Sphinxes: Aliens that Have Tacit Understanding with Us
History of the breed
Bald cats have been known to the mankind since ancient times. In particular, there are testaments that these surprisingly graceful creatures lived in the epoch of the prosperity of the Aztec civilization, dwelling in temples, where they helped priests to get a blessing of gods.
Probably, these cats were ancestors of the breed which was called Mexican (and sometimes even Aztecs) Hairless, and which had disappeared by the beginning of the XXth century. Anyway, in 1903 such animals were described by Frances Simpson in "The Book of the Cat". Nelly and Dick - two hairless cats that got to a certain Mr. Shinik from Aztec Indians – were demonstrated at the first cat shows in the USA at the beginning of the last century. This couple lived till the beginning of 30s, and unfortunately had no kittens (however, there are data that Nelly and Dick were a brother and a sister). If we look at the description, the Mexican Hairless differed from the modern Sphinx: these cats had a long body, a wedge-like head with amber eyes and long whiskers which modern Sphinxes simply lack. In the winter time long hair grew on their backs, which disappeared till summer. The genetics of this mutation has remained unknown.
The Mexican Hairless was perhaps genetically close to the Don Sphinx, because both of them have whiskers and an ability to grow hair in winter despite the lack of hair.
However, Mexican Hairless cats and their descendants are not the only hairless cats which are known in the history of felinology: separate cases of birth of hairless kittens from ordinary cats have been observed worldwide. However, in none of these cases people attempted to create a new breed. The emergence of the hairless cat breed is connected with the year 1966, when a hairless kitten called Prun was born from an ordinary domestic cat in Ontario, Canada. Some time later Prun was interbred with his mother and there appeared normal and hairless kittens. As long as it was possible, Prun was interbred with his daughters and granddaughters in order to keep as many original genes as possible. As a result there emerged two varieties of the Sphinx that differed from one another to some extent in terms of their appearence.
At the end of the 60s the breed got an interim status, but in 1971 CFA revoked it. What was the reason? Breeding of Sphinxes failed for several reasons: first, there were very few representatives of the breed, and there was no hope to stabilize it using animals available to felinologists. Moreover, breeders did not sort out the genetics of the Sphinx: at that time they mistakenly thought that lack of hair was related to the cat's sex. Second, Sphinx kittens turned out to be more demanding in terms of care than ordinary cats, and they often died. And third, the breeding strategy of the first catteries turned out unsuccessful. The history of the Sphinx could finish there, but for new findings. In 1975 a hairless male cat called Epidermis (not without humor) was born in Wadena, Minnesota, from an ordinary short-hair cat. A year later a female cat was born there. Both animals got to Z. Stardust cattery where Epidermis became a founder of the most elite breed lines for today. At the end of the 70s 3 new hairless kittens – a black and white male cat called Bambi, and two female cats - were found in the streets of Toronto, near to the place, where the first Sphinxes had been born. Unfortunately, when it was found, Bambi's condition was terrible: one eye had run out, and an urgent surgical operation was needed to remove the cat's injured testicles. So, Bambi did not become a breed forefather, although it deserved it, since it was of a wonderful type. But Bambi got famous for another reason: it has been the longest-lived Sphinx of all. Bambi lived a long and a happy life and died after its 19th birthday. Two other cats called Pinky and Paloma were sent to Holland where they became foremothers of the European line of the breed. Further, to support the genetic pool of the Canadian Sphinx breed, they interbred kittens with both, Sphinxes and Devon Rexes. The choice of Devon Rexes turned out to be very good: their type and appearence are the closest to those of Sphinxes, and moreover Devons turned out to be the only breed, matings with which led to birth of hairless kittens already in the first generation.
However, everything has its price. Such a massive influx of blood of another, although genetically close breed had an impact on the Canadian Sphinx. Unfortunately modern Sphinxes of some lines often resemble mediocre hairless Devons: thin skin, short "devon-like" head with too round eyes for a Sphinx, low-set ears like those of the Devon, sometimes a bony body, which is too light for a Sphinx - a clear sign of breed degeneration. Wrinkled skin making Sphinxes resemble little old men, which was characteristic of the first Sphinxes, is now rarely found in adult animals. Indeed, kittens are still dressed in "large-size pajamas", but as the kitten grows, the wrinkles are smoothed and remain only on the head, and ideally on the neck.
Sphinxes of many contemporary lines specially European ones and American ones originating from them, resemble exquisite porcelain figurines rather than strange wrinkled dwarfs, as they looked at first. Perhaps the most "wrinkled" Canadian Sphinxes today are those that belong to the lines originating from the legendary Epidermis, although even they are far from their "ancestor".
|Aztec Baringa of Ruaztec 1993|
New natural mutations connected with the lack of hair sometimes happen on the American continent. Such animals are very much appreciated, and they try to use their potential for breeding to the maximum extent. "New baldies" usually become the pride of catteries.
In the territory of the former Soviet Union the first couple of Canadian sphinxes appeared in Moscow, inTanya Smirnova's Ruaztec cattery. They were brought from North America. They were a famous cat Aztec Baringa nicknamed Pelmen and Nefertiti from the Grandpaws cattery. This couple gave the first offspring of Canadian sphinxes in Russia.
Standard and status of the Canadian Sphinx
A Canadian Sphinx is not just a cat without hair. Of course, absence of hair is a basic sign of the breed, by which visitors recognize sphinxes at shows. But breeders and felinologists know: there are particular standards for all other parts of the Sphinx's body, and absence of hair on the body is the not the most important sign n relation to morphology of the head type, body type, character, and the overall harmonious impression that a Sphinx should leave. Appearance of a real Sphinx is just magic. It resembles of a Tanagra figurine. All the lines of its body are smooth, gradual, but at the same time you will never call them elegant. Elegance of movement and distorted front hand-paws, a pear-shaped belly and a tail folded into a tight bun and pressed to a side. Sphinx's ears are huge and wide in the base, with rounded tips, medium-set (not high or low), and its eyes' shape reminds a lemon. The skin is thick, forming folds on the head, face, neck, belly and a bit on the body. The body is strong and muscular. Hind limbs are longer than fore limbs, that is why the Sphinx has a unique gait. The skin is like suede by touch because of short hair covering the whole body, and hot. All Sphinxes have hair on the nose, behind ears, sometimes on the tip of the tail up to the hock joint, and male cats have hair on testicles. Moreover, hair can appear in these places and on the body in case of hormonal changes (heat, pregnancy, lactation period), incorrect feeding, feeding with Royal Canin and if the temperature n the room is low, if the animal is GENETICALLY inclined to groeing hair.
Regognition of the Canadian Sphinx as a breed was a difficult matter, and only the "second wave" in breeding which began from the second found animals allowed to create this unique breed.
|Ruaztec Cheburashka 1993|
The following is the final standard of the Canadian Sphinx adopted to judge in accordance with the CFA system (with awarding of the champion status), which has been valid since May 1, 2002:
General description: The most distinctive feature of this cat is its appearance of hairlessness. The Sphynx is of medium size and body conformation, with quite surprising weight for its size. There is sex dimorphism, that is females are generally smaller than males. The head is shaped like a modified wedge, with prominent cheekbones and whisker pads, which give its face (that is the part of the head from the nose bridge to the chin) a "square" look. The body feels warm and soft by touch, with a skin texture akin to either a soft peach or a smooth nectarine. The Sphynx is sweet-tempered, lively, smart and sociable.
HEAD: The head is slightly longer than it is wide, with prominent cheekbones and a "whisker break" (the transition line from the cheekbones to the muzzle with an outstanding break). The skull is slightly rounded with a flat plane in front of the ears. The nose is straight and there is a slight to moderate palpable stop (there should be an evident "pit" or a "hollow" at the bridge of the nose).
CHEEKS AND CHEEKBONES: Prominent, rounded cheekbones which define the eye and form a curve above the whisker break.
MUZZLE AND CHIN: The whisker break with prominent whisker pads. Strong, well developed chin forms a perpendicular line with the upper lip.
NECK: The neck is medium in length, rounded, muscular, with a slight arch. Allowance to be made for heavy musculature in adult males. Adult male cats may have heavy musculature.
EARS: Ears are large to very large in size. They are broad at the base, open and upright. When viewed from the front, the outer base of the ear should begin at the level of the eye, and they should be set neither low nor too high. The inner part of the ears is without hair.
EYES: Eyes are large, lemon-shaped (wide-open in the center and narrowing on each side). They are a little slanting (the outer side is a little bit higher than the inner one), and go on the same line with the outer base of the ear. Eyes are widely set apart with the distance between the eyes being a minimum of one eye width. Eyes may be of any colour.
BODY: The body is of medium length, hard and muscular, with broad rounded chest and full round abdomen. The rump is also rounded and muscular. The back line rises just behind the shoulder blades because of the great length of the back legs, which is visible when the animal is standing. The physique is medium.
LEGS: Legs are medium and proportional to the body. They are sturdy and muscular, with hind legs being slightly longer than the front. Paws are like human hands, they are oval with well-developed long knuckled toes. The paw pads are thick, and it seems that the cat stands on thick cushions.
TAIL: The tail is slender, flexible, and long. Its lenght is proportional to the body. It is whip-shaped, narrowing to the tip.
COAT AND SKIN: The cat seems hairless. Short, fine hair may be present on the feet, outer edges of the ears, the tail, and the scrotum. The bridge of the nose should be normally coated. The remainder of the body can be completely hairless or covered with soft peach-like fuzz, the length of which should not be more than 2 mm. Such coat texture can be felt when stroking the cat, it creates a feeling of suede or velour. The skin is thick and wrinkled, especially around the muzzle, between the ears, and around the shoulders. There are usually no whiskers but if whiskers are present they are short, twisted and broken.
COLOUR: The colour and the pattern are difficult to judge, and they should not affect the judging of the cat. White lockets, buttons, or belly spots are allowed. Any colour is recognized, except for those that not evenly coloured (smoke, cameo, chnchilla, etc.). Sun baths lead to more intense colour and uneven pigment distribution.
FAULTS: There is more hair than described. Delicate or frail appearance. To thin body, delicate or frail appearance. Straight profile. Narrow head. The body should not resemble that of the Devon Rex, Cornish Rex or Oriental. Too exotic appearence (prominent eyes, too prominent stop, too pulled up back of the nose). An animal that does not look like a Canadian Sphinx. Undershot or overshot bite. A beveled, a weak, a flat chin. A malevolent animal.
DISQUALIFICATION: Hooked or abnormal tail. Face abnormalities. Aggressive behavior that does not allow a judge to take the cat in hands.
Abbreviation generally accepted for the breed: SPH (SPX, CSX)
Emotionally about the breed
"Sphynx" – this word itself is magic, it evokes the following associations: pyramids, sand, mysticism of Ancient Egypt. And what is a Sphynx cat? This is also magic, but real magic consisting of flesh and blood. This is a figurine cat. These are soft lines of the body, magic of harmony, a look of green eyes directed right to the heart. This is not a cat, this is poetry. A Sphynx can not be called just a cat: this is a being who has come to us from another planet. This is an embodiment of all the best features of wildlife and humans. Yes, humans, because they are very like us: they have paws resembling hands, they love to sleep under a blanket, with their pink ears on a pillow, they look right to eyes not looking away, which is not typical for animals. This is a shock cat. The first shock happens when you see the Sphynx for the first time. Nobody remains indifferent at the sight of this amazing being. The second shock is sensation of a hot, naked, suede body in your hands. A person who has once risked to take this being in his arms will never let it go. The third shock is magic of the Sphynx's personality. When you communicate with the Sphynx, its unusual, exotic appearance seems only an addition, a supplement to its amazing character. This being does not bear loneliness, it wants constant communication with you. The Sphynx needs to be close to you, to look at you, to sleep having snuggled up to you with all its body, so that you could kiss its nose. It cannot be explained with words, but the fact is that having got a Sphynx one time, you will never betray it; it will always occupy its corner in your heart. And the life will be divided into two periods: before the Sphynx and after the Sphynx. Or more exactly, with the Sphynx:).
Le Grand Tanushi Miss Chocolate Cookies of Nostalgie
Treasure from the country of the maple leaf
I want to emphasize that I will tell about the Canadian Sphynx. Several recognized breeds of naked Sphynx cats exist currently in the world:
* The Canadian Sphynx,
* The Don Sphynx or the Russian Hairless;
* The Petersburg Sphynx or Peterbald.
Moreover, there are breeds being developed now: The Bambino (Munchkin + the Canadian Sphynx); the Elf (the American Curl + the Canadian Sphynx); the Dwelf (the American Curl + Munchkin + the Canadian Sphynx); the Ukrainian Levkoy (the Scottish Fold + the Don Sphynx + Peterbold); the Kohona (or the Hawaiian Hairless, which is not a hybrid breed, but a result of natural mutation).
The Canadian Sphynx is quite a stable breed with almost 50-year experience inheriting its features recessively.
Your cat is a Sphynx, IF...
* it is ready to sit and ogle at you for a long time, to tell you about it from time to time and to touch you with its paw to get sure you are near;
* it runs across trees and seat backs as a monkey;
* it resembles an alien, and its eyes are very intelligent;
* its ears are like those of a bat, and its paws are like hands;
* it can grimace in front of the photographer for a long time;
* it likes to pretend to be a figurine, standing still in various elegant poses;
* it can eat your chocolate, which you have left, and likes any exotics such as grapes, melon and other non-cat food;
* it prefers to sleep on your bed, especially between you and the blanket;
* your cat noses into all cracks in your home, and pesters the dog with tender feelings;
* it can lie on your desk for hours enjoying the rays of the electric lamp and preventing you from working;
* it likes to lick you with its rough tongue resembling abrasive paper and thinks that makes you the happiest owner in the world;
* it can replace a hot-water bag in cold winter evenings and heals headaches.
And if your cat understands you without words and thoughts stir in its green eyes, this is surely the Sphynx!
Maintenance and care
Spynxes are easy to be maintained and cared of. The opinion that the Sphynx needs special, "greenhouse" conditions at home is wrong. Nevertheless there are several peculiarities which must be taken into consideration if you have a cat of this breed. First. As to the food, Sphynxes are characterized by excellent appetite and pantophagy, absence of any whims or fastidiousness. It is the result of hypermetabolism. They eat like dogs in Pedigree advertisements: they grasp pieces of food and swallow them without chewing. But, despite its pantophagy, one must adhere to a balanced diet. There is no need to feed the Sphynx only with natural or only with canned feeds, it is better to reasonably combine both, and, certainly, to choose dry, canned and natural feeds of the highest quality. In my cattery I adhere to a certain diet:
1. Meat (raw beef), chicken, beef kidneys, raw hen necks (about 60% of the total diet).
2. Dry food (of such firms as Hills, Jams, Pronature, First Choice) 20% of the total diet.
3. Dairy products (curds) about 15%.
4. A cooked egg or raw egg yolk once a week.
5. Dainties (depending on the cat's preferences) about 1%.
Spynxes are characterized by love to unusual food, for example, to cucumbers or chocolate. Sometimes you can treat it, but only if it does not affect health.
|Eva owned by Olga Lysenko|
The second peculiarity is that Sphynxes sweat and soil, secreting brownish wax-like sthrough the skin. This is probably a defense for the skin deprived of hair. But too abundant secretion of this substance can show that the animal is fed incorrectly (for example, the food is too oily) or does not feel very good. You should find out the cause and elimnate it. If secretions are moderate, it is enough to rub the cat with a wet sponge or baby cleaning napkins. If you want, you can bathe the animal, using baby bath cosmetics or mild shampoo with the acidity level of pH 5.5. One should remember that anything that is harmful for a child is also harmful for a cat and adhere to this principle when using human cosmetics and medicine. Upon bathing the animal should be wiped dry and should not get cold.
The third peculiarity is cleaning of ears. The black-brown secretions accumulate in ears quickly enough. It does no harm to a cat, and cleaning is needed only for decorative purposes. The Sphynx's ears are cleaned with a cotton wool tampon, depending on the extent of dirtying, as well as before shows or photo shooting.
By the way, the Sphynx is a photographer's dream. They wonderfully pose, look directly into the objective and are so funny that one can take numerous photos of them. When I go to my dacha with cats, I necessarily take a camera with me, fearing to miss some charming or picturesque shots.
Sphynxes need sun bathes as people do, of course, to a reasonable extent. They get a tan, and their colour becomes amazing by the end of the summer - they turn bright and contrast, but you should remember that such a cat can "burn" in the sun. Therefore the animal should gradually get accustomed to sunbeams, and it should not be outdoors in noon hours when it is too hot - it is better to do in diffused shade. And in general, the animal should be hardened: it should not grow under a glass cover as a mimosa.
A correct diet, physical activities and love will make your Sphynx resistant to any diseases. You should not wrap your favourite pet up, you should fear only draughts and exposure to cold. Sphynxes do not need increased temperature when they are active (i.e. when they are eating, playing, etc.), but they prefer to sleep in warmth, especially under the owner's blanket, having pressed themselves with all their bodies and loudly purring. (By the way, it is very pleasant to sleep with them – they've been probably created precisely for this). Adult Sphynxes seldom become ill, and even in case of an infection they recover fast enough. They rarely become ill with the kidney stone disease or cancer: it is due to hypermetabolism.
|Nosralge Tori Tara owned by Anna Nikitina|
Sphynxes become sexually mature as other breeds do, at the age of about a year. The animal is finally formed by a year and a half. Female cats are on their first heat at the age of 5-12 months, depending on the heredity. Male cats become sexually mature by the age of about a year, and a half of them spray. The number of kittens in the brood varies from 2 to 5. More often there are 3-4 kittens. Sphynxes give birth to kittens normally, they are not inclined to any patalogies. Female cats have much milk; milk just sprays, therefore nursing cats often become ill with mastitis. Kittens are born naked and wrinkled; they are like unfledged birds. The less hair the kitten has, the more naked it will be in future. The kitten opens its eyes very early, on the 3-4th day of its life. Kittens' ears hang like those of puppies and become straight by the 3rd week, and the larger the Sphynx's ears are, the more intensively they hang and the later they become straight. Kittens are very active and intellectual, and they develop intelligently earlier than physically. As in the case of any breed, the period of learning to eat independently is the most difficult. One needs to monitor the condition of kittens and take urgent measures at the first signs of diarrhea, because small Sphynxes lose vital resources faster because of their hypermetabolism.
Small Sphynxes look just amazingly, it is impossible not to fall in love in them. They are like Cheburashka and a dinosaur simultaneously. They are very big-eared, naked, and the whole body, including the tail and the paws, is wrinkled. And they run across the room loudly stamping as a herd of hedgehogs, having pressed their ears to the back, and, if they fall, there sounds a loud slap as if somebody has thrown a leather purse on the table. Their character and behaviour is like those of naughty kids. It seems that they by no means find themselves cats! They are intelligent, easily learn, are devoted to the person, get on well with any other breed of cats, as well as with other animals, including dogs of any breeds. I would like to emphasize another significant advantage of the breed – people suffering from fleece allergy (namely the fleece, but not the cat) or having no possibilities to care for long fleece can keep these cats.
Myths about Sphynxes
1. The body temperature of the Sphynx is 40-41 degrees and more. This is nonsence. At 42 degrees no living being will survive because protein coagulates at such a temperature. The Sphynx has standard body temperature like any other cat – 38.6°, kittens UP TO 39°. Just absence of hair makes sensations from a touch specific – it seems that the child is running a temperature:). Though all the cats are the same as Sphynxes under their fleece.
2. Sphynxes need special conditions at home – increased surrounding temperature, greenhouse conditions. No, they do not. Sphynxes are not fragile or unhealthy and feel wonderful in an ordinary flat.
3. Sphynxes are aggressive. No, they are not! Moreover, this is the only cat breed, whose standard prescribes disqualification for quarrelsome character or aggression. Sphynxes are passionate, sociable, open and they surprisingly fast get used to changes. This is a cat that gets attached to an owner, but not to a house.
4. Diarrhea is characteristic of all Sphynxes. No, it is not. If everything is ok, an adult Sphynx has hard stool once a day. If your cat does not – change the diet, have medical tests done. And everything will be ok!
Author: Anna Nikitina Nostalgie cattery, Kharkov, Ukraine
The following literature was used to write the article:
1. Article "Moon Cats on Earth" by T. Smirnova, the Drug (Friend in Russian) Journal No. 3, 1998. Some excerpts were used to write the chapters "History of the Breed" and "Breed Status and Standard".
2. Article "The Sphynx – the Best Cat in the Whole World" by Lisa Bressler, TICA Trend, December 1998 – January 1999.