The Sphynx is a cat that distinguishes himself from other cat breeds by his hairlessness mainly. His skin is indeed naked. The gene responsible for his nudity is called « hypotrichosis congenita ». It is a recessive gene, it means that in order to have naked kittens, the 2 parents must carry the gene. The first echoes on the existence of naked cats go back to pre-Columbian times.
The sphynx is not descended of genetic manipulations, but well and truly of a Mother’s Nature little joke, and naked kittens have been appearing in cat litters (domestics shorthairs, siameses…) since the beginning of time. But the breeding of the race (I’m going to briefly summarize the history of it) really started in 1966 in Canada, Ontario, when a street pussy, Elizabeth, gave birth to a naked kitten, Prune. Four breeders got interested in this kitten and his mother.
In Minnesota, in 1975, Jezabelle, a farm domestic shorthair female gave birth to two naked kittens, one year apart. The owners of Jezabelle, Milt and Ethelyn Pearson, sold these two subjects in 1981 to Kim Mueske, from Z’Stardust cattery, that was Epidermis and Dermis.
However, sphynx breeding really expanded in 1978, in Holland, With Dr Hugo Hernandez, who started a breeding program under the Calecat affix, finding 2 nude cats, females, coming from Prune’s line and the work of the first 4 breeders. Then he found again 2 naked kittens that appeared spontaneously, Punkie and Paloma. After a few difficulties (kittens that died at birth), he mated the rex devon Curare Van Jetrophin with Punky, that gave birth to five kittens.
Hugo Hernandez sold in 1983 to Tonia Vink a F1 male called Ra coming from Punky and Curare Van Jetrophin, as well as a Sphynx female called Hathor de Calecat coming from Ra litter’s brother, called Ramses, mated with Paloma. Hathor de Calecat was then sold to Janice Plumb, Shaird Cattery, England.
In France, Patrick Challain imported from Holland the first subjects in November 1983, more specifically a whole litter composed of three males and two females : Chnoem, Pepi, Ptah, Nofret and Neberet de Calecat.
Chnoem went to United States where he funded a line with Carol Richard’s cats (Britanya's affix) who married it with a devon female, Britanya’s Aida Lott. From this couple were born 4 kittens, among which the famous Lady Godiva that was the first sphynx to become a TICA Supreme Grand Champion
Back in France, in 1985. Aline and Philippe Noël (Amenophis cattery) also imported two kitten from Holland, still coming from Hugo Hernandez’s line : Ajahanda’s Attila Timothy, called Gizmo and Ajahanda’s Zendila, called Mogwaï. The female Ajahanda’s Zendila, called Mogwaï, was Q-Ramses and Q-Paloma’s grand-daughter. As for the male, Ajahanda’s Timothy Attila, called Gizmo, he was their great-grand son.
Ajahanda’s Attila Timothy (Gizmo) and Ajahanda’s Zendila (Mogwaï) played a major role in the history of the breed, and their daughter Amenophis Clone was the model for the breed standard, which is still used today. These sphynx can be considered as the pioneers of the breed.
Today, most sphynx pedigrees show, in generation 4, 5 or 6, the affix of the most famous pioneers of the breed : Ajahanda's, Z’Stardust, Britanya's, Amenophis… (see more specifically the pedigree of one my 2 females, Taischa du Radjasthan)
A lot of small catteries kept on working the breed in US and Europe. Later on, other cat races and other naked cats coming from street cats litters were used in order to launch breeding programs.
Rex devon was the most used breed for outcrossing. However nowadays, outcrossing with rex devon has been abandoned by conscientious breeders, because some devon lines are affected by fatal genetic illness called « spasticity ».
Sphynx breeders now use domestics shorthairs and American shorthair in outcrossing programs. However in France, one must know that LOOF (Cat breeds Origins Official Book of France) now forbids outcrossings and do not deliver pedigrees to hybrid kittens.
Because of the strong inbreeding the breeders had to deal with, the kittens mortality was extremely high. So much that only 15 years ago, it was nearly impossible to obtain a Sphynx. But today, the race developed, and the Sphynx is more and more represented in cat shows, where it always causes the curiosity and the interest of the public.
It is a robust, balanced and perfectly healthy cat.
As we have understood it, the most distinctive feature of the sphynx is his appearance of hairlessness. But the nudity of a cat does not mean it is a sphynx... it would be too easy...
As any pedigreed cat, the sphynx must fulfill certain morphological criteria gathered in a standard.
First of all, this is a cat with a well-muscled body, that must seem powerful, without being heavy however. Muscled, powerful, but not "thick", barrel-shaped and full rounded abdomen. Above all, he should not resemble the Oriental or Rex Cornish body type.
Its head is wide and triangular, its nose shall be short, quite broad with a slight to moderate stop at the bridge of the nose (straight nose is penalized). Chin shall be firm. The head shall be pinched (i.e. the folds under the cheekbones) and the forehead very wrinkled.
The eyes are large, lemon-shaped, spaced apart, slightly more than an eye width between eyes. The look is very expressive. The ears are spaced apart, large and broad at the base.
Legs shall be in proportion to body and muscular, and paws shall be oval with long slender toes and thick paw pads giving the appearance of walking on air cushions. Tail is long and whippy.
Sphynx skin is wrinkled, especially on forehead, around shoulders and on the legs. The less hair the cat has, the better it is. A short fine down is accepted on ears (at the base), on the nose (All Sphynx are covered with a very short fuzz on the nose) and for males, a puff of hair at tip of tail (lion tail).
The skin is extremely soft, with a peach-like texture. Due to the lack of hair, it is warm to the touch, very soft, and you can not stop petting him.
His skin sweats as the human one (therefore be careful with light tone fabrics). It must be wrinkled in some places. On the front head as I have mentioned it before, but also on the neck, around the shoulders, between the front legs and on the members when the cat sits. Lack of wrinkles is penalized in exhibition. The skin is even more wrinkled in kitten, looking like « I put on a too big pyjama ! ».
All colors are accepted by the standard, blue, red, cream, mink, colourpoint, chocolate, lilac, brown, but white looks like pink, and black looks like grey. All eye colors accepted : green, gold, blue, aqua.
His temperament is fa-bu-lous ! Just imagine for one moment holding a Sphynx in your arms. Once the pleasant surprise of discovering a very soft skin, chamois-like, surprisingly warm, has passed, you will discover an amazingly demonstrative cat who is full of affection marks. Now he is hopping a ride on your shoulders, putting his head in your neck, then rubbing his cheek against yours, showing his pleasure with a loud purr punctuated by soft cooings, while his warm salt dough smell wafts seductively your nostrils. Running fingers on his skin with light touches, emphatic pettings, or even more vigorous massages, sends him into raptures.
But caution, a “cat’s cushy life” is not suitable for the Sphynx. Lively, unruly, very playful, playing at every little thing, enjoying clowning around. Fiendishly intelligent and full of mischief, fascinating by his part human, part cat personality, he will outsmart your if you are not careful. By a mere look (he has a tremendously expressive one), a mere little mewing, he talks to you and really do not need human language to be understood by these latter. Excessively gluttonous, he considers that everything that looks edible is good for him, especially what is in your trash cans and in your plate. One moment of inattention, and he helps himself :-)
The Sphynx can have bathes, but not too often, as the more he is washed, the more his skin will secrete sebum. A bath every two weeks is enough.
Meanwhile, you can rub his skin with a baby lotion.
You should know also that his skin gets suntanned making his colors even brighter. Avoid sun exposure if the cat’s skin is white (therefore pink). Personally, I advise against using sun creams that might cause allergies.
A lot of dark-colored wax builds up in its ears. They need to be cleaned carefully with an accurate ear cleaner. Once a week is enough. Washing them too often increases the risk of clogging the ear canal.
Sphynx lachrymal ducts secrete a sort of small pink-brown jelly. Frequently, the Sphynx cleans it by himself, with his legs or his eyes. However, occasionally, you can perfect this cleaning with an ocular lotion, using a soft handkerchief (avoid cotton...)
As any cat, its teeth develop tartar. Therefore, a dry food-based diet is recommended, as it cleans the teeth and has a higher nutritional value. As for me, I only give dry food that I buy in pet shops and garden center chains, (never in supermarkets), and I can only congratulate myself for my choice.
Caution, do not declaw your Sphynx !
The declawing is a mutilation in which the animal's toes are amputated at the last joint. A declawed cat is a defenseless cat and also a cat that will be prone to stress easily.
And especially for a Sphynx, declawing is harmful, as he uses a lot his forelegs to grab the objects he’s playing with. Finally, declawing a cat provokes impaired balance and altered posture, it will then get harder for him to land after a jump, and it can contribute to backbone problems. Loving an animal means first of all respecting its integrity.
Nature gave your cat claws, and once socialized, he will not use them to damage your furniture and walls (especially a Sphynx). If you do not want to consider the possibility of eventual damages, then adopt plush.
Adopt a cat as a responsible adult, and not in the state of mind of a spoiled and selfish child.
To conclude this page, I will add that the Sphynx is a robust cat, not more fragile and not more subject to diseases than other cats. In order to compensate heat loss due to its hairlessness, he should merely absorb more calories that another cat. Therefore, he is a greedy pig.
Its hairlessness hinders him outside might say its detractors. But this is an indoor cat who, contrary to all appearances, is not particularly chilly either. There is no need to turn up the heat to 30° in your home, 20° in winter is perfectly convenient for him.
Furthermore, I invite you to visit the « Prejudices » page that will give you additional information about this page.