The main feature of a Sphynx is its lack of a fur coat. The cats are not, however, entirely hairless but covered with fine, downy hair that is said to be like a peach skin. This cat has no whiskers or eyelashes. The skin is wrinkled on parts of the head, body and legs but should be taut everywhere else. Pigmentation is clearly visible on the skin of the Sphynx and it can have many skin patterns and colours.
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Health and welfare of hairless cats
Cats have hair and fur for important reasons – it provides protection, warmth and helps with communication. The hairs also provide information about the cat’s environment, as they are very sensitive to touch. Because keeping its coat in perfect condition is very important, the cat has developed a barbed tongue for effective grooming and spends a large amount of time on this activity. Depriving a cat of its hair coat will have many detrimental consequences including exposing delicate skin to harmful ultraviolet light, and making skin injury much more likely. Because there is no hair on which to distribute the oil produced by the skin, the oil accumulates and can make it feel greasy, mark furniture or collect in the cat’s nail beds. Hairless cats have to be bathed on a regular basis. The skin may be prone to yeast infections and obviously the cats are susceptible to cold and to sunburn if they go outside.
Despite their lack of hair, Sphynx cats can still cause allergic reactions. Allergies to cats are usually caused by an allergen in feline saliva.
Health and welfare issues – other
International Cat Care’s position is that for a cat, a coat is essential. We should not be breeding hairless cats.
We have limited the information about inherited disorders to those conditions that are known and proven to exist within a breed. For many breeders and many conditions, insufficient information may be available at this time to know whether any particular breed is necessarily free of any particular condition.
In general, pedigree breeds use a much smaller gene pool for breeding than domestic cats and therefore have a higher risk of developing inherited disorders. In addition, a number of ‘newer’ pedigree breeds are derived from matings between one or more ‘older’ breeds, and in these situations perpetuation of inherited problems that were seen in older breeds is likely within the newer breeds.