The Cat Source

Spyhnx: The Hairless Cat

The Spyhnx, or also known as the Canadian Hairless, is an unusual breed of cat known for its lack of  coat. This cat breed seems to be hairless although it is not really completely hairless. The Sphynx is an animal that is born with a hairless condition primarily caused by a recessive gene that must be present in both parents. Hairless felines such as Sphynx are not truly hairless; instead they have a very short, vague hair that lies very close to their skin, giving them a hairless appearance.

Interesting History of Canadian Hairless Cats

There have been many instances of hairless cats throughout history. Actually, the Sphynx is not the first and only occurrence of hairlessness in domestic cats. This natural, spontaneous mutation has been found in several places around the world for at least the last ninety years, and possibly longer. A pair of hairless cats belonging to a New Mexico fancier was mentioned in the Book of the Cat (Simpson, 1903) called the ‘Mexican Hairless’, which were believed to be obtained from Indians around Albuquerque.

A pair of Siamese cats in Paris, France, produced a litter that included three hairless kittens in 1950. The results were repeated in subsequent matings of the same pair, but breeding the parents to other Siamese cats produced no new hairless kittens at all.

There were other hairless cases that turned up in Morocco, Australia and North Carolina. And in 1966, in Canada, a pair of domestic shorthairs produced a litter which included a hairless kitten. Ryadh Bawa, a breeder, obtained the parents and with the help of other breeders, began a breeding program. The CFA formerly granted New Breed and Color status, and then in 1971 they withdrew recognition due to infertility problems with the breed. This line was not pursued after 1980 and is not part of the current bloodline.

The breed as we know it today began in 1975, when Minnesota farm owners Milt and Ethelyn Pearson discovered that a hairless kitten had been born to their normal-coated farm cat, Jezabelle. This kitten, named Epidermis, was joined the next year by another hairless kitten named Dermis. Both were sold to Oregon breeder Kim Mueske, who used the kittens to develop the breed. Georgiana Gattenby of Brainerd, Minnesota, also worked with kittens from the Pearson line, using Cornish Rex as an outcross.

Siamese breeder Shirley Smith of Ontario, Canada, found three hairless kittens on the streets of her neighborhood in 1978. In 1983 she sent two of them to Dr. Hugo Hernandez in the Netherlands. Dr. Hernandez bred the two kittens, named Punkie and Paloma, to a white Devon Rex named Curare van Jetrophin. The descendants of these cats, along with the descendants of the cats from Minnesota and Oregon, became the foundation of today’s Sphynx breed. The breed has made considerable paces since its inception due to a small group of dedicated breeders.

While most fanciers have welcomed the Sphynx as unique and exotic, some members of the cat fancy wish that the Sphynx would put on some clothes. Like other cat breeds that have deviated from the basic design, this Canadian hairless has drawn some negative attention. Furthermore, the gene that governs hairlessness can be considered a genetic disorder, since the cat is more vulnerable to both heat and cold. Furthermore, breeders and fanciers are currently working toward CFA recognition. The Sphynx would be required to come in as a new breed, rather than one previously renowned.

Temperaments of Sphynx

The Sphynx has a childlike personality, and makes a pleasing companion for those who are looking for a great companionship. They are sweet and affectionate, but the best way to describe their personality is—half child and half monkey, half kitten and half puppy. Just like other cat breeds, they are extremely intelligent, incredibly lovable, patient, social and tolerant with children, dogs and other animals. They love to be around their human friends and in fact they demand to always be around you.

The Sphynx hates being alone and needs company all day long whether it is a human or another cat or a small dog. They seem like lap dogs in a cat form. When they want to cuddle up, they are on top of you or all over you. They are definitely not the kind of feline that you just see whenever it’s feeding time.

The Sphynx gets to know their names very quickly and will come when called. They love to play hide and seek and can be easily entertained by playing fetch. Moreover, when visitors come, they are the first to meet them at the door and they will take the conversation over, if you let them. Consequently you will have to put them away if your visitors are not cat lovers, as they will only leave the visitors laps when they do some acrobatic tricks to show off for them. Do not be surprised when one of them disappears and returns with a toy mouse to play with, in the middle of the conversation. Though they have this alien appearance, they are 100% feline in all their mystery and charm that has fascinated people for so long. While the Sphynx may not be for everyone, his unique appearance and delightful temperament has won him a vigorous, enthusiastic following.

Sphynx Cat Traits

Breeders discovered that the Sphynx’s lack of hair is governed by a recessive gene. It takes two copies of the gene for the trait to express itself and, if each parent has only one copy of the hairless gene, the number of hairless kittens in any litter is approximately one in four. This makes establishing a large gene pool tougher. However, it was also discovered that the hairless gene is an incomplete dominant over the gene governing the Devon Rex’s wavy coat. Crosses between the Sphynx, Devon Rex, and the American Shorthair widened the gene pool.

The Sphynx only appears hairless. Its skin, or parts of it, is covered with a fine, almost imperceptible vestigial covering of down that gives the skin the texture of chamois. Heterozygous Sphynx, which possess only one copy of the hairless gene, usually exhibits more hair than homozygous Sphynx, which possesses two copies.

Wrinkles are a desirable trait of Sphynx because of the lack of fur. The lack of coat makes  them feel like warm suede to the touch. One would expect a hairless cat to produce no symptoms in someone with a cat allergy, but this is not the case. The Sphynx considerately refrains from shedding all over your couch, but can still make you sneeze. It is not the hair itself that causes the allergic reaction, but rather an allergenic protein called Fel d1 secreted via saliva and sebaceous glands. The Sphynx produces this secretion just as all cats do; they just don’t deposit allergen-laced hair all over the place.

Sphynxes also require grooming. They must be regularly bathed to remove collections of oily sebaceous secretions on the skin. These secretions are normal; it’s just that Sphynx doesn’t have hair to absorb them. Allowed to collect, these oils can cause skin problems.

This type of cat is not the ideal pet for everybody. However, if you are willing to give them extra care and attention, a hairless cat will make the perfect pet.

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