By Julia Williams
I vividly remember the first time I ever came face to face with a Sphynx cat. My friend and I were making the rounds at a cat show, oohing and aahing at all the beautiful kitties with their luxurious, fluffy coats brushed to perfection. We turned a corner and there they were, these peculiar hairless creatures with giant ears, wrinkled bodies and an alien-like appearance. I must admit my first thought was something like “What the heck are those things?” I saw them again recently on Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell and had a similar reaction. I guess I’m just so used to seeing cats with fur that the Sphynx, by comparison, looks unnatural to me. However, the Sphynx reminds me of that old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The Sphynx may look odd to people who are used to furry felines, but many other cat lovers call the Sphynx ‘pure enchantment’ and value the breed for its affectionate nature and lively demeanor. I decided to research this interesting rare breed to find out more about it.
Though the appearance of the breed is one of hairlessness (and some truly are) many actually have a light covering of soft, peach-like fuzz. Some Sphynx also have short, fine hair on their feet, tail or outer edges of the ears. The lack of fur makes the cat’s skin warm to the touch, described as feeling like a heated chamois or a suede-covered hot water bottle. The lack of fur also creates a feeling of resistance when petting the cat.
The breed’s lack of hair is governed by a recessive gene. It takes two copies of the gene for the hairless trait to express itself, so if both parents have only one copy, the number of hairless kittens in their litters will be approximately one in four.
The breed standard states that wrinkled skin is a desirable trait, particularly around the muzzle, between the ears, and around the shoulders. The Sphynx skin can be any color found in other felines, as well as any pattern (solid, point, van, tabby, etc.). Most Sphynx have no whiskers, but of those that do, the whiskers are short and sparse.