Colour: Hairless, but skin can be Black, Blue, Red, Cream, Brown, Lavender, Fawn and White.
The most controversial of all modern cat breeds, the nearly naked Sphynx Cat is a recent Canadian discovery. It has also been called the Canadian Hairless Cat and the Moon Cat, and has been nicknamed the Wrinkled Cat and the Birthday Suit Cat.
Domestic Breed. The most controversial of all modern cat breeds, the nearly naked Sphynx Cat is a recent Canadian discovery. It has also been called the Canadian Hairless Cat and the Moon Cat, and has been nicknamed the Wrinkled Cat and the Birthday Suit Cat. In France it is known as the Chat sans Poils. It has been said that it is 'so ugly that it is beautiful'.
Appearance: A slender, elongated cat with suede-like, almost hairless skin, and a long, pointed tail. Its wedge-shaped head has very large ears and no whiskers. It is hot to the touch, and has sometimes be referred to as a suede hot-water bottle'. Its skin 'should look like velvet and feel like moss'. It has been likened in appearance to E.T., the extra-terrestrial in Steven Spielberg's 1982 film.
History: On 31st January 1966, a black and white pet cat called Elizabeth, belonging to a Mrs Micalwaith of Toronto, gave birth to a mutant hairless male kitten which was given the name of Prune. A young science student from the university heard of this strange new arrival. His mother, a Mrs Yania Bawa, happened to be a breeder of Siamese Cats and together they acquired both the naked kitten and its mother.
When the kitten became adult it was mated back to its mother to produce more hairless kittens. A serious breeding programme was planned, involving a complicated series of crosses with American Shorthair females and hairless males. It was decided to name the hairless progeny as a new breed, the Sphinx, later changed to Sphynx, and to develop it further as a pedigree cat for show competition. Championship status was obtained by 1971 but concern about difficulties in rearing the kittens, especially the female ones, soon led to a decline in interest and, indeed, some strong opposition to it.
Its championship status was later revoked and the breed was in danger of dying out altogether, but a few specimens were exported to Europe where the Sphynx found new supporters. Breeding programmes were begun in both Holland and France and the 'naked cat' eventually arrived in Britain. Even today it remains a rare breed, but its future survival now seems reasonably secure. In the early 1990s TICA (The International Cat Association in America) granted it championship status.
An interesting feature of this cat is that the recessive gene which causes the hairlessness also appears to modify the body shape. The domestic cat that gave birth to the first hairless kitten was of 'average' shape, but the Sphynx Cat is exceptionally elongated and angular. In this respect it is reminiscent of the Rex breeds, where the sparse coat is again apparently linked to a lanky, angular body-shape.
Although this breed has the obvious disadvantage that it cannot stand a cold climate and must always be thought of as an 'indoor cat' needing special protection from its owners, it does have one special advantage, namely that it does not cause allergic responses in those sensitive to cat fur.(It has now been reported that, in cases of extreme allergy, even this cat may cause problems because of the very fine 'peach-fuzz' of down hair present on its skin.)
Personality: As anyone who has encountered this cat in the flesh will testify, its sensitivity and loving nature more than compensates for its bizarre appearance. It is unusually sociable and affectionate. It has been described as: 'part monkey, part dog, part child and part cat'.
Those who have only seen the cat in photographs sometimes take a less flattering view of it. It has also been described as 'the ugliest cat alive' and 'a creature with a hairless body, a snake's head, a rat's tail, and ears like bats' wings.'
Colour forms: Any colours accepted.
International Sphynx Breeders and Fanciers Association. Address: HC66, Box 70035, Pinetop, AZ 85935, USA. or S.W. 210 Cedar Street, Pullman, WA 99163, USA.
Sphynx Cat Club. Address: 10 York Road, Waltham Cross, Herts, EN8 7HW.
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