Sphynx cats are high maintenance

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The sphynx cat breed has become one of the most popular over the past 5-10 years. This is due to their unique and unusual appearance and what is said to be their intelligence. They have a monkey-like character and abilities and can make excellent companions with the right person who should realise, before adopting, that this is a high maintenance cat breed. A story on the Internet today highlights this feature of the breed.

It concerns the rehoming of 19 Sphynx cats from a Sheffield, UK breeder. Six of them went to a rescue organisation while the other 13 were rehomed by the breeder but they weren’t neutered. Here are two of the rescued cats:

Rescued female Sphynx cats Lady and Melynake, who are 16 months old, from a breeder who could not cope. Image: Lauren James-Thompson.

Cat rescuer’s assessment on maintenance

Lauren James-Thompson at Sheffield cat charity Cat-Ching said that despite having no coat which might indicate to some people that they are lower maintenance than normal they are in fact the opposite and “extremely high maintenance”.

She said that they require the following to maintain them:

  • Special kitty shower caps and specialist shampoo for their weekly baths. She says that they are “incredibly oily, so caring for them properly involves weekly baths and special shampoo, regular ear and eye cleans [and] they can be pretty sassy in the water”.
  • Specialist and costly brands of cat food – see comment below.
  • They can only live indoors to avoid sunlight burning their skin.
  • Intensive nail cleaning to prevent toe infections.

Below I expand on Lauren’s list based on my research. I’ll say right away that I don’t believe that Sphynx cats need specialist cat food. My research indicates that they do not have sensitive stomachs. High-quality cat foods, mainly wet, should suffice.

RELATED: Sphynx breed standard – summary plus illustration

Skincare

Without fur they don’t need brushing, combing or flea combing but they still need regular grooming. The skin produces oils which is typical of all domestic cats but as it has no coat to go to it builds up on the skin where it is greasy and attracts dirt. This breed can become dirty and require regular bathing usually once every week or perhaps twice weekly to keep the skin clean and prevent an oily buildup. Comment: this is a great shame because what’s happening here is that the natural oils that a cat produces to improve the condition of their coat has to be cleaned off the cat because there is no coat. This is fighting against nature. What we are saying here is that a cat without a coat is anatomically defective. That’s obvious but it is brought home by this need to have to bathe them regularly.

A gentle cat shampoo needs to be used to avoid drying out their skin and they should be dried thoroughly after bathing to prevent chilling.

Heat sensitivity

Without a coat Sphynx cats are heat sensitive. They can easily become overheated in hot climates during the summer months. The caregiver should provide them with a cool and well ventilated environment. You might use fans or air conditioning to regulate their body temperature. They need to be monitored closely to ensure that they don’t get exposed to extreme heat.

It would seem reasonable to suggest that the opposite can happen: the home could be too cold. The correct ambient temperature would appear to be necessary for a Sphynx cat. My research indicates that they tend to seek warmth if the ambient temperature is not up to scratch. This would be normal for all domestic cats.

But the cat’s coat helps to regulate body temperature. It helps to maintain a correct body temperature. No coat and this function is lost.

Thermoregulation

No coat results in heat loss which affects the cat’s ability to maintain a correct body temperature. A 20% increase in food is needed to provide extra energy to the cat to help them maintain their body temperature.

Sun protection

Without fur the cat has no protection against sunburn from UVB and UVA light. If they are allowed to go outside in a controlled way their skin needs to be protected from the sun’s harmful rays. You can use pet safe sunscreens on the exposed areas such as the ears and nose. Time outdoors should be limited and should be at a time when the sun is at its weakest to prevent sunburn or there should be plenty of shady areas.

Is it possible to get sunburn through a window? On the basis that Sphynx cats are kept indoors full-time which is normal, it’s worth noting that it is possible to get sunburn through a window. Although the amount of UV rays that pass through glass depends upon the type of window and the sun’s intensity and of course the time of day, and while glass blocks most UVB rays, more than 50% of UVA rays can penetrate glass. In humans this can cause premature skin ageing and contribute to skin cancer. It would be sensible to protect Sphynx cats from the sun inside the home in some circumstances.

Attention and socialisation

It is said that Sphynx cats are highly social and affectionate. They need plenty of interaction with their caregiver. It’s not clear whether they are more demanding than normal in terms of social interaction. I doubt whether they are but it is probably fair to say that more than other domestic cats they need the attention of their owner for the above reasons and in terms of social interaction.

Health issues

As is not unusual in purebred cats, Sphynx cats inherit some diseases such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) which is a very typical heart condition inherited by a number of cat breeds such as the Maine Coon for example. The Sphynx can also suffer from respiratory infections and skin conditions such as dermatitis or sunburn. In addition, my research indicates that they can contract congenital (hereditary) myopathy and have a predisposition to periodontal disease, and urticaria pigmentosa. And as you can see in the linked article below, this breed is prone to developing yeast infections. And my research indicates the breed has a higher incidence to certain ocular disease than normal.

RELATED: Sphyx cat health concerns.

Hereditary myopathy affects muscles used for movement and muscles required for breathing. Urticaria pigmentosa is a condition where there are too many inflammatory cells (mast cells) in the skin. These are immune system cells that help the body to fight infections. Periodontal disease as you probably know is gum disease.

Thes health concerns might mean health insurance which in turn means more maintenance costs.

Below are some more articles on the Sphynx cat.

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