My Sphynx Cat Has Hair
Animal file: Sphynx
We pay too much attention to the fact that Sphynx cats do not have hair. While it is perhaps the most striking trait which differentiates them for most other cat breeds, it is not their most important. More important than appearance is the fact these cats are one of the most sociable and affectionate cat breeds. Misplaced emphasis on coat, or lack thereof, has led to some to find the look of this cat distasteful. Others reduce their value to appearance only. What is important is whether the Sphynx cat is happy and healthy.
Since a Sphynx cat is known for its hairless coat, seeing fur suddenly appear can be confusing or even worrying. At AnimalWised, we look at the reasons why your Sphynx cat has hair.
Are all Sphynx cats hairless?
The Sphynx is a medium-sized cat breed with a strong and muscular chest. Their legs are long and thin, so much so you can see sinew and vein beneath the skin. They have a unique expression which is partly provided by their sunken eyes. As a hairless cat breed, they don't have hair on their body, nor do they have whiskers or other tactile hairs. Combining this body type and their triangular head, they resemble an Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph.
Although lithe of frame, Sphynx cats have folds in their skin and are often oily to the touch. This is not because they secrete more sebum than other cats, but because they don't have any fur to absorb them. For this reason, they need to be bathed more regularly than most other breeds.
While the Sphynx cat can be accurately described as hairless, it is not true that every Sphynx no hair at all. Some have a very fine layer of downy hair, but this is not the same as even a short-haired cat's coat. It should be so fine it is barely recognizable.
Why does my Sphynx cat have fur?
Their characteristic absence of hair is due to a mutation of a recessive gene. This means, for a Sphynx cat to be born without hair, they must carry two recessive alleles of the gene. Their hairlessness is caused by the keratin 71 (KRT71) gene, the gene which encodes the production of the protein keratin. For the Sphynx, the protein doesn't function. It doesn't mean hair can't grow, but the follicle is unable to hold the hair in place.
The KRT71 gene also affects other breeds such as the Devon Rex. In this breeds, the gene functions, but only a little. This is why they have some hair, but it is not a full as other breeds.
Since it is the recessive gene which causes the hairlessness of Sphynx cats, no dominant alleles can be present. If there is a dominant allele (either SS or Ss) in either of the parents, the kitten will have hair. For a true Sphynx to be born, both parents need to have double recessive genes (ss).
Since two hairless Sphynx cats (ss) must be crossed to sire a hairless Sphynx cat, the presence of a dominant allele (SS or Ss) will cause hair to grow. This also means if a Sphynx cat is crossed with a cat with hair, the offspring can have similar features to a Sphynx cat, but they will also have hair. For this reason, if your Sphynx cat has hair, it is likely they are a mixed-breed cat and not a purebred Sphynx.
It is also possible your Sphynx cat has hair because they are being confused with a similar, but separate breed. A Donskoy cat, also known as a Don Sphynx or Russian Hairless, is a similar looking cat. Their hairless trait is due to a dominant mutation, meaning they can be born with some hair. This can be grouped into four types of coat:
- Brush: these have the most hair. They are born with it and progressively lose it in the head, neck and upper back.
- Velour: are born with woolly hair which they lose throughout their first year, leaving some short hair in places such as the face, tail and legs.
- Flocked: they do not have hair, but are born with a velvety down that disappears as they age.
- Rubber bald: they are totally hairless cats from birth.
What to do if my Sphynx cat has fur
If you see your Sphynx cat has hair, you should know the reasons are as described. Either you can feel their very fine hair or they are not a purebred Sphynx cat. While you may have thought your cat was purebred, but they are not, this doesn't mean they have a problem. They will still need to be loved and cared for as with any cat of any breed.
What we do need to consider is that any cat with little or no coat does not have the same protection as other cat breeds. These cats will not only need to be bathed to remove excess skin oils, but they will need to be protected from extreme temperatures. To protect a Sphynx cat from the cold, they will need to have a jacket or be kept in a warm place with plenty of blankets. To protect them from the sun, they need shade and may even need cat-suitable sunscreen.
Can Sphynx cats cause allergies?
For those of us with an allergy to cats, it is important to know that a Sphynx cat is not considered a hypoallergenic cat breed. In fact, there are no true hypoallergenic cat breeds. Many think that we are allergic to a cat's hair, but we are actually allergic to the Fel d 1 protein, a secretoglobin which is found in the cat's saliva and sebaceous glands. We can be allergic to cat hair, but only because this protein is found on the hair itself.
The Fel d 1 protein can also be found in Sphynx cats. In fact, since they have such oily skin, they can be worse for those who suffer from allergies to cats.
In no circumstances should you shave a Sphynx cat if you see they have some hair. Doing so can damage their skin and it will be a very unpleasant experience. If you have a Sphynx cat and they develop hair, you will have to cater to their needs regardless. To learn what this entails, take a look at our article on caring for a Sphynx cat.
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- B. Brunetti, N. Magno, & M. Cappelletti. (2009). World Encyclopedia of Cats. Vecchi Ediciones, SA