Siris and Calpyso, Sphynx cats at our Rancho Cordova Clinic

Here are Siris and Calypso at our pet vaccination clinic in Rancho Cordova. Look carefully – these cats are the hairless breed called Sphynx. Despite its name, the Sphynx is a new breed which has nothing to do with Egypt. Although there have always been reports of the occasional hairless cat, the actual breeding of today’s cats only began 40 years ago and the story is just a bit confusing. There were breeders in Europe in the ’60s who were trying to develop a breed of hairless cat and there was a 1966 attempt in Canada to back breed a hairless kitten to its mother and create the Canadian Sphynx. These early efforts were never officially recognized due to fertility problems. The Sphynx cat of today began it’s history with discovery in 1975 of two hairless barn cats in Minnesota. This was followed in 1978 by the discovery of three hairless stray cats in Toronto and these plus some other discoveries were the foundation stock of the Sphynx breed. As we can see, the Sphynx is completely hairless although some individuals may have a bit of fragile hair and/or whiskers which easily break off and disappear. The body has a Siamese like appearance and the skin color reflects exactly what the hair color pattern would have been if there were any hair. The hairless condition is caused by a rare recessive genetic mutation and through careful breeding programs it has become predictable in the breed. Because they have no hair, these cats seem extremely warm which makes them pleasant to hold but this is to the cat’s disadvantage: They are always losing heat to the environment around them and therefore are completely dependent on us humans to keep them warm in moderate or cool weather. The Sphynx cat, being as small as a human baby, has no more cold protection than does a naked baby and so keeping them warm is a serious consideration. Additionally, because there is no hair to block the sun and because tanning is not a process which cats have developed during their evolution, they must also be protected so they don’t suffer skin cancers and melanoma which can result from exposure to the sun’s UV radiation. The Sphynx Cat is a very interesting breed with an interesting history but it might make one wonder, ‘Why?’

– Geoffrey Antipa

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