynx more closely resembles the Devon Rex, than it does the Peterbald and Donskoy. Sometimes catted the “E.T.” of cats, the Sphynx is instantly recognizable because it is nearly or completely hairless body, lithe build, and large ears. To the touch, the Sphynx feels like a warm chamois, and its skin can seem wrinkled or loose in appearance.

The Sphynx is a medium-sized breed, with adults weighing between 6 and 12 pounds. Colors are expressed on the skin rather than the coat, and include, white, black, cream, gold, blue-cream, and brown. Multi-color variants such as tortoiseshell and calico are also common. The Sphynx is also remarkable for the slight webbing between its toes.

Sphynx’s Personality & Sociability

The Sphynx is an intelligent and sociable cat that bonds well with people. Their outgoing personality makes them a great choice if you have children or other pets. Also, Sphynxes tend to be energetic and acrobatic animals that don’t mind showing off their jumping skills. They are dog-like in their loyalty and will follow you about the house, eager for a cuddle. Because of the breed’s lack of fur, the Sphynx can struggle to maintain its body temperature, especially in cold environments. This makes them natural heat-seekers, eager to find a warm lap or blanket where they can curl up.

Care & Grooming the Sphynx

You may wonder why a hairless cat would need grooming, but as it turns out, the breed’s lack of fur can cause oils to build up within the wrinkles and folds of the skin. These oils can serve as havens for bacteria that can cause skin infections and other problems. For this reason, a light bath or wipe-down with a damp sloth is recommended weekly. Sphynxes also have little or no hair in their ears, which makes them more likely to accumulate, dirt, skin oils, and earwax. A weekly ear cleaning at bath time can help remove any buildup of these substances.

Common Health Issues of the Sphynx

Sphynxes are generally robust cats but because of the breed’s unusual characteristics, some health problems have been noted. In addition to the tendency to accumulate oils on the skin and in the ears, Sphynxes are susceptible to prolonged sun exposure (yes, they get sunburned just like people do), and so are most often kept indoors. And as you might guess, they also don’t do well in extreme cold, so many Sphynx owners outfit their animals with sweaters if they anticipate that the animals will spend time outdoors.

Sphynxes are also vulnerable to some respiratory disorders as well as to a thickening of the heart muscle (called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). Your vet can assess your animal for the presence of these disorders.

We hope this quick fact sheet helps you learn about the Sphynx. If you’re looking for an outgoing, smart, and agile cat that makes a memorable first impression, the Sphynx may be the purr-fect pet for you!


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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