- Average Height: 8-10 inches
- Average Weight: Under 12 pounds
- Coloring: White, cream, silver, brown, tortoiseshell, pointed
- Coat Type: Fine, downy, suede-like
- Average Lifespan: 10-15 years
- Key Personality Traits: Affectionate, playful, intelligent
The hairless Sphynx cat is a lively and inquisitive breed. Their lack of fur coat, wrinkly skin, big ears, and prominent cheekbones give them a distinctive look. It’s a look that goes well with their big personalities.
These hairless cats make great family pets—especially for those who don’t want to clean up cat hair. To learn more about the Sphynx, just keep on reading.
History and Origin
Hairless cats have been around for centuries, and ancient civilizations—including the Aztec civilization—shared their lives with hairless breeds. There are multiple types of hairless cats, which happens due to a naturally occurring gene mutation. However, the Sphynx cat is distinct from other hairless breeds and is often called the Canadian Sphynx or Canadian Hairless.
The Canadian moniker comes from a Toronto litter in the 1960s. A hairless kitten named Prune (because of his wrinkles, presumably) was born to a traditional fur-coated kitty. Breeders decided to see if they could produce more hairless cats. When Prune was old enough, they cross-bred him with his mother (a common breeding practice.)
Sure enough, that union produced more hairless cats, and the Sphynx cat breed was born.
Today, the Sphynx is recognized by the reputable cat breeder’s associations. According to Cyndee Hill, who breeds Sphynx cats at Pin Up Cats and is the Sphynx Breed council secretary for The Cat Fanciers’ Association, 95 percent of the world’s feline organizations recognize the Sphynx breed. These organizations include the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), The International Cat Association (TICA), and the American Cat Fanciers’ Association (ACFA).
Sphynx Cat Physical Characteristics
One misconception about the Sphynx cat is that they’re bald, but that’s not true. Most have a soft down that makes for suede-like skin. They also have distinctive faces.
Large, pointy ears top triangular-shaped heads. They have pronounced cheekbones like a fashion model and almond-shaped eyes, while wrinkly skin gathers around their neck and legs.
Sphynx cats come in a range of colors, just like traditional fur-covered cats, but the pigment is in their skin. Sphynx cats can be solid colors (black, white, cream, gray, brown) or patterned (tortoiseshell, pointed, etc.).
Sphynx cats typically measure 8-10 inches in height and most weigh under 12 pounds. These hairless cats live on average 10-15 years.
Hill says that Sphynx cats are considered adults at 8 months of age, though they may continue growing until a year old.
Sphynx Cat Personality Traits
The hairless Sphynx cat is playful and affectionate. “They’re very affectionate and loving,” Hill says. “They want to be held and treated like a baby. It’s part of their charm.”
The Sphynx cat loves people of all ages, including children, and they’re good with other animals, including dogs. Unlike some cats who like to tuck themselves in a closet for hours, the Sphynx likes to be with you when you’re home.
“They’re very co-dependent,” says Shauntay Burris, breed committee chair at TICA and Sphynx breeder at Scantily Clad Sphynx. “They’re also an energetic breed until 3-4 years old, and then they’re lazy.”
The Sphynx breed is also highly intelligent. “I’ve had more than one family call me and say their Sphynx has learned how to use the toilet,” Hill says.
Sphynx Cat Care Guide
One big misconception about the Sphynx is that they’re low maintenance—but that’s far from the truth. Hill explains that the Sphynx breed requires regular bathing and grooming to keep their skin healthy.
Those considering adopting or buying one of these hairless cats should do their research on the grooming requirements. “They need regular baths—you have to wipe their faces and keep their nails clipped,” adds Hill.
Sphynx cats also get cold easily due to their lack of a fur coat. You’ll find these felines looking for warm places to nap, and many of them will tolerate wearing sweaters or other warm clothes. If they’re outside in the sun, they can sunburn, so you’ll want to protect them with clothes, cat-safe sunscreen, or by keeping them in the shade.
Besides grooming, Sphynx cats demand attention. If you’re considering Sphynx cat adoption, you’ll want to have other pets or family members to help entertain your kitty.
Diet and Nutrition
Sphynx cats have a fast metabolism because their bodies are always working to keep them warm. As a result, they like to eat frequent meals.
Burris says you can estimate a Sphynx cat to eat about 6 percent of their body weight a day. “It depends on their activity level, age, whether they’re spayed or neutered, but a 12-pound cat can eat 6-12 ounces a day,” she explains. “Kittens could double that.”
Both Hill and Burris say they feed their Sphynx cats a raw diet, but Burris explains that it’s important to speak to your veterinarian or a pet nutritionist if you’re looking to feed raw food. “It’s not a diet for everyone to just pick up because it’s dangerous if it’s not balanced,” she adds.
There are nutritionally balanced, commercial raw foods on the market. Or you can choose traditional canned or kibble cat food. As always, it’s a good idea to talk with your veterinarian about the right diet for your cat’s age and activity level.
Exercise and Activity
The Sphynx is sociable, smart, and energetic. That means they need lots of attention to keep them occupied.
The Cornell Feline Health Center newsletter, Catwatch, says you can teach a Sphynx to do almost anything, including “shake” and retrieve. They need a healthy mix of both physical and mental exercise to keep them happy.
“One of the most important things I stress is interacting with your cat. Take an hour a night and play with them,” Burris says. “The additional benefit is they sleep through the entire night. It makes for a happier cat.”
Sphynx cats also make great therapy animals as they’re easy to train and highly affectionate.
As previously mentioned, Sphynx cats require regular grooming upkeep. They won’t shed on your clothes, but their skin does produce natural oils, which can sometimes feel greasy.
While some advocate weekly baths to keep their skin clean, Burris suggests otherwise. She says if you bathe them too frequently, you throw off their PH balance, and it can make their skin greasier. The former groomer said she only bathes her Sphynx once a year or every six months.
“I do clean the ears weekly,” Burris adds. “They produce a lot of earwax, so those need frequent cleaning.”
Sphynx Health Issues
While this breed is typically healthy, the Sphynx may be at risk of certain genetic or environmental health issues. The followings are conditions to watch for:
Heart Problems. The Sphynx cat is prone to genetic heart problems—particularly feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). This disease causes the muscular walls of a cat’s heart to thicken, affecting how the heart functions .
While there’s not been a fool-proof way to prevent HCM in the Sphynx breed, recent research gives hope. Dr. Kate Meurs at North Carolina State University has been hard at work searching for the gene marker for over a decade. She’s in the process of developing a DNA test that will test for the presence of HCM in Sphynx cats.
Reputable breeders have their Sphynx cats scanned yearly or even every 6 months by a board-certified cardiologist. That way, they can track their cats and not breed animals with HCM.
Skin Allergies: Like all cats, Sphynx cats may develop skin allergies. There’s a rare skin condition called urticaria pigmentosa, which can look like pimples or dark patches on the skin. If you see anything unusual on your cat’s body, consult your veterinarian.
Sphynx Cat Facts
The Austin Powers movies featured a Sphynx cat at the sinister sidekick to Dr. Evil. Known as Ted Nude-Gent, the name is a play on the breed’s nickname of “Nakeys” by some Sphynx cat enthusiasts.
Several well-known celebrities have Sphynx cats as pets, too, including Lady Gaga, Kat Von D, and Steven Tyler.
While the breed received its name from the iconic Egyptian cat statues, Sphynx cats did not exist as part of Ancient Egypt. As previously mentioned, the breed originated in Canada in the 1960s.
One thing that may surprise new Sphynx enthusiasts is their dog-like nature. Burris compares the breed to a Golden Retriever. “They love everyone, which is why they make great therapy animals,” she says. “They’re obnoxiously affectionate and need companionship.”
Sphynx Cat Adoption and Buying Tips
If you’re considering adopting a hairless cat, like the Sphynx, you’ll want to consider your lifestyle. Sphynx cats need playmates. It can be another cat, a dog, people, other animals, but they do best with attention and interaction.
Since it’s a relatively rare breed, many people buy Sphynx kittens from breeders, and the price for these cats run anywhere between $1,700 and $2,200. You can search for a Sphynx cat breeder via professional organizations like Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) and The International Cat Association (TICA.)
Occasionally you might find Sphynx cat adoption possible through a rescue, but this route will likely require patience and a little bit of luck. But your best bet is to look for a breed-specific rescue dedicated to rehoming or rescuing Sphynx cats.
Sphynx Cat Rescues
While there aren’t a ton of breed-specific Sphynx rescues out there, we recommend checking in with the following organizations if you’re interested in rescuing one of these cats.
- SOAR – Sphynx Open Arms Rescue
- Rescue Me! – This site has a map that shows the number of Sphynx cats available for rehoming in every state (if there are any.)
- Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue
Other options include, asking your veterinarian and other local pet professionals like dog or cat groomers. They’re often familiar with local pet organizations. You can even check in with your local shelters. While hairless cats aren’t that common, if they know you’re looking for one, you might get your wish.
Sphynx Cat FAQs
These cats are a joy to have at home due to their affectionate natures and cool, photo-worthy looks. But before you decide that a Sphynx is right for you, check out these frequently asked questions about the breed.
Are Sphynx Cats Hypoallergenic?
They are actually not hypoallergenic. A common allergen can be found in the cat’s saliva as opposed to the fur. It’s also possible to be allergic to their sweat, which the Sphynx produces between their paws. “”Some people are more allergic to hairless cats,” says Hill.
How Much Are Sphynx Cats?
The cost to buy a Sphynx cat from a reputable breeder ranges between $1,700 and $2,200. While this hairless cat breed does sometimes show up in rescues and shelters, it is rare. Adopting a Sphynx cat may take quite a bit longer than purchasing one.
How Long Do Sphynx Cats Live?
8-15 years is the average lifespan for a Sphynx cat.
Why Are Sphynx Cats Hairless?
It’s due to a natural mutation. Sphynx were bred from the domestic shorthair, but they have two copies of the hairless gene rather than one.
Do Sphynx Cats Have Whiskers?
Some do, but not all. It depends on the specific genetics of the cat.
Pictures of Sphynx Cats
If you’re looking for pictures of hairless cats, we’ve got you covered! Browse our gallery of images to see the best pictures of Sphynx cats doing what they do best—thriving!