Breed Profiles


Sphynx

Origin

Hairless cats have been described in many regions of the world, but the first successful breed was the Sphynx. The earliest Sphynx was born in 1966, and the cat was named Prune. However, Prune’s line died out without descendants. In 1967, hairless kittens, and their longhaired mother cat were rescued in Toronto. The kittens were neutered; the mother, however, had other kittens. Two were exported to Europe, where one of the kittens was bred to a Devon Rex. The cat had hairless offsprings which implied that this recessive gene was at the same locus as the Devon gene. One, named E.T., was presented by Vicki and Peter Markstein at the Madison square garden cat show in the 1980s. Although there are written accounts from the 1830's of a Paraguayan "scanthaired cat", the first properly recorded hairless "breed" was the now extinct Mexican Hairless (also called the New Mexican Hairless). In 1902, a couple from New Mexico received two hairless cats from local Pueblo Indians. It was claimed that these were the last survivors of an ancient Aztec breed of cat. The Mexican Hairless cats were litter-mates and noted to be 25% smaller than local shorthair cats.

Characteristics

The Sphynx appears to be a hairless cat, although it is not truly hairless. The skin should have the texture of Chamois leather. It may be covered with very soft hair that is often described as peach fuzz. Because the sphynx cats have no hair to keep them warm they prefer to cuddle up against other animals and people, they even tend to cuddle up and sleep with their owners under the
covers. Lack of coat makes the cat quite warm to the touch. Whiskers and eyebrows may be present, either whole or broken, or may be totally absent. Their skin is the color their fur would be, and all the usual cat marking patterns (solid, point, van, tabby, tortie, etc) may be found in Sphynx too.

Sphynxes generally have wedge-shaped heads and sturdy, heavy bodies. Many cats of this breed develop pot bellies.

Sphynxes are known for their extroverted behavior. They display a high level of energy, intelligence, curiosity, and affection for their owners.

Care

While sphynx cats lack a coat to shed or groom, they are not maintenance-free. Body oils, which would normally be absorbed by the hair, tend to build up on the skin. As a result, regular cleaning (usually in the form of bathing) is necessary; one bath a week is usually sufficient. Care should be taken to limit the Sphynx cat's exposure to outdoor sunlight at length, as they can develop a sunburn, similar to that of human exposure. In general, Sphynx cats should never be allowed outdoors unattended, as they have limited means to conserve body heat in colder temperatures, and their curious nature can take them into dangerous places or situations.

Although Sphynx cats are sometimes thought to be hypoallergenic due to their lack of coat, this is not always the case. Allergies to cats are triggered by dander, and not cat hair itself. Those with cat allergies may react worse to direct contact with Sphynx cats than other breeds. However, conflicting reports of some people successfully tolerating Sphynx cats also exist.

Breeding

Although hairless cats have been reported throughout history (hairless cats seem to appear naturally about every 15 years or so), breeders in Europe have been working on the Sphynx breed since the early 1960s. The current American and European Sphynx breed is descended from two lines of natural mutations:

  • Dermis and Epidermis (1975) from the Pearsons of Wadena, Minnesota, USA.
  • Bambi, Punkie, and Paloma (1978) found in Toronto, ON, Canada and raised by Shirley Smith.

Other hairless breeds might have different body shapes or temperaments than those described above. There are, for example, new hairless breeds, including the Don Sphynx and the Peterbald from Russia, which arose from their own spontaneous mutations. The standard for the Sphynx differs between cat associations.

It has been theorized that Sphynx hairlessness might be produced by an allele of the same gene that produces the Devon Rex (re), with the Sphynx allele being incompletely dominant over the Devon allele and both recessive to the wild type. However a different genetic symbol (hr) is given to the Sphynx gene and it is more likely that these are different genes interacting with each other. Sphynx were at one time crossbred with Devon Rex, but unfortunately this led to the introduction of some genetic diseases and is now forbidden in most breed standards associations. Hereditary spasticity and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (a genetic heart defect) were introduced by the Devon Rex breed



 
 
 
 

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