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There are simply countless opinions out there for the care of a Sphynx cat. One thing is clear - despite being hairless, they still need special attention for grooming and hygiene. Below is what we do and what has worked for us. Rest assured - you will find what works for you and your cat.
I get the question all the time: "Don't you have to bathe them?"
Yes, Sphynx cats need regular baths. Sphynx skin, like ours, creates sebum, a waxy/oily substance made by the sebaceous glands. Without hair to whisk it away and off the skin, over time (and between baths), this can build up on their skin, making it easy for dirt and dust to stick to them. You may see evidence of this build-up under their nails (their nails can look brown or black) and even on their teeth (after licking/grooming themselves so often). Even some of our kittens will get a spot on their noses and around their mouths because they nurse from their mom so often that they pick up her oils.
With a lighter-colored Sphynx, you can clearly tell when its bath time. For a darker Sphynx, the safest bet is to just give them regular baths anyway. If your cat is great at cleaning itself, you may be able to go longer between baths. The usual tricky spot for our cats is under their chin on their neck, where they can't quite reach to clean.
I give my kittens a quick bath once a week in a large bowl with warm water to get them accustomed to it (say, after one month of age). It is important that they get dry and warm quickly. In between, I gently wipe them with a wet rag and then dry them so they don't get too cold. I give my adult cats a bath at least three times a month. Some people do at least once a week. You will learn your cat's needs and adjust accordingly.
Sphynxes even lack eye lashes. They will get dirt and dust build-up in the corner of their eyes. You can gently wipe it out with a wet rag , paper towel, or a fragrance-free wipe.
Be on the lookout for eye discharge. They can easily get things like litter in their eyes which may cause conjunctivitis (pinkeye). It is not uncommon for litters of kittens to get pinkeye and we watch for this everyday, especially as they are learning to use the litter box and push the litter all over the place. Conjunctivitis will require an antibiotic treatment. Sphynx cats are also more prone to Feline upper respiratory infections, which may manifest itself as eye discharge.
Because a Sphynx mostly has no hair in or around its ears, a dark, waxy substance can build up inside the ear. It may alarm some new Sphynx owners, as it sometimes can look like evidence of ear mites (if you let it get bad enough). You can see examples of this in some pictures of our cats and kittens. It happens all the time. We simply use Q-tips to get it out, sometimes with coconut oil as well, being careful not to go too deep.
It is best to clean their ears after bath time; the steam and moisture may have helped loosen it up. You can research different ear cleaning products and find one that works for you and your cat. As always, please ask for a recommendation of what to use from your veterinarian.
For moisturizers or lotions, there are some recommendations online about natural products, particularly coconut oil. Many Sphynx owners use this product to clean and help keep their cat's skin from drying out, and they swear by it. It also acts as a sunblock! We have used it quite a few times for cleanings. Mostly, our cat's skin doesn't dry out, but if it does, we definitely recommend coconut oil usage regularly.
A Sphynx can get acne - it's true! In my experience, Nile has gotten black heads under his chin once. They will usually appear in the chin area for a lot of cats. These have to be treated or you will risk inflammation in the area and this will cause discomfort for your cat. I used an anti-bacterial soap and scrubbed his chin area only about twice a day. They did go away without vet intervention, thankfully. Please contact your veterinarian if black heads show up and you are not sure what to do.
Your Sphynx CANNOT be an outdoor cat. They cannot regulate body temperature as well as cats with hair, so they are at risk of hypothermia. They will also get sunburned! Please keep an eye on them when they are sunbathing in windows as well.
I brush their teeth regularly using the Fresh Breath Oral Care Kit for Cats. Do not use the finger-cover scrub brush that comes in the kit. Your cat will bite down right through that thing!
If your cat has particularly bad breath, brushing daily and using a water additive may help. I find that fish foods, like salmon and tuna, make their breath worse.
Sphynx cats, and especially Sphynx kittens, may get the waxy substance from their skin on their teeth. This is due to them grooming themselves. You can brush it off. Nile had this problem as a kitten, but it went away with adulthood. If you're not used to it, you might think your kitten's teeth look worrisome or rotten. If you take your fingernail, you will find that it scrapes off.
Sphynx are not completely hairless. They can and often will grow a fine fuzz on their bodies. Our female, Nina, will grow it on her paws, ears, tail-- and then during pregnancy and queening-- around her thighs/hind legs. Nile grows some fuzz on his ear tips and tail. It differs from cat to cat.
You may find that this hair comes out easily if you rub it. It is much like a peach fuzz.
Spaying or neutering your Sphynx may help keep it more hairless, as some cats grow it specifically during hormonal changes. However, some Sphynx cats just have a certain amount of fuzz all year long. Kittens that have fuzz may end up with very little in adulthood, and kittens who appear completely bald may get fuzz in adulthood. There's simply no telling until they're fully grown.
Trim their nails like you would a normal cat. PetSmart sells a nail trimmer designed for small claws, like a kittens'. I use these trimmers on our kittens' nails. Nina doesn't mind getting her nails trimmed, but Nile can be a struggle. I wrap him in a towel and pull out one foot at a time to trim.
Offer adequate scratching posts/items to help keep their nails from getting too long or sharp. If you give them plenty of scratching options, the likelihood that they scratch your furniture will decrease.
That waxy build-up can get onto and under their nails. You can rub it off with a rag during bath time, or scrape out any that is up under the nail with a toothpick. I use a rubber-tipped dental tool that is a bit pointy.
There is a wide array of recommendations out there for a cat's diet, especially a Sphynx.
Some people strictly feed with raw foods. Raw has its benefits and challenges, but there is a huge push for feeding raw to dogs and cats right now; I haven't yet approached it. I suggest consulting your veterinarian if in doubt of what to feed.
Sphynx cats need a bit more calories than a normal/haired cat because their metabolism is typically higher due to their hairless nature and its relation to regulating body temperature.
I feed my cats Hills Science Diet. Nina gets Hills kitten food, wet and dry, during pregnancy and queening, for the extra calories. Nile gets the adult Hills food. It is a pretty good brand and the prices are not unreasonable for what you get. I have tried brands that I understood to be better, but even after a slow food change plan, they still had loose stools. Hills just worked for all of my cats combined, so I settled on that. They like the chicken flavor. Generally, if feeding hard or canned food, try to get one that has meat as the first ingredient. Some Hills food has water as the first ingredient, but this is usually the ones that are chunks of meat suspended in a sauce.
If you would like to switch their food, I strongly recommend a strict and gradual change. Decent cat food change plans can be found online. Your kitten may get diarrhea from this or that food, and it can take multiple brand attempts to figure out what works.
There is no question that your Sphynx will seek out a warm spot to snuggle on or in. You will find them near anything that generates some sort of heat, like your cable box, gaming console, near your central air vents, or on top of your dryer...
If you keep your house cool, offer a cat hide with a nice, warm blanket for them to ball up in. Some Sphynx owners keep a heated blanket on for their Sphynx. Be careful if you do this, as it can easily get too hot. Try finding one with a digital thermostat as opposed to low-high settings.
I keep a small heater in the cat room. It does not heat up the whole room, it is just a spot for them to go to so they can warm up if needed.
Keep an eye on your Sphynx when they sunbathe in a window. They can easily fall asleep and get some sunburn.
I prefer top-entry litter boxes. The specific model I have can be found on Amazon: "IRIS Top Entry Cat Litter Box." These are litter boxes that are large and enclosed except for the hole on top for the cat to enter. To get out, they have to jump back onto the lid, which catches a lot of loose litter from their feet, though nothing will completely catch all of the loose litter. I also put a litter mat next to the litter box to help catch the litter.
I use two of these and scoop once a day into a small, 5-gallon bag, then put that bag in a diaper pail lined with a large bag (to lock in smell). It makes it easier - once the diaper pail is full of the little bags, you take the big bag from it and carry it out to the trash.
I used Litter Genie for a while but found it fills up too quickly for the money you spend on the bags. They make a Litter Genie XL, but you may as well get a diaper pail (it is the same size at that point). You will have a hard time finding the XL litter genie bags in stores like Target or PetSmart.
I thought about getting the Litter Robot at one point, but some of the thorough reviews are REALLY bad and made a lot of sense - where the sifting mechanism gets clogged up and is difficult to clean. If you get one, let me know how it goes!
The litter I use is "Arm & Hammer Clump and Seal Slide." I tried several litters. This one sifts well and doesn't stick too much, especially if your cat or cats pee in the same spot before you get a chance to clean. Our cats did not go for the gel litter nor the recycled pellets. This litter is also widely-available whenever you need it.
I recommend spaying or neutering around 4 months of age and no later than 6 months. I do not offer breeding rights so it is a contractual obligation when buying from me that you must fix your cat. Please make sure your kitten has been well-established and comfortable in your household before adding a surgery to the mix of stressors. Fixing your cat can help with a lot of things, including spraying, attitude, and unwanted pregnancy. Please also ask your veterinarian for when he or she recommends fixing your cat. You will find the recommended age is all over the place if you research online only.
Sphynx cats are NOT hypoallergenic. This is because many people are allergic to the saliva, oils, and dander more so than cat hair. However, you will find that many people with cat allergies own a Sphynx without much of a reaction. Regular baths help keep oils and dander down.
Example: Both my step-mom and nephew are allergic to cats and always have been. My step-mom is fine with my Sphynxes, while my nephew struggles with congestion and itching when he comes over.
Some breeds of cats are just more prone to developing Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) than others. Sphynxes are one of them.
HCM can show up at any time of the kitten/cat’s life, whether the queen or sire have HCM or not. HCM is, essentially, a thickening of the muscular walls of a cat's heart.
Cats with HCM can survive and thrive. Yes, some can and do die from its complications. As breeders, it is our responsibility to never breed cats who have tested positive for HCM. You may read as much as 5-25% of Sphynxes develop this in their lifetimes.
I have our breeding cats tested ANNUALLY for HCM and both are HCM-free thus far. This can be expensive as it is typically done with a pet cardiologist. While with the cardiologist, we also have them do an echo-cardiograph. We recommend that you at least scan for HCM annually as well, because bad enough forms of HCM can require medication. If you detect it in time, the chances of your cat living a good life with care increases.
I also do B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) tests semi-annually. This does not have to be done with the cardiologist. This is a less expensive test that can detect some heart issues. Please consult your veterinarian.
Note: It is not uncommon for heart murmurs to be detected in your kitten by your veterinarian. They can grow out of it. An adult cat with a heart murmur is more of a cause for concern.