At first glance, the Sphynx might look odd or even scary to cat lovers who are used to seeing hairy, fluffy kitties. The Sphynx is far from scary, however, being known as one of the friendliest, most lovable and most energetic cat breeds you can make part of your family. This might explain why it was the ninth most popular breed as of 2020, according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association.
Although the Sphynx breed is notable for its hairless coat. It is much more than just a hair-free feline. The Sphynx loves attention from its humans and likes to reward that attention by entertaining them. Like the Siamese, the Sphynx is another kitty that will follow you around the house like a loyal dog. Read on to discover some more cool facts and trivia that might surprise you about Sphynx cats.
History of the Sphynx
Surprisingly to some, the Sphynx originated in cold Toronto, Canada in 1966, when one kitten of a litter of a domestic shorthair was hairless due to genetic mutation. After that, these cats were bred selectively to be hairless. Their hairlessness/lack of long hair is due to a recessive gene. In 2002, the Cat Fanciers’ Association first accepted the Sphynx in the championship class of their cat show.
The Canadian Sphynx is not the only hairless cat breed in existence, however. Another hairless breed that is close in looks and is often confused with the Sphynx is the Donskoy, from Russia. Its hairlessness is due to a dominant, not recessive, gene.
The Sphynx gets its name from its resemblance to the Great Sphynx statues of Giza in Egypt. These statues pay tribute to the renowned Egyptian god, the Sphinx, which had the head of a man and the body of a lion.
Coat of a Sphynx
The Sphynx, of course, is considered to be hairless, but technically has what cat fanciers call an “extra-short coat.” In actuality, they can be completely bald or have something like peach fuzz/soft down for a coat. Touching a Sphynx cat’s coat is often described as feeling like suede.
Contrary to popular belief, however, Sphynx cats are not less allergenic than other cats. Their skin still produces the same amount of dander as other cats, which is usually what causes allergic reactions in humans.
Sphynx cats tend to have more sensitive skin than other breeds. When your Sphynx is outdoors (which should always be under your strict supervision, as these are best suited as indoor cats), make sure to protect their skin with sunscreen. Indoors in the colder weather, keep them warm with sweaters and coats as necessary. (However, don’t layer on too much warmth — Sphynx cats’ bodies are typically about four degrees warmer than other breeds of cat!)
The male and female Sphynx both typically weigh in under 12 pounds. They are considered to be medium-sized, nicely muscled cats. The Sphynx also has a faster metabolism than other breeds, and therefore requires more food. Because they do eat more than other cats, some Sphynx cats have been known to have a “pot belly.”
The Sphynx has a triangular-shaped head, an angular-looking face, with big ears, wide-set eyes and cheekbones that stand out from its face (resembling the Great Sphynx statue of Giza).
Another unique feature of the Sphynx’s body is its dexterous toes. They can use their toes to pick up items of interest. They can even move small items around using their toes.
Grooming Needs of the Sphynx
Although it does not have “fur,” the Sphynx does require more maintenance and grooming from its owners than other breeds of cats. Because the Sphynx lacks fur, the oil that its body naturally produces creates a greasy film all over its body, requiring owners to bathe their Sphynxes weekly. Their ears must also be cleaned on a regular basis, as there is no hair to keep dead skin cells from accumulating in the ear canal. This cat’s ears can easily be kept clean by owners using a cotton ball or washcloth.
Sphynx cats come in an array of beautiful colors, including white, black, blue, cream, red, silver, gold, cameo, tortoiseshell, blue-cream, and brown colors.
Unique patterns found within Sphynx coats include solid, tortoiseshell, bicolor, tricolor (also known as calico), tabby, ticking, shaded, and smoke.
The Sphynx is known to be an energetic, social, performance-oriented cat, always looking to entertain its humans and craving attention from them. They are also quite friendly, loving, affectionate cats, following their humans around the house like a loyal canine and loving to cuddle with them. They are curious, active and intelligent, which means they might unwittingly get into mischief and trouble if left to their own devices.
Sphynx get along well with children and other pets. They might not respond this way to strangers at first, however. They can be shy with new people. Their outgoing personality traits combined with their unique bodies make them most suited as indoor cats. They also crave routine and ritual, and like to know what to expect from day to day.
They are also often used as therapy cats, as their socialness and ability to get along with other pets and people of all ages make them well-suited to this.
Health Problems in the Sphynx
Generally, the Sphynx is strong and hardy with few health problems. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, is more commonly found in Sphynx cats, as is hereditary myopathy, another disease affecting the heart muscle. Because of their hairlessness, they may be also more prone to skin conditions that cause sores to form on the body.
Mysticism Surrounding Sphynx Cats
- In Russian culture, the Sphynx cat is considered to be a symbol of wealth, abundance and good fortune. This is why, even today, many Russians prefer to have Sphynx cats as pets.
- In Greek mythology, the Sphinx is a sibling to the Chimera and Nemean Lion. Its parents are Echinda and Typhon. The Sphinx had the head and shoulders of a woman and the body of a lion, along with the wings of a bird. It would terrorize travelers on foot, giving them a riddle they had to solve in order to pass to Thebes. If they failed, the Sphinx would eat the pedestrian travelers. This might be why today, often a person who is mysterious is referred to as a Sphinx. The Sphynx cat carries some of this mystery as well.
Famous Sphynx Cats in Popular Culture
The Sphynx may be a rare breed, but it is Instagrammed more than other breeds of cat, with posts tagged over four million times. It is especially popular with celebrities in the 20s and 30s.
- Bigglesworth, Dr. Evil’s cat in the series of “Austin Powers” movies, is a Sphynx played by the cat actor named Ted NudeGent
- In the Austin Powers sequel, “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” a Sphynx kitten named Mel Gibskin was used to play Mr. Bigglesworth’s kitten. Mel grew up to become a double for Ted in the series.
- Rachel’s cat, Whiskerson, on the TV sitcom “Friends” is a Sphynx
- Musician Zayn Malik often features his Sphynx cat roaming around his penthouse on Instagram
- Actress Lena Dunham has had several Sphynx cats