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Sphynx cat breed profile

Here’s everything you need to know about your Sphynx cat

Whether your cat is a purebred Sphynx cat, or a Sphynx cat mix, learning about their breed can explain a lot about your pet's personality, habits and overall health. Or maybe you're interested in adopting a Sphynx and want to do a little research first — we can help you there.

Sphynx cats (sometimes called Egyptian Sphynx cats) are often referred to as hairless cats — but don't let the wrinkles and sourpuss face fool you. These cats are just as lovable as furrier breeds and make excellent companions with the right home.

Why do Sphynx cats look hairless?

It may come as a surprise that the so-called "hairless cat" title is actually a misnomer. While they come across as hairless in photos, anyone who's ever interacted with these cats in person can attest that petting a Sphynx cat is a very pleasant experience that feels nothing like touching cold or clammy skin. 

"Sphynx cats aren't hairless; they have a fine hair coat that feels like warm suede when you touch them. Some have eyebrows and whiskers." Dr. Lori Green, DMV, a veterinarian specializing in house calls and emergency relief in California, said. 

What do Sphynx cats look like?

Typically weighing in at about 12 pounds for adult cats, Sphynxes usually are no bigger than a medium-sized house cat. Sphynx cats come in various colors, ranging from common markings like calico, tabby striped, tortoiseshell, gray, white, black, and roan coats to more unusual markings with dark extremities such as seal point or lavender point coats like Siamese cats.

According to Dr. Green, Sphynx cats "appear pot-bellied, wrinkled and bald," but lest you think that this makes for a more sedentary companion, think again: Sphynx cats also have wide chests, muscular legs, feet cushioned by thick paw pads and claws that can pack a punch, just like any other domesticated feline.

"They're quite athletic jumpers and climbers," Dr. Green said before comparing them to an equally sturdy animal. "Their wedge-shaped heads and prominent, large eyes remind me of praying mantis insects, which I also love."

Why are Sphynx cats wrinkly?

Sphynx cats typically have wrinkles on their foreheads, backs and chests. It's not unusual for some to have wrinkly legs and bellies as well.

"The skin tends to be thicker in these sites, and a healthy fat layer makes the wrinkles more pronounced." Dr. Green said, noting that the "fine layer of downy fur" also makes the wrinkles more visible.

Are Sphynx cats hypoallergenic?

Due to the unique nature of Sphynx cats' coats, they're sometimes mistakenly thought to be hypoallergenic, a controversial term that is often contested by veterinary professionals.

"No, they are not hypoallergenic," Dr. Green further explained. "Most cats induce allergic reactions because of the proteins in their saliva, and Sphynx cats still groom themselves so that allergen is still present."

If you or someone else in your household is allergic to cats, it's important to keep in mind that even Sphynx cats still pose a risk for an allergic reaction. This means they might not be suitable companions for certain families.

RELATED: Savannah cat profile

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What are Sphynx cats' personalities like?

If your idea of a perfect cat is a social butterfly with lots of personality, you've come to the right pet profile.

"I've only met wonderfully inquisitive, athletic, loving and intelligent Sphynx cats in my 35 years of veterinary practice. I've never had a grumpy one come through my door." Dr. Green said. "They're energetic and spend most of the exam investigating the exam room."

Clever and curious, these cats often become very attached to their humans. Although this loyalty might also stem from the amount of personal care and upkeep required by pet parents to keep these cats healthy.

What are common health issues for Sphynx cats?

With proper nurture and care, Sphynx cats can enjoy long and healthy lives — often up to 14 years. Make no mistake, though, these cats are incredibly high-maintenance, and caring for them can be quite costly.

"Sphynx cats should be indoor kitties for several reasons." Dr. Green said, "They get cold easily because of their paucity of fur, their skin is readily susceptible to sun damage (including anything from burns to skin cancer) and they lose body heat rapidly."

Dr. Green noted that these factors could be counteracted to some degree with cat sweaters, snuggles and cozying up to their humans — including sleeping under the covers.

This is only the beginning of Sphynx care. Their sparse fur does not absorb skin oils, so Sphynx cats need to be bathed about two times a week, in addition to having their ears and toes cleaned regularly with gentle wipes.

That's not all! Sometimes, despite all this upkeep, things can still go awry.

"They can develop 'cutaneous urticaria pigmentosa,' a crusty rash that darkens the skin color in affected areas," Dr. Green said. "But this condition can be treated by regular bathing with special medicated shampoos, elimination of allergens in their environment (which may require an air filtration purifier), and replacing their food intake to higher quality ingredients." Sometimes medication such as corticosteroids and/or antihistamines can also be prescribed by your veterinarian as needed.

Adopting a Sphynx cat

Are you interested in adopting a Sphynx cat, Sphynx cat mix or any pet at all? Check out our shelter partners to find your new best friend.

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we're there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo.

Photo by Oleksandr Volchanskyi on Shutterstoc

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