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Norwich Bulletin - 7/22/2007

The Naked Sphynx

The first time you see a Sphynx in person, you will have a reaction. No-one can meet these unusual little felines and not form an instant opinion. Some will see magic in the Sphynx persona and others will think they are the ugliest cats they have ever seen. But whether you think they are beautiful or not, they are definitely exotic and mysterious.

The very first thing I want to say about this breed is that they are a cat like any other cat. They just look different. They also have one of the best personalities of any of the cat breeds in that they are loving, patient, tolerant, and social. They get along with other cats, dogs and even children! I have had two in my life Phoebe and Chloe and they were the most amazing creatures and I so miss their antics.

Where did they come from? Well, wherever it was, it was not Egypt. In fact, they were named by a CFA judge (David Mare) in 1973. He said they reminded him of an Egyptian cat statue in the Louvre, which bears some resemblance to the breed. He went through all sorts of Egyptian names and decided that Sphynx was just a wonderful name for a wonderful cat.

There have been natural mutations of hairless cats in Toronto, Minnesota and Michigan that are all credited for this breed's beginnings. The truth is that they probably all had something to do with the start of the formation of the cat and today's Sphynx standard. But it is certain that these hairless cats were born of a domestic nature and not simply bald Devon Rexes.

When I am judging the Sphynx it is funny to watch the spectators' faces. Many have a look of wonder about them and they start asking a lot of questions, typically about how the cat feels. They don't actually want to touch the cat, but just want to know how it feels to touch the cat. I describe it as warm suede.

It is the most wonderful feeling to pet a Sphynx or to have one sleep under the covers, against your body on a chilly night. They exude warmth. However, it is a misconception that they have a higher body temperature than other cats. Their normal temperature is the same as any other cat. So their warmth is just another mystery about the breed! If you are at a cat show, ask one of the breeders if they will let you touch their Sphynx. It is truly an experience.

You might think that since there is no hair to brush that the breed requires no grooming. That is definitely not the case. They need to be bathed about once a week because the oils on their skin are not absorbed or disguised by fur like they are on the breeds with hair. The oils stay on their skin and collect dirt and dust as they go through their normal days.

And then they tend to secrete a heavy oil around their nails and have very waxy ears. Nails and ears must be cleaned frequently and if you fail to clean your cat's ears at least once a week, there is a high chance of yeast infections. So I would classify a Sphynx as a high maintenance cat in the grooming area.

While many people with allergies find they can have a Sphynx, they are not hypoallergenic. They have dander and protein in their saliva like other cats. However, people with allergies seem to be able to tolerate this breed much better and a vast majority of people who could not have a cat in the past, can have a Sphynx. The best thing to do, if you have allergies, before actually buying a Sphynx , is to go to a reputable breeder's home and spend time interacting with the cats. If you do not have a reaction to being around a number of Sphynx cats, chances are you will be able to have one in your home.

Aside from their hairlessness, Sphynx have a unique look about them. When they are on the judge's table, I generally describe a nice example of the breed as being everything I strive not to be: bald, wrinkled, big eared and with a pear shape belly! They also have the most beautiful lemon drop eyes that seem to mesmerize.

They are a wonderful cat. They run to the door to greet you or anyone who may happen to come to your house. They jump on your shoulders, climb into your lap, and they are loyal, wonderful companions.

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