This page (a little unattractive, but we thank you for devoting about ten minutes on it because information provided is really important for a better knowledge of the Sphynx), aims to approach the prejudices whose Sphynx is subject to, because of his morphological particularism, i.e. his skin hairlessness, and to answer to preconceived ideas often circulating on websites (cats portals) or in general works dedicated to purebred cats, and even in the public opinion, due to lack of real and reliable information.
So that each understands the importance of this struggle against the prejudices whose Sphynx is victim, we are going, first of all, to explain what is currently threatening Sphynx breeding and which thesis initiated those prejudices.
Many European countries ratified the Convention for the Protection of the Company Animals, proposed in 1995 by the Council of Europe, European association which is not dependent upon European Union, however counting 15 member states, and whose major role is to propose European regulatory texts. That just shows the influence of this organism at the European level.
One could be please of the ratification of this convention by France and other CEE member states, as it forbids for example handicapping mutilations such as cats declawing, but unfortunately the text includes an article that could turn to be dangerous for the breeding of numerous companion animals, particularly of cats and dogs.
The article n°5 of this convention holds that the selection of animals for breeding shall be done having regard to the anatomical, physiological and behavioural characteristics which are likely to put at risk the health and welfare of either the offspring or the female parent.
It seems obvious for any serious, passionate breeder, obviously concerned about his animals well-being. The problem is that this article has been inspired by thesis gleefully mixing genetic defects (that breeders are willing to eliminate in their animal lines, by removing the subjects who carry hereditary defects through sterilization,) and morphological particularisms. Nevertheless, serious breeders work was not to dissociate type and health. Therefore, a typed persian, born from a rigorous selection work, does not suffer from any respiratory trouble, does not have blocked lachrymal ducts, is not prognathous.
And subject to applying some basic rules during gestation, caesareans are not more performed on persian females than on other breeds or even domestic shorthairs.
This is only an example, we will see below how it is for the Sphynx.
The thesis that inspired the resolutions following the Convention for the Protection of the Company Animals were launched by certain movements called "animal protection ones". But they lapsed into extremism by drawing up a list in which about 70% of cat, dog and farmyard & ornamental birds breeds are qualified of "tortured breeds".
Initiated by the extremist organization PETA whose main philosophy relies on total separation man / animal (therefore, against pets and companion animals concept, qualified of "slave animals"), these movements especially developped in Germany, moreover in some landers (such as Hesse one) where the breeding of certain cat breeds is already forbidden. These thesis spread throughout the whole European Community.
Taking inspiration from those theories that have not been confirmed til now by scientific studies that could distinguish real handicapping morphological particularism and aesthetic particularisms alone not causing animal any suffering, and in order to encourage full respect of the provisions of the Convention for the protection of pet animals, the Council of Europe, via the March 10th Multilateral Consultation, adopted a certain number of resolutions for the implementation of article 5, of which this is a particularly troubling extract and reveals a lack of rigour, dealing with hairless dogs and cats :
"Avoid or, if not possible to eliminate significant defects, stop the breeding :
- of hairless dogs and cats (lack of protection against sun and chill, significant reduction of number of teeth, semi-lethal factor)
Here is a perfect example of lack of scientific rigor. How the lack of hair can entail a reduction of the number of teeth ? Knowing that a semi-lethal factor is a genetic factor susceptible to entail death, which is this factor on sphynx, how would it have been identified ? Impossible to find any scientific survey. And for a good reason… Nonexistent. Regarding the lack of protection against sun and chill, we will come back to this.
Actually, these doubtful arguments are based upon the viability in natural habitat of the animals listed on these resolutions, among which the Sphynx of course.
However, supposing that Sphynx is a chilly cat or fears the sun, let’s wonder a moment about the interest in worrying about the viability in natural habitat of a companion animal, domesticated, that entirely depends on the man for its needs, and intended to live within this latter’s home.
Would it come to our mind to wonder about a good norman cow viability in natural habitat, who, let’s recognize it, is hardly equipped to flee or fight against a natural predator and would quickly die of hunger if it had to look for some fodder by herself, in the heart of winter under a thick layer of snow ?
In this case, the human being himself would be advised not to reproduce himself. Neither him was endowed with a fur by nature, allowing him to handle a full-sun exposure or a harsh and wintry winter. A city-dweller that would be dropped naked and without any weapon in a natural environment (e.g. Amazonian Forest), would be quickly condemned. Therefore, we also are a non-viable species in natural habitat…
Charles Danten, author of the book "An angry veterinarian", propaganda book against the pet concept which is recommended by an association such as PETA, do not hesitate to write : "The more a house pet moves away physically and psychologically from its origin ancestors, the more it suffers". Nevertheless, Sphynx owners and breeders, who contrary to Charles Danten, live very close to their animals, establish a real
complicity and forge emotional bonds with them (without falling into anthropomorphism), agree unanimously that their cats are balanced, radiant, and behave as any other "coated" cat well socialized, whether in their games, their predators behaviour, their food or sleeping customs. Because, unless the breeder did a bad socialization, Sphynx do not show any behavioral pathology that could confirm the arguments developed by Charles Danten and other extremists of the same type, about pets.
A pet that suffers is an animal whose physiologic and behavioral
needs are bad evaluated, misunderstood or neglicted. It has nothing
to do with a particular type. It is important to understand that
a morphological particularism, except rare exceptions, is
not source of handicap or ill-being for a house pet.
Whereas currently, fundamentalist ecology movements insist on forbidding the breeding of numerous company animal breeds at European level, it is troubling to note regard to the Sphynx, that a lot of prejudices give the ennemies of this breed something to chew over. One of the reasons the Sphynx is blamed for is his nudity. He is naked, therefore he is chilly. This statement only shows ignorance of the breed. And we ask the reader to ignore the false information he might read on the web.
Here above then, the most frequently asked questions to breeders, i.e. the ones conveying the most preconceived ideas :
Is Sphynx a fragile cat ?
No ! He is not more fragile than another cat breed or domestic shorthair. He can get sick, but he is able to protect himself from various ailments (sore throats, rhinitis...) thanks to its robustness.
The Sphynx is also an extremely precocious cat. Kittens open their eyes within the 3 days following their birth (whereas it can last 15 days for most of cat breeds), sometimes even the first day after birth. Very sharp, young kittens quickly display audacity, curiosity and liveliness. When in other cat breeds, kittens hardly begin to open the eyes, Sphynx kittens already try to come out of the basket of their nursery in order to begin their environment exploration.
It is also interesting to note that the skin of the Sphynx, that one believes without protection, thick and extremely rich-collagen, has wonderful healing capacities.
Finally, his lifespan is exactly the same that other cat breeds or domestic shorthairs one. Sphynx does not carry any sort of lethal factor.
Is Sphynx chilly ?
Appearances can be so misleading… It may seem surprising but the Sphynx is not a chilly cat. A Sphynx is able to gambol in the snow as any of his fellows, and he loves it ! With pictures to prove it. He will not come back with pneumonia or chilblains.
How is it possible ? Well, as already mentioned in the previous chapter, Sphynx skin is much thicker than other cats’ one, collagen-rich and sebum-rich. Thus, it constitutes a good insulator.
In addition, a high-caloric food permits the Sphynx to increase his energetic reserves and thus his fatty layer. He can then fight cool temperatures, or even very cool.
Among a lot of breeders and individuals, the temperature oscillates between 18 and 20°C. This temperature is healthier than an elevated one that would dry out the mucous membranes and would encourage the development of bacteria.
Our Sphynx behave as naturally as in summer, when the temperature is close to 28°C in some dwellings. And they adapt as well as we do to heating breakdowns :-)
If one wishes to forbid the Sphynx for climate matters, holding in zoos species that usually live in hot zones (Africa, South America...) should also be forbidden.
Who has a walk in a zoo in winter will be surprised to see these animals strolling peacefully in their outside enclosure, gladly leaving the heat of their shelters, whereas the outside temperature is close to 0°C !
Finally, there is a naked cat breed, Don Sphynx, that before being bred and selected, was living freely in the streets of Russian towns, such as Rostov.
In addition, there are still some naked cats living freely in the streets of towns in some Mexican regions, and they survive easily during any season.
Is Sphynx sensitive to sun ?
Yes and no. Actually, it depends on the color of his skin. Sphynx operates the same as we do on this particular point. White Sphynx are the more sensitive to sun and therefore to sunburns. But Sphynx is not silly (he is even recognized as having an exceptional intelligence among the cat race), and if sun’s rays begin to burn, he takes shelter under the shade. Furthermore, a cat, whatever his breed is, is subject to the famous heat stroke that can be fatal. Long term sun-exposure is then not recommended for any cat.
Nevertheless, Sphynx gets suntanned. And this is funny to see his colors darkening and become even brighter.
Sun-cream application is possible but be careful with allergies (human skin is not similar to Sphynx skin) and always ensure that complete absorption of the product has been achieved before letting the cat lick himself.
Is Sphynx hindered by his lack of whiskers ?
Sphynx does not have any whiskers, or if present, short and sparse.
Nevertheless, this is a very agile cat, able to climb trees, to accurately evaluate the necessary run-up for jumping from a point A to a point B (able to do very big jumps), to land perfectly, and to track down and retrieve a prey, as any feline.
Downright reckless, they love the most perilous acrobatics.
In the obscurity, they get their bearings easily, do not bump into furniture, play and run in the darkness, as any other cat. How does Sphynx compensate the lack of whiskers ?
Mystery. But one thing is sure, they do not miss them in the daily life.
Finally, excellent hunter, a Sphynx dropped in the garden will be pleased to surprise you by bringing you back a rodent or a bird (he will probably have noted that you are not really good at hunting, and as a devoted and well-fed cat, he will be concerned about supporting your needs :-)
Is Sphynx prone to skin troubles ?
No, he is not more sensitive to dermatological problems than other cat breeds. His folds do not cause him eczema.
Is kittens mortality high?
No, it is not different from the domestic shorthairs one, nor higher, nor lower. Actually, this prejudice leans on the high mortality that was unfortunately observed on kittens at the beginning of the Sphynx breeding (more than about 20 years ago). Actually, this mortality was merely due to an extremely high inbreeding rate (repeated marriages father/daughter, mother/son and brothers and sisters), rate that was significantly weakening the kittens’ immune system. Nowadays, this high inbreeding has become rare. Today, in the framework of a consanguineous marriage (not frequent), an opening of the blood is then done immediately when willing to mate a cat coming from this marriage. Repeated inbreeding is no more used today.
Consequently, it is improper today to pretend that Sphynx kittens mortality is high. This high mortality existed indeed, but it does not exist anymore nowadays. It did not rely upon a lethal factor peculiar to the breed (factor that does not exist in Sphynx breed), but simply upon a strong and repeated inbreeding that does no longer exist.
Nowadays, then, high mortality is no more present in Sphynx kittens. On the other hand, their breeders are stunned by their incredible precocity and robustness. Effectively, a few hours after its birth, the Sphynx kitten shows a tremendous energy, moves easily in the basket, stands up straight by leaning on his forelegs and back legs, and sometimes, will open the eyes from the second day (some breeders reports mention Sphynx kittens that were born with the eyes almost opened).
Is Sphynx females menstrual cycle similar to other cat breeds females one ?
It sometimes happen to come across a website or a book with a descriptive of the Sphynx breed stating that Sphynx females heat periods have a really low frequency, about 2 periods a year.
Actually, Sphynx females are not different from other cat breeds on this point, and there is no fixed rule for the frequency of their heat. On average, the heat period comes every 4 weeks, with a lull during the winter period (but this not systematic). Some Sphynx females have their heat period every 6 to 8 weeks only, or even every 7 to 14 days, and one reports some cases of pussies who have their heat period continuously. As in the other cat breeds.
Thanks to Fitz Usmany (Rainbow Warrior Cattery) and to Christine Auverdin (Cattery of Vallee des Dieux) for this photos of sphynx in the snow.