The Egyptians worshiped cats. I don’t blame them. But there is an “Alien” among cats: The Sphynx

Sphynx Cat in the “Wild”
Image by Silke Juppenlatz

Many people only know Sphynx cats from photographs on the web. I did too. They looked odd, strange, otherworldly. No fur. Big ears. Rat-like tails. Most people have an “Eww” reaction when they first see one. “Ugly”, “Weird”, “Is it sick?” and “What is that?” is something you hear often.

First Impressions Are Important

Pixie, my first Sphynx
Image by Silke Juppenlatz

Little did I know what these “Aliens” were like. Do you think you know cats? Think again. This is not your average moggy. Sphynx cats are nothing like any cat you’ve ever met.

I adopted my first Sphynx, Pixie, back in 2015. (All mine were rehomed/rescued as adults.)
Or rather, she adopted me. I had no say in who she went home with. That should have given me a clue of things to come. She wrapped herself around my neck, and that was that. Her owner looked at me and said: “I guess she has chosen.” (Pixie got to choose. Thank you, Sarah.)

So I went home with my little Alien in the borrowed basket, stopped along the way to pick up a litter tray, litter, and cat food. I should have added an air freshener to that list.

A Sphynx who was fed the wrong thing can empty out a fallout shelter in 0.002 seconds, and make people take their chances in nuclear fallout, just to get away from one uh… “emission”. Pixie had most definitely been fed “the wrong thing”.

I was (Mustard Gas Attacks excluded) over the moon. Not only did I have a cat, I had a SPHYNX cat! And said Sphynx cat…was nothing like any cat I’d ever met.

What I Learned About Sphynx Cats

Sphynx are best described as a mix of an imp, a toddler, and a monkey. Most are complete clowns. Do you like privacy? Don’t get a Sphynx. They are the most people-oriented cats you will ever meet. You will go nowhere alone. Cuddly, demanding, full of beans, energetic…and clingy. They are often very vocal, too.

There is quite a variety of them: Canadian Sphynx, Bambino, Elf, Dwelf…and if you extend this to other hairless cat breeds, you get the Donskoy, Ukrainian Levkoy, and the Peterbald. The latter are not Sphynx cats. I’ll go into these in another post because this would turn into a novel otherwise.

If you look closely, you will see the suede-ish fur.
Image by Silke Juppenlatz

Misconceptions About Sphynx Cats

  • Sphynx have no fur
  • Sphynx are a “Torture Breed”
  • Sphynx are hypoallergenic
  • Sphynx need clothes because they can’t handle cold
  • Sphynx are impaired due to lack of whiskers
  • Sphynx feel “weird”
  • Sphynx can’t go outside
  • Sphynx are easy to take care of

Actually, none of those are true.

Sphynx Have No Fur

False. Sphynx are not all hairless. They have a faulty gene that means they don’t grow long fur. I have three Sphynxes. One is naked with minimal hair on her nose and tail. One has about 1mm of fur. One gets hairy tufts on her flanks. There are definitely some that are hairless on their body, but all of them have fur on their noses. No eyelashes, usually no whiskers (Not in Germany. Whiskerless Sphynx are illegal there.), no hair in their ears.

Sphynx Are A “Torture Breed”

False. The term “Torture” or “Abuse” Breed comes from Germany. “Qualzucht” is the word there. Meaning they were deliberately bred to be impaired. However, they weren’t bred to be hairless, to begin with. A regular furry cat in Canada had a hairless kitten, named Prune, back in 1966. (Hence “Canadian Sphynx”) They didn’t think she’d survive, but she did. And she passed the faulty gene on to her kittens.

Several other litters were born in America in the ’70s, none related to Prune in any way. This wasn’t selective breeding, it just happened. It’s a natural mutation, not gene manipulation. So, no, it’s not a “torture breed” created by people.

Today Sphynx are bred selectively, but responsible breeders take great care to promote the health of the cats. Hairy Sphynx happen, just like the hairless one happened back in 1966.

Sphynx Are Hypoallergenic

False. Many people, who are allergic to cats, believe them to be hypoallergenic. That isn’t the case. If you are allergic to cats, you may be allergic to Sphynx cats as well. Or you may not. The allergen is the “Fel D1”, a Glycoprotein in cat saliva. However, as they are hairless, there is a lot less of it, and obviously they don’t shed, so no hair or dander everywhere. But they still wash, and if you are very sensitive to the protein, you’ll have a reaction even with a Sphynx.

A Sphynx still produces skin oil and lots of it. (And if you have white furniture a Sphynx may not be for you.) Some people react to that. To find out if you react to a Sphynx, meet one first. Two of my cats were surrendered by the previous owners because of allergies.

Hanging out in front of the log burner in Winter
Image by Silke Juppenlatz

Sphynx Need Clothes And Can’t Handle Cold

False. My cats hate clothes and never wear any. Even when it’s cold. They pull them off and prefer to snuggle under a fleece, or under my jacket, or hang out on my lap. Hanging out by the fireplace is definitely their favorite thing. But that’s no different from any other cat.

They don’t even care if there is snow on the ground, or that it’s freezing outside.
One of my Sphynx cats frequently zipped outside when I opened the door – often making me run through 4ft of snow in my slippers, all the way to the stables because she decided she needed to visit the horses. Now. In -18C. Naked.

Barely managed to get the camera…4ft snow, and off she goes.
Image by Silke Juppenlatz

Sphynx Are Impaired

False. Definitely not. All three of my Sphynx ladies climb on, over, through everything. Nothing is safe. They leap from a tall cabinet about 4 feet across onto the top of the fireplace. They never miss. They are as agile as a regular cat, they have cat doors to navigate and don’t have any problems with them.

They love small, narrow places and can get in and out without any problem whatsoever.
They are as able as any other cat.

Sphynx Feel Weird

Most Sphynx have a certain amount of “fur”. It may only be 1mm, but it’s there. You just don’t see it. I call mine my “Suede Hot Water Bottles” because that’s what they feel like. Suede. Very warm suede. They do get sweaty on hot days, just like we do.

People who went “Eww” at first, but ask to pet one of mine, generally go “Oh! She’s so warm and soft!” a second after they touch. My mom, not a cat person at all, was grossed out by Pixie’s tail. She was an “Eww” person.

Fast forward a week of staying at my parents with Pixie, and I walk in on my mum having a conversation with the cat, trying to feed her tidbits…And there was no more “Eww” when she touched her, either. She later told me she thought it felt quite pleasant, which had surprised her.

Pixie hunting butterflies on the pasture fence
Image by Silke Juppenlatz

Sphynx Can’t Go Outside

False. Mine go outside all the time. Of course, you cannot kick them out into the snow and leave them there, but they aren’t going to freeze to death just because someone opens a window. Or burn to a crisp in the sun. As I said, mine handle a bit of cold (or in Livvy’s case, a LOT of cold!) just fine. They love the sunshine.

Sphynx are warmer than a regular cat, their body heat is about 2C higher than furry cats. They also lose heat much faster than a furry cat, so they tend to need more food, as their metabolism needs to work overtime to keep up. They also need to have a place to warm up, be that warm blankets, or a heated bed, or just a warm room.

However, they are indoor cats for the most part. They can be outside under supervision. Not only in cold temperatures, but also because of sun exposure. They get sunburned, just like we do. Only, you can’t put sunscreen on your cat because it’s poisonous to them. So they need to stay out of the sun. No different from humans.

Sphynx Are Easy to Take Care Of

You wish! Sphynx cats need an occasional bath. (I bathe them once every six months or so, or when the grime gets out of hand.) A lot of Sphynx owners bathe their cats once a week. That, in my opinion, only makes them get dirty faster because they then produce more oil, to make up for the bath.

I wipe mine down with a damp cloth on occasion in the interim, but they just never get that dirty. Some Sphynx are dirty five minutes after a bath, so…

Then there is the weekly ear clean. Mine hate it, but there is a lot of ear wax build-up, and there is no hair to transport it out, so it’s up to the human to take care of it.

Claw clipping and cleaning. Again, hated by all three of them. But those claws get seriously sharp! And there will be eye-boogers on things everywhere, so you will often wipe eyes.

There are also health issues Sphynx are prone to, HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy) being the worst of it.

My Terrible (unwashed) Trio
Image by Silke Juppenlatz

In Conclusion

There are a lot of plus points to being owned by a Sphynx. But there are also negatives.
They will eat you out of house and home. They are not cheap (if you buy one). They are not low maintenance. They demand attention. All. The. Time. But they are so very worth it.

If you are interested in getting a Sphynx, please consider taking on an adult cat. Sometimes there are Sphynx cats up for adoption, and they often get passed over for kittens.

Do your research first. A Sphynx isn’t for everyone. They take quite a bit of dedication.
And if you want to buy a kitten, please research the breeder, so you don’t fall victim to a backyard breeder. That way lies untold heartbreak.

A reputable breeder, whose cat mom and dads are regularly health checked and scanned for HCM, is worth its weight in gold. They often also have retired queens for sale, do consider these as well.

And once you have one … you’ll want a second. They are addictive.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will answer as much as I can, or refer you to someone who can. I will not be giving recommendations for breeders.