Sphynx Breed Highlights

Grey sphynx cat sitting on a fluffy blanket

  • A favorite pet of movie villains, a Sphynx named “Ted Nudegent” played Mr. Bigglesworth, Dr. Evil’s lapcat in the movie Austin Powers International Man of Mystery.

  • You’d expect a cat breed with the name Sphynx to be from Egypt, but in fact, this hairless breed originated in Canada. In the breed’s early years it was often referred to as the “Canadian Hairless,” “Moon Cat,” or “Moonstone.”

  • According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association, the Sphynx is the 8th most popular cat breed.

  • This hairless cat breed was ranked as the friendliest breed according to a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. The need to stay warm, something accomplished by sticking close to humans, is thought to be the main reason why the Sphynx is so happy with being handled.

  • While known for their adorable round pot belly, it can be tough for a Sphynx to actually gain any weight due to their fast metabolism. They’ve always got an appetite and might eat you out of house and home.

  • Think of a Sphynx as a very warm peach — while called a hairless cat, they actually have a layer of fuzz that feels like suede to the touch. But many Sphynxes don’t have any whiskers!

Unique Physical Features

Sphynx cat illustration

  • Very large bat-like ears

  • Striking lemon-shaped eyes

  • Thick paw pads and dexterous toes

Color Patterns of the Sphynx

The Sphynx can come in a variety of colors, even though it has no fur coat. The color of the skin shows what color their coat would have been, and the breed standard allows for any color and pattern. You might see a Sphynx in the recognizable white (which can be a bit pink), black, or tabby patterns, but some Sphynx might be a lavender color or have a mackerel tabby pattern.

Unique Personality

Sphynx cat illustration

The Sphynx is a curious and sociable cat, often described as being very dog-like because they love attention and do well with being handled. They revel in finding a nice, warm lap or curling up in bed with their owner to stay warm. Intelligent and curious, these kittens need attention and lots of play but are loyal and incredibly affectionate cats.

Preferred Lifestyle

Energy Level

Cat breed energy level - high (ninja warrior)

Because Sphynx cats are considered to be hairless, they should be kept exclusively indoors to protect them from cold temperatures and sunburn. They like to sunbathe in windowsills (as long as your windows provide UV protection, which most do), or on top of warm appliances and snuggle with their human companions for warmth. However, Sphynx kittens are also highly active and intelligent — a trait that they keep into adulthood. They like to explore vertical spaces (shelves, high perches, and other locations that provide them with a sense of height) and can keep themselves entertained with toys. But beware, if they are not provided with toys or opportunities to keep themselves occupied, they will seek out activities to stave off boredom (which could be the reason some consider them to be somewhat mischievous). Many cats of this breed will follow their humans around and can be considered a bit “needy” in terms of attention from their guardians.

Average Lifespan
(Range)

10 to 15 years

Average Size
(Range)

6 - 12 pounds

Similar Breeds

  • Peterbald

  • Donskoy

  • Minskin

  • Elf Cat

History of the Sphynx

A multi-colored Sphynx cat

The Sphynx breed began in 1966 with a hairless kitten born to a domestic shorthair. The kitten, named Prune, was used to establish the first attempt at creating a hairless breed. Since the hairless gene was a recessive gene, litters often resulted in both hairless and cats with fur, and the small gene pool being used for breeding resulted in many health complications. In 1971, the breed’s status was revoked by the Cat Fanciers’ Association due to worry about fertility, and the first attempt at creating a Sphynx breed was abandoned.

However, only a few years later, two naturally-hairless kittens were born as strays in Minnesota and taken in by a cat breeder, who dubbed them Dermis and Epidermis. Back in Toronto, two female hairless kittens were born in separate litters, named Paloma and Punkie, and it was these four cats that became the foundation of the Sphynx breed as we know it today. Breeders crossed the new breed with the Devon Rex, American Shorthair, and Domestic Shorthair breeds to increase the size of the gene pool. These three breeds are still allowed in outcrossing when breeding the Sphynx cat, but the CFA plans to require all Sphynx kittens born after December 31st, 2023 to have only Sphynx parents in order to be considered purebred.

Plays Well with Others?

Because Sphynx cats are friendly and outgoing, they get along well with other kittens, adult cats, pets and new people. Rough play with other pets should be avoided, however, because even unintentional scratches can result in skin injuries due to the lack of protective fur.

Graphic - multi-color feather toy for cats

Exercise Requirements

Sphynxes are a high energy breed that requires exercise to stay happy, healthy, and help prevent unwanted behavior. Luckily, they love to play with toys and are quite the climbers. Give them an outlet for their energy by providing them with plenty of high places to perch and jump and having lots of play sessions together.

Mental Enrichment Needs

The Sphynx is one of the most intelligent of any cat breed and, combined with their very playful kitten-like nature and high need for attention, requires mental enrichment to keep it happy and out of trouble. This breed was described as “part monkey, part dog, part child, and part cat” in an old French breed standard, and reflects the agility, attention-seeking, and devotion to its guardians that the Sphynx demonstrates. If the Sphynx is not provided with suitable enrichment activities, they will seek out its own entertainment, which may result in mischief. Rotate toys to keep them novel, and seek out enrichment activities that provide opportunities for learning and puzzle-solving, such as clicker-training and food-puzzles.

Fun Activities the Sphynx Enjoys

Sphynx kitten illustration

  • Napping in warm spots, such as cat cubbies or heated cat beds.

  • Climbing cat trees, cat shelves, and perching in locations up high.

VETERINARIAN TIP

Never leave your cat alone near an open window that doesn't have a secure screen. If it's on the first floor, your cat can get out of the house and get injured, lost or any of the other possible problems that outdoor cats face on a daily basis. If the window is on the second floor or above your cat is at risk of suffering from severe injuries of "high-rise syndrome," and you don't even need to live in a true high-rise building. The injuries of "high-rise syndrome" tend to be worst in falls from between the 2nd and 7th floors!

  • Playing with small toys, including learning how to “fetch”.

  • Toys that move fast and far can be exciting - try wand toys, laser pointers, and some battery-operated toys.

  • Agility training and obstacle courses.

  • Clicker-training to encourage new behaviors (such as giving high-fives or fist-bumps, and other “tricks”) and exploratory behavior (e.g., reward new actions to a novel object with a click and treat).

  • Food puzzles that encourage problem-solving and manipulation. “Expert-forager” puzzles that have drawers that must be opened with a button, lever, or pull can be a good challenge!

Coat Type

Hairless, although the Sphynx does have a velour-like fuzz covering its body, often more obviously on the nose and back of the ears. It may or may not have whiskers.

Shedding Level

shedding level - none (0 of of 5 piles of fur)

0 out of 5 piles of fur

Grooming Requirements

  • Regular Bathing
  • Daily Maintenance

While you’d expect a hairless cat to be less maintenance than a long-haired cat, the Sphynx’s sensitive skin requires regular upkeep. The body oil that would usually be absorbed by a fur coat accumulate on a Sphynx’s skin and needs to be washed off weekly, if not more often. Any wrinkling on the body and between the toes needs to be kept clean to prevent yeast or bacterial infections from developing. A Sphynx is at high risk for sunburn and resulting skin damage without the protective layer of fur, so it’s important to keep them indoors and out of the sun. Like all cats, a Sphynx should get regular nail trims and teeth brushing to maintain a healthy and dapper look.

Allergy-sufferers might think that this cat would be an easy choice as a pet, however, being hairless does not make this breed completely hypoallergenic. The Sphynx still sheds skin (and sometimes fuzz), and the protein that triggers an allergic reaction in humans is found in saliva and the sebaceous glands that all cats have.

Famous Owners of the Sphynx

  • Kat Von D (Reality TV Star/Tattoo Artist)

  • Steven Tyler (Singer)

  • Jane Fryer (Journalist)

Famous Sphynxs

The Dark Lord is a social media celebrity hypnotizing his audience with the most muscular cat knees you’ve ever seen

Sphynxs in Books, Movies and TV

Dr. Evil’s cat, Mr. Bigglesworth, from the movie Austin Powers International Man of Mystery

Non-Endorsement Statement: The social media posts displayed here do not imply any endorsement of these people or products, nor does it imply they endorse Trupanion or our product.

Common Health Conditions for Cats

Use the chart of Trupanion claims data below to find out what health conditions happen most frequently for cats. Every cat is unique, but understanding what health conditions are likelier to occur can help you be a more prepared pet owner.

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Here's what our
cat-loving members say about Trupanion

Trupanion member Rexford

Rexford

Gwynn Oak, MD

Condition: Urinary obstruction

The Trupanion policy paid: $19,031.43

"When my cat, Rexford, became ill, it was a great relief knowing I had Trupanion. It allowed me to focus on Rex and get him the care and treatment he needed without worry. Rexford required multiple surgeries and extended hospitalizations; to know that we had the support of this wonderful company was such a comfort. I will never have a pet not covered by Trupanion."

- Juliana H.

Trupanion member Gator

Gator

Calgary, Alberta

Conditions: Ear infections, diarrhea, enteritis, allergic reaction to medication

The Trupanion policy paid: $4,672.13

"Gator struggled with a weak immune system, ear infections and chronic diarrhea. After months of medical intervention, she was healthy enough for her spay. At the beginning of the procedure she had an allergic reaction to the medication and her airway swelled. She had to receive emergency drugs and luckily she recovered! We cannot thank Trupanion enough for being with us. I will always have Trupanion for my cats."

- Heather M.

Trupanion member Mason

Mason

Peyton, CO

Conditions: Giardia, Pancreatitis, infection, lymphoma

The Trupanion policy paid: $17,057.92

"Mason got what seemed to be a UTI but ended up being an intestinal disease. He has also been treated for giardia, trichomonas, irritable bowel disease, pancreatitis and a UTI. Throughout this entire ordeal, Trupanion stood by us all the way. Trupanion continues to pay for Mason’s care and when I call, I get such personal service! I even got a handwritten card from the staff, expressing their thoughts for Mason!"

- Carrie B.

Here's what our cat-loving members say about Trupanion

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Sources
The information in the Trupanion Breed Guide is robust and always expanding. You can learn more about this breed by exploring this list of all the resources used in its creation:

https://tica.org/
https://cfa.org/
https://www.wikipedia.org/
https://cattime.com/cat-breeds
https://www.youtube.com/user/AnimalPlanetTV
The Original CatFancy Cat Bible, by Sandy Robins. i-t Publishing, LLC, Irvine, CA. 2014, 544 pp.
Encyclopedia of Cat Breeds, 2nd Edition, by J. Anne Helgren. Barron's Educational Series, Inc., Hauppauge, NY. 2013, 384 pp.
The Complete Cat Breed Book, Kim Dennis-Bryan, editor. Korling Kindersley, New York, NY. 2013, 256 pp.
Cool Cats: the 100 Cat Breeds of the World, by Desmond Morris. Ebury Press, London. 1999, 256 pp.
Beyond Squeaky Toys, by Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey & Cinthia Alia Mitchell. Smart Pets Press, LLC, Lafayette, OR. 2013, 160 pp.
Brain Games for Cats, by Claire Arrowsmith. Firefly Books, Buffalo, NY. 2016, 96 pp.
Getting Started: Clicker Training for Cats, by Karen Pryor. Karen Prior Clickertraining, Waltham, MA. 2001, 81 pp.