The Sphynx cat is a relatively rare breed that you probably will not have seen out and about on the streets, and for good reason; they are not well suited to the vagaries of the British weather, due to having no coat! Yes, the Sphynx cat is almost completely hairless, and appears to be totally naked! Sphynx cats do generally have a very sparse, light coating of very fine vellus hair, and they may even be missing their whiskers and the signature long sprouting eyebrow hairs similar to whiskers that most other cats have. Intrigued? Wondering if a hairless cat is the perfect solution for people who are allergic to cats? Read on to learn more!
The Sphynx cat is a recognised pedigree breed that is still considered to be rather unusual within the UK. Sphynx cats originated in the 1960’s when a genetic anomaly caused a normal, furry cat to produce a litter of hairless kittens, and over time, the breed was out-crossed to maintain the anomaly and produce significant enough numbers of these hairless cats to make the existence of the new breed viable in perpetuity. Sphynx cats’ most obvious physical feature is their lack of a coat, and their skin is often very warm to the touch and has the texture of suede or leather. Their skin is patterned in the same colours that their fur would be if they had any, and so Sphynx cats often have interesting and appealing markings. Sphynx cats are usually on the small size, but they have big personalities to make up for this! They are renowned for being extroverted, affectionate, curious and playful, and make engaging companions for the cat lover! Sphynx cats are generally kept indoors only, due to their poor tolerance for the cold in the winter months, and their propensity to getting sunburn in the summer. Some Sphynx cats may be able to go outside if carefully supervised, although this is reasonably uncommon.
Due to the lack of a coat, Sphynx cats are very sensitive to fluctuations in temperature, and need to live in a warm home with a stable temperature. Some Sphynx owners even invest in various jumpers and other items of ‘clothing’ for their cats, to help them to maintain their core body temperature when it is cold. They also need protection from direct sun, as they can be hypersensitive to sunburn and prone to more serious conditions such as melanomas and skin cancer.
It is often assumed that because Sphynx cats don’t have any coat to speak of, they are maintenance-free and don’t require any time to be spent grooming them or paying attention to their skin and any hair that is present. However, the reality of caring for a Sphynx is quite different! The Sphynx produces body oils in the same way as regular cats, but in furry cats, this oil is distributed along the length of the fur and shed naturally with the coat. Because the Sphynx has no coat to speak of, these oils build up upon the skin and can lead to dullness of the skin, irritations and blocked pores. Sphynx cats should be bathed on a weekly basis to accommodate for this, and the vast majority of Sphynx cats get used to being bathed from an early age and often seem to very much enjoy it. Sphynx cats are also prone to collecting more ear wax than most other breeds, as they have little or no protective hair over the ear opening to wick away the wax build up in the normal manner, and they become more prone to dirt and grit entering the ear canal. Regular ear cleaning alongside of bathing is also essential to keeping a happy, healthy Sphynx. While Sphynx cats are generally considered a robust and healthy breed that if cared for correctly often live long, fit lives, lack of the appropriate care and grooming from their owners can lead to a range of health problems if left unchecked. It is fair to say that the Sphynx cat is not a good pick for an owner looking for a low maintenance pet!
As is often the case with hairless and non-shedding dogs, Sphynx cats are commonly assumed to be the perfect pick for people who are allergic to cats, due to their lack of a coat. Much like the assumption that the Sphynx is low maintenance, however, this is generally not the case. People who are allergic to cats are generally not allergic to the fur itself, but rather one of the component parts of the cat’s natural body oil, which is shed with the fur. Just because the Sphynx has no fur to shed as such, this does not mean that this oil, the usual allergen trigger, is not present, simply that it will remain on the cat until bathing, and be less likely to get spread about the house. While being in the home of a Sphynx cat may be less likely to trigger an allergic reaction in people who are prone to cat allergies, contact with a Sphynx cat itself is actually more likely to trigger an allergic reaction that contact with a furry cat. This is because the cat’s normal body oil is present and more concentrated on the surface of the skin, and so it is hard to avoid touching it when touching a Sphynx cat!
Sphynx cats are, as has been explained, fairly high-maintenance, and require a lot of care and grooming from their owner. Not only do they require protection from heat and cold as well as weekly bathing and grooming, but they are also very outgoing animals, and demand a lot of attention! Because they should not go outdoors unsupervised, you would also need to dedicate a significant amount of time to the entertainment and happiness of your Sphynx cat to keep them from getting bored, and of course, you would have to provide a litter tray and keep it clean. However, if the Sphynx appeals to you and you have enough time and energy to dedicate to its lifelong care, it is fair to say that the breed has a lot to recommend it, and your future Sphynx cat, once bonded with you, will be your friend for life.
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