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    Sphynx

    Sphynx

    Place of origin

    Ontario, Canada; Minnesota, United States

    History

    Hairless cat have been reported from around the world throughout history. The most famous of these historical hairless cats were Dick and Nellie, a brother and sister pair of Mexican Hairless cats obtained by a New Mexico couple from local Pueblo Indians in 1902. Unlike the modern Sphynx, the extinct Mexican Hairless grew fur along their backs in winter.

    Hairless cats born in France in 1930 died without reproducing. In 1936, several hairless kittens were born to a pet cat in North Carolina. In 1938 and in 1950, hairless kittens were born to Siamese cats in Paris, France. These were bred among themselves as a genetics study, resulting in hairless offspring but were not developed as a breed. Cat lovers at the time considered hairless cats unaesthetic.

    In 1978, the last two cats from Prune's bloodline, a brother and sister, went to the Netherlands. The male was uninterested in mating and the pair's only litter did not survive. In 1978 and 1980, further hairless kittens were discovered among street cats in Toronto. Two hairless females born in 1980 were sent to the Netherlands to join the last of the original bloodline. Although one female conceived, she lost the litter and, by then, Prune's last male descendent had been neutered. No modern Sphynx are traceable to Prune.

    The only recourse was to outcross the hairless cats to other breeds. Although the offspring would be furred, they would carry the hairlessness gene. Doing so would also combat the problems caused by inbreeding. The Sphynx was crossed to sparse-furred Devon Rex variants (DNA analysis in 2010 has since shown that Devon Rex and Sphynx are variants of the same gene) and also to Siamese, American Shorthairs, and domestic shorthairs to expand the gene pool. Hairless cats from domestic cat litters were located in North America and test-mated to the Sphynx; those who were genetically compatible also expanded the gene pool. The best known of these were two hairless female kittens (Epidermis and Dermis) born to barn cats in Minnesota in 1975 and 1976.

    Hairless cats found in domestic cat litters are still used to expand the Sphynx gene pool. These include hairless cats found in Texas, Arkansas, and Indiana. Some of these produce extremely hairless offspring due to interacting genes, but others have left no recorded descendents. Some proved genetically incompatible with the Sphynx. In one case, the owners were unwilling to allow the cats to be used for breeding. In Europe, the Sphynx has also been outcrossed to Cornish and German Rex. Careful selective breeding and outcrossing has ensured the Sphynx is a healthy breed.

    Although the Sphynx was initially developed as a potentially hypoallergenic breed, studies have demonstrated that hairlessness did not prevent an allergic response in many owners. This is because cat allergy is not caused by the fur itself, but is caused by the Fel d1 protein secreted in feline saliva and deposited during grooming. Because there is less surface area for saliva to dry on, some allergy sufferers find they are better able to tolerate Sphynx than haired breeds.

    TICA recognized the Sphynx for championship competition in 1986, with several other North American cat associations following suit during the 1990s. In 1998, the CFA once again recognized the Sphynx. The Sphynx arrived in the United Kingdom in 1988. In 1990, the GCCF refused to recognize the breed on the basis that it was not viable in a normal pet. Although unable to exhibit Sphynxes at GCCF shows, breeders were undeterred, and the GCCF eventually recognized the Sphynx in 2006.

    Although the Sphynx is recognized in Europe by the FIFe, the Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals (1995) legislation impacts the breeding of Sphynx in member states that have signed the convention. The legislation recommends a total ban on breeding cats who have curled (useless), shortened, or absent vibrissae (whiskers and other tactile hairs) on the basis that these are an essential sensory organ important for orientation in the dark, in predation, in examination of objects, and in social behavior.

    Physical description

    The Sphynx is not completely hairless. Rather, the cat is covered in a soft downy fur that is especially evident on the face, tail, outer edges of the ears, and feet. This gives a soft, chamois-like feel to the cat. The skin wrinkles around the face, between the ears, and on the shoulders. Whiskers and eyebrows are either absent or broken. The head features prominent cheekbones, large ears that are wide at the base, and a definite whisker break that accentuates the muzzle. The eyes are large and lemon-shaped. The body is hard and muscular, with a rounded chest and rump and a full, round abdomen. Observing a Sphynx in motion provides a unique opportunity to study feline anatomy in detail.

    Colors and varieties

    All colors are possible, with the pigmentation of the skin reflecting the cat's color.

    Temperament

    These gremlinlike cats love to be on laps and to crawl under the bedcovers with you, both as a sign of affection and as a mechanism for keeping warm. They can often be found in other warm spots, such as sunny windowsills and on top of computer monitors and TV sets. Inquisitive, intelligent, and playful, these friendly cats never fail to amuse their owners. They are highly active cats who can entertain themselves for hours and many learn to play "fetch" with small toys. They enjoy the company of other cats and pets, and their friendly, outgoing nature means they readily accept new people in their lives.

    Activity level

    High

    Vocal level

    Medium

    Special needs

    Because hair growth does not pull skin secretions (sebum) from the skin, all Sphynx cats need to be bathed with a suitable cat shampoo and their ears cleaned with a moist cloth regularly to prevent these secretions from accumulating on the skin and in the hair follicles. Sphynx should be provided with warm areas to crawl into and should be protected from excessive cold or unfiltered sunlight, as they may sunburn. Because they do not have fur to protect their skin, their nails should be kept well groomed, and they should be kept from exposure to sharp objects in their environment to prevent scratches. Rough play with other pets in the household can lead to skin injuries as well.

    Variations

    Until 1987, the Canadian-bred Sphynx was the sole hairless breed in the cat fancy. Although incompatible hairlessness mutations were found during development of the Sphynx, these were not perpetuated. An unrelated mutation in Russia resulted in the Donskoy (1987) and its derivative breeds, the Peterbald (1993) and the Ukrainian Levkoy (2005).

    In 2002, the Hawaiian Hairless (Kohana) appeared among feral cats in Hawaii. They were claimed to be the only completely hairless cats as they lacked hair follicles and had a skin texture like rubber. Early Biblereports suggested it was the result of mating a Donskoy to a Canadian Sphynx and the interaction of the two different genes, but in 2010, DNA analysis confirmed the Kohana to have the same hairlessness mutation as the Sphynx, with the other effects being due to interactions with other genes. The Kohana appears to have died out due to reproductive problems and other health issues, again possibly associated with inbreeding.

    In 2004, the Cheops was derived from Canadian lines of the American Cornish Rex. It has a very short, fine coat, approximately over the head, neck, back, and sides and a slightly longer coat on the chest and hips, however this residual coat lacks the waviness of the Cornish Rex. The tail may have a tuft at the tip.

    The Canadian Sphynx has been used to found several hairless "designer cats" such as the short-legged Minskin and Bambino breeds, the Elf (curl-eared Sphynx) and Dwelf (curl-eared, short-legged Sphynx), and the polydactylous Hemingway Sphynx.

    Genetic mutation is no respecter of pedigree-hairlessness has also occurred as a spontaneous mutation in longhaired breeds such as Persians and Birmans.

    Finally, two fictional hairless "breeds" are the Egyptian Hairless Cat (a hypoallergenic cat invented by the TV show Friends) and the Chinese Hairless Cat (based on claims made by a French breeder of Sphynx). The "Longhair Sphynx," claimed to be the powder-puff version of the breed, was a Cat Fancy April Fool's joke, although several cats later turned up in the United States that had long fine fur on the chest, but were otherwise almost hairless.

    Sphynx

    The Elf is a curl-eared Sphynx.

    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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