Breed: Sphynx cat
Temperament: Playful, inquisitive
Cost: from $750
Lifespan: 15 years
Recommended for: Feline enthusiasts
Probably the world’s most bizarre cat, the Sphynx is effectively naked, sporting only peach-fuzz fur and sometimes tufts on the tail and ears. They may be with or without eyebrows and whiskers.
With a skin said to feel like "suede hot water bottle", it’s available in all cat colours.As well as it’s hairless appearance, the Sphynx has a foreign body type – long, lean with a whippy tail and large triangular ears.
Australian importer, Angela Irvine, says her cats are agile, playful, inquisitive and appear highly intelligent, learning how to open cupboard doors, fetch toys, and ‘answer’ the telephone. She says they listen intently while she talks to them, and they remind her more of a monkey than a cat!
If you feel cool and need a jumper, a Sphynx probably needs warming up too and small dog jumpers should fit an adult Sphynx. As the ears lack hairs to filter dust and dirt, they need to be cleaned out weekly. Pale-skinned cats are susceptible to sunburn and, in the long term, probably skin cancer. There appear to be no other specific health problems.
While no brushes are needed, a twice-weekly bath will keep the skin clear of oils and dust which may accumulate as there is no protective coat.
Due to its rarity, this is currently a breed for the true enthusiast. In future years, however, the Sphynx seems suitable for most cat-lovers responsible enough to maintain the cat’s extra needs for warmth and bathing. If you are allergic to cats it’s likely you will also be allergic to Sphynx as the allergies are often caused by the cat’s saliva rather than the hair.
Shedding is not a problem, although US sources have said some cats can leave an oily mark on furniture if not bathed regularly.
Hairless cats have appeared spontaneously throughout this century, and while a well-documented case occurred in Canada in 1966, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that a pair of hairless cats were bred successfully and modern Sphynxes are descended from these.
Australia’s only Sphynx breeder is Angela Irvine, phone: (08) 9455 5656 fax: (08) 9455 5660 or via her website on www.iinet.net.au/~ragtail/
Other interesting Sphynx websites include www.sphynx.org (International Sphynx Breeders Fanciers Association), and US Sphynx cattery, Sanspelo, on www.sanspelo.com