With their angular faces, big ears, and smooth bodies, Sphynxes are living (and purring) proof that there’s more to a cat than its fur coat. Here are a few facts about the fleshy feline.
1. THEY'RE FROM THE LAND OF ICE AND SNOW. You’d think a cat whose ancestors come from the North Country would be equipped with a warm coat. But the modernday Canadian Sphynx—the hairless breed we know in North America—has been defying expectations since the mid1960s, when an Ontario cat gave birth to a hairless kitten, the result of a natural genetic mutation. Then, in the mid1970s, two separate sets of hairless kittens were born to owners in Toronto and Minnesota. Thanks to various breeding efforts, their lineages resulted in the affectionate animal we love today.
Don’t think, though, that the Canadian Sphynx is the only hairless cat out there. Similar breeds exist, and lookalike felines have been reported in countries across the world. For instance, the Sphynx has a hairless doppelganger—the Donskoy—that’s actually a separate breed from Russia. While they look nearly identical, the Sphynx’s lack of long hair is thanks to a recessive gene, whereas the Donskoy’s hairlessness is the result of a dominant gene.
2. THEY'RE NOT ACTUALLY BALD. At first glance, the Sphynx might look less like a feline and more like a naked mole rat. If you pet one, however, you’ll discover they’re not actually hairless. Sphynxes are covered with a fine layer of downy fuzz. While they’re not plush to the touch, their coats feel akin to suede.
3. THEY'RE PATTERNED AND COLORED. Although Sphynxes are “naked” cats, their skin pigment can vary in color and pattern. From tortoiseshells to tabbies, you’re bound to find a Sphynx version of many longerhaired cats.
4. THEY'RE NOT HYPOALLERGENIC. If you’re a catlover who’s allergic to your favorite animal, don't shell out cash for a Sphynx kitten. Despite rumors to the contrary, the breed isn’t actually hypoallergenic. Sphynxes still produce Fel d1, the allergenic protein in cat saliva and skin secretions that causes your eyes to grow itchy and red.
5. THEY'RE WARMER THAN MOST OTHER CATS. The Sphynx Cat Naturally Has A Higher Body Temperature. This just goes to show you that genetics are pretty incredible. While the average feline has an internal temperature of 99.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, to compensate for their lack of fur, the Sphynx cat’s internal temperature regulates at 4 degrees higher.
And even though these cats are a bit toastier, they still love to cuddle in blankets. Many do not even mind the occasional cat sweater. Above all, these are not kitties that should travel outdoors or roam freely. They can actually sunburn easily in the sunlight despite the external temperature. Obviously without fur to protect them, the elements are not their friend and this is intended to be an indooronly breed.
6. THEY NEED A WEEKLY BATH.
Think Sphynx kitties are superclean because they don’t have fur? Think again. While your cat’s coat might not be a magnet for dust particles, pollen, and other substances, its skin still produces oil. For most cats, oil help keeps their fur sleek. But with Sphynx cats, it can form a greasy film over their bodies—meaning their owners must give them weekly baths. The same goes for the ears: Since there aren’t any hairs to block dirt or dead skin cells from accumulating inside the cavities, owners have to regularly wipe them down with a washcloth or cotton ball to keep ears clear.
7. THEY HAVE SENSITIVE SKIN. Don’t slather sunscreen on your Sphynx every time it sits in a sunbeam—but do keep in mind that because it’s not covered in a dense coat, your cat’s skin is more sensitive than other felines. (And yes, they can get sunburnt.) They can get overheated or cold and, though they can go outside, they should be mostly indoor cats.
8. THEY'RE POPULAR ... While pet owners in America love furry cats like Exotic Shorthairs, Persians, and Maine Coons, Sphynxes are currently ranked the 8th most popular feline breed in the country, according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association registration statistics from 2014.
9. ... AND FRIENDLY. While they share a name with the Great Sphinx of Giza, Sphynx cats are nothing like the stoic statue. They’re sociable, loving, and playful animals—so much, in fact, that a recent study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior ranked Sphynxes as the most affectionate cat breed.