The Sphynx is a hairless breed of cat developed through selective breeding starting in the 1960s, known for its lack of coat (fur), though it's not truly hairless. The skin should have the texture of chamois, as it has fine hairs. Whiskers may be present, either whole or broken, or may be totally absent. Their skin is the color that their fur would be, and all the usual cat markings (solid, point, van, tabby, tortie, etc.) may be found on Sphynx skin. Because they have no coat, they lose more body heat than coated cats. This makes them warm to the touch as well as heat-seeking.
The Sphynx cat is a medium- to large-sized cat, muscular and heavy for its appearance and size. Its ears are large to very large, open wide and upright, much like the ears of a bat. The eyes are set wide and are round with a slight slant at the upper corners -- lemon shaped, by most accounts. The widely-set eyes and wide open roundness of the eyes give the Sphynx an approachable, friendly appearance. There is no specific color expected of the eyes, and can vary. Its cheekbones, meanwhile, are prominent, giving this breed a regalness that suggests Egyptian cats of lore.
Whiskers and eyebrows may be in place, or may not be at all. If there are whiskers they are expected to be broken and sparse. The whisker pads are full, as are the pads of the feet. Also full is the belly, often described as a "pot belly." This is an expected characteristic of the cat and should not be discouraged, especially since the Sphynx has a hearty appetite and a very high metabolism. If in doubt, check with your veterinarian.
While sometimes referred to as the hairless Sphynx cat, in body, not all Sphynxes are hairless, though they appear to be. They are actually covered with a fine gossamery down which can only barely be felt or even seen by the naked eye. Because of its fineness, the skin of the Sphynx cat breed is often compared to warm suede. Another unusual trait of this cat is its wrinkles. Around the shoulders, between the ears, and around the muzzle is where the wrinkles should be heaviest.
Wrinkles are not relegated solely to the Sphynx, they are present in other cats, too, but it is more apparent in the Sphynx because of its lack of fur. Coloring can vary considerably. The markings of the skin mimic the markings one would find on fur. What makes a Sphynx a Sphynx is mainly the quality of hairlessness, so the standard does not include colors or markings, except to say that all colors and patterns, in any combination that would be found in a feline, is acceptable for the Sphynx.
PERSONALITY AND TEMPERAMENT
People who love them say that living with a Sphynx is substantially different from having a “regular” cat. The Sphynx is snuggly and affectionate, always wanting to be close to you. Partly that’s because he’s seeking warmth, but he is an unusually friendly cat who loves attention and touch.
The Sphynx adores having company, so if you work during the day, it’s a good idea to have two so they can play and sleep together while you’re gone. If you have more than one, you may find that they travel in pairs or “packs” for moral support, especially if they are in a new situation. You’ll know they are comfortable in a home when they start venturing off on their own.
Expect the Sphynx to follow you wherever you go. He’s always eager to “help” with whatever you’re doing. He will also be the household greeter, welcoming guests, giving head butts, even jumping on an available shoulder. If cats can be said to flirt, the Sphynx certainly does so. He’ll do anything for attention, so you will always be kept laughing by his silly antics. He is fearless, mischievous and clever.
The best thing about a Sphynx? There’s no “rubbing him the wrong way.”
This is a high energy cat which can perform acrobatic tricks, much like a monkey. The Sphynx is excellent at balancing, climbing atop doors and bookshelves, and even perching on shoulders like a bird. They love human attention and will perform shenanigans for everyone's entertainment.
Like a clown, the Sphynx cat will caper about and pratfall, it truly enjoys being a show-off. The Sphynx is curious and mischievous, and these qualities, coupled with the high level of intelligence found in this breed, can make it a handful. But, it is also a well behaved and easy to handle breed.
Because of its friendliness and sense of humor, along with ease of handling, the Sphynx is a favorite with show judges. It does best as an indoor cat, since these same charming qualities can get it into dangerous situation. It is also loyal and affectionate towards its owners, even following you around the house, wagging its tail. The Sphynx is a true extrovert. It will demand your undivided attention and hates to be ignored. The Sphynx also does well with other animals, both dogs and cats.
HEALTH AND CARE
Despite its apparent lack of hair, it is important to groom the Sphynx. For a regular cat, body oils are absorbed by the fur, but the Sphynx, clearly lacking in that attribute, does not have a natural way of keeping the oil on the skin in balance. This can lead to skin problems if the cat is not groomed, and to oil spots on the furniture. A regular bathing routine at least bi-weekly to remove the build-up of body oils is sufficient to keep the skin healthy and the furniture clean.
Cleaning of ears and nail pads should be done weekly or every few days as need be.
An important consideration for the skin, which may seem obvious, is that the Sphynx must be safe-guarded from the sun. Only limited exposure. A small amount of sun will intensify the natural colors of the cat's skin, but too much will burn the cat, just as it does human skin.
What You Need to Know About Sphynx Health
All cats have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Any breeder who claims that her breed has no health or genetic problems is either lying or is not knowledgeable about the breed. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on kittens, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her kittens are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons.
The Sphynx is generally healthy, but he may develop certain conditions, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and a neurological disease called hereditary myopathy. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common form of heart disease in cats and causes thickening (hypertrophy) of the heart muscle. An echocardiogram can confirm whether a cat has HCM. Avoid breeders who claim to have HCM-free lines. No one can guarantee that their cats will never develop HCM.
Hereditary myopathy affects muscle function. It eventually causes death when the cat is no longer able to swallow. Fortunately, the condition is rare and breeders are working hard to eradicate it from the breed.
The Sphynx can also be prone to some skin conditions, such as urticaria pigmentosa and cutaneous mastocytosis, as well as to periodontal disease. Teach him to let you brush his teeth with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.