Sphynx Cat: Cat Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Sphynx cat
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Felines sphynxes were named after the Egyptian legendary sphinx (although, the cat is spelled with a "y" instead of an "i") for their sophisticated look and graceful nature. Despite their regal appearance, they are playful and goofy pals sometimes acting more like dogs than cats. They may look like they were pets of the pharoahs, but, in fact, they originally hail from Canada.

Sphynxes stand out among other pets due to their lack of fur or hair—an uncommon occurrence among most mammals. These non-furry felines love to sprawl out in sunspots for warmth whenever possible. They make excellent cuddle buddies and prefer to keep warm under the covers with their owners at night.

Breed Overview

Weight: 6 to 12 pounds

Length: 13 to 15 inches, head to tail

Coat: Hairless

Coat Color: White, black, red, chocolate, lavender, tabby, tortoiseshell, calico, pointed, and mink

Eye Color: Varies

Life Expectancy: 9 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Sphynx Cat

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Low
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Vocalize High
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Sphynx Cat

While the ancient Aztecs bred hairless cats hundreds of years ago, the sphynx cat we know today is actually a Canadian breed originating in Toronto in 1966 from a random genetic mutation leading to hairlessness. Some breeders took a liking to the hairless cat and decided to breed individuals who produce consistently hairless offspring.

Originally called the Canadian hairless, the breed made its way to America and experts bred cats with this new-found hairless gene to create hairless sphynx cats. The sphynx cat continues to be a popular pet choice in North America and is gaining popularity in western Europe.

The sphynx breed was recognized by The International Cat Association in 2005, the Cat Fanciers Association in 2002, and several independent cat clubs in Europe, though standards for the breed all differ slightly.

Some purebred feline registries will not recognize the sphynx cat based on the idea that the breed’s hairlessness is a genetic abnormality that could be harmful to individual cats’ health and longevity.

Sphynx Cat Care

Sphynx cats are loyal and full of love for their humans and can often be spotted following them around or snuggling up while wagging their tail. Even though they would almost always rather be snuggling, sphynx cats are natural athletes and playful pals. Though sphynx cats are exceptionally active felines, their exercise needs are low.

These cats are happy to entertain themselves for hours at a time, but some might love to have a buddy. If you are away from home for most of the day, you might want to get two sphynx cats. Sphynxes get along with other pets, too, so you can rest easy knowing they will be happy if you have another animal they can snuggle with at home, including dogs. 

Sphynx cats love to play, jump, and may even play fetch once trained. Social and smart, sphynx cats respond well to positive reinforcement training.

Despite its hairless appearance, grooming is an important part of sphynx care. Because they have no fur to absorb their body oils, the sphynx cat’s skin must be groomed regularly to maintain a healthy balance of oil and prevent skin problems and oil spots on furniture. You should bathe your sphynx cat at least once a week to remove oil build-up. You will need to scrub in-between their plethora of wrinkles and folds.

Contrary to popular belief, sphynx cats are not completely hypoallergenic. They may look hairless, but these cats are actually covered in a very fine, suede-like coat. Doctors do, however, recommend a sphynx cat as a solution for cat-lovers who are only allergic to animal hair, not dander or oil.

Common Health Problems

As for all pets, always ask your breeder for a health guarantee for your sphynx kitten. When bred responsibly, sphynx cats have a generally healthy outlook.

Due to its hairlessness, Sphynx cats are sensitive to sun exposure as they have no fur to protect their skin from harmful UV rays. Their direct sun exposure should be limited. Just like humans, these cats can get a sunburn if exposed to sunlight for too long. For this reason, sphynxes should remain indoor pets or be monitored closely when outside.

In addition to skin issues, some of the conditions they can be prone to include:

To prevent skin and gum health problems, sphynx cats should be groomed regularly. Weekly baths and tooth brushing will do wonders to prevent sphynx cat health problems.

Diet and Nutrition

Sphynx cats love food, and their potbellies prove it. They will eat anything you offer them. That does not mean you should not pay close attention to their nutrition, though.

Sphynx cats have a high metabolism and a sensitive digestion system, so small meals in regular intervals throughout the day is ideal. Serving food this way prevents cats from getting disinterested with their meals, too.

Dry cat food cleans cat teeth and protects gum health, but make sure your sphynx has plenty of water to drink after a meal to prevent dehydration. Tougher cat chews can also be found at your local specialty pet store and work well to promote healthy gums.

Some sphynx cat owners opt for a raw food diet and claim numerous health benefits. Experts suggest a rotating diet of raw fish, like tuna or sardines, in addition to kibble and wet canned cat food.

Pros

  • Sphynx are a loving, playful, loyal breed

  • Most sphynxes get along well with other cats and dogs

  • People who dislike cat hair or shedding cats will love this hairless breed

Cons

  • Hairless, it is prone to sunburn and cannot tolerate cold temperatures

  • They are not hypoallergenic, dander and oils can cause allergies

  • This breed is prone to cardiomyopathy, as well as skin and dental concerns

Where to Adopt or Buy a Sphynx Cat

You may be able to find a purebred sphynx cat through a breeder in your area, but if you would rather adopt from a rescue organization, check out:

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar cat breeds, check out:

Otherwise, take a look at all of our other cat breed profiles.