Help! Today is July 14, National Nude Day, and I want to celebrate it. My problem is my human mom won’t let me go au naturel. She’s always dressing me. Right now she has me dressed in a pink-lace-embellished T-shirt with a bad Chinese knockoff of Hello Kitty that reads, "Mommy’s Little Snookie Wookum Poo." If the Maine Coon next door peeks into our window, I’ll die of embarrassment.
I want to move to a clothing-optional community.
Magnus the (not so) Manly
We need to get your human a hobby; better still, another cat. How about a Sphynx? This is a breed that can really embrace National Nude Day (observed every July 14). Plus these guys don’t object to playing dress-up.
Back in 1974, singer Ray Stevens recorded "The Streak" about well, streakers. For the under-50 crowd, streakers are people who pranked by running through crowds wearing only a smile. Stevens could have written his ditty about the Sphynx, a hairless breed of cat that looks like a cross between a domestic cat and an extraterrestrial gray.
Alien or not, Sphynx love everyone. These little extroverts love warm laps and blankets, but will also curl up with up with other kitties, the family dog, or aliens from Alpha Centauri — anything warm-blooded. They’re perfect for the woman (or guy) who’s obsessed with dressing up the cat.
Unlike you, Magnus, the Sphynx likes wearing clothes. Not that he enjoys being humiliated, but he loves a sweater that keeps him warm. Many Sphynx have wardrobes that would make supermodel Heidi Klum envious. They’re not a great choice for homes with thermostats that hover at 68 degrees.
"Sphynx tend to be really, really sweet," says cat vet extraordinaire Cynthia Rigoni, owner of All Cats Veterinary Clinic in Houston, certified CFA judging clerk, and servant to her own Sphynx. "Sweeter than the average bear — or, rather, cat."
They want to be with you, and they’re incorrigible showoffs. They’re active cats. On any given day a single Sphynx uses enough energy to power the town of Slicklizzard, Alabama (yes there really is a Slicklizzard). The breed has a reputation as clowns and monkeys. They love a good conversation, and will follow their human around the house expressing their opinions on any number of topics. Like a movie alien, they are fearless.
"They’re elves," Dr. Rigoni says. "Elves aren’t supposed to be nice. They’re supposed to be mischievous. They love to be cuddled. They’re totally elfin, including the magic."
The perfect Sphynx looks the way no human wants to: wrinkled, potbellied, and bald. Despite the hairless claim, Sphynx are actually covered with a soft down or peach fuzz. Some even have fine body hair, mostly limited to the face, feet, and (ahem) scrotum. Unlike furry felines, intact boy Sphynx’s naughty bits are out there and in your face. So any three-year-old human who comes in contact with an unneutered male Sphynx will likely want to know what "those" are.
And speaking of "naughty bits," Dr. Rigoni says a Sphynx feels like a turgid member (as they say in the romance novels): "They’re velvety soft, firm, and smooth at the same time." More conventional but less interesting descriptions include "a suede hot water bottle, warm chamois, or having a buttery feel.”
Their alien facial expression looks like something out of an old B movie. Their loose skin (and subsequent extra wrinkling effect) gives them that constantly wrinkled brow, which projects a chronic “Did I forget to turn off the stove?” expression.
Sans all of that inconvenient fur obscuring their sexy features, Sphynx are solid, medium-sized cats with broad, sometimes barrel chests. On the less sexy side, they have rat tails and their bellies look like they just finished a big meal.
The world’s most famous Sphynx is probably Ted Nude-Gent, the feline star of the Austin Powers movies. In 1997 Ted played Dr. Evil’s Persian cat Mr. Bigglesworth in the blockbuster Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Both Dr. Evil and Mr. Bigglesworth permanently lost their hair after being cryogenically frozen, thus Mr. B’s transformation from Persian to Sphynx. Two years later a company of Sphynx kittens — Mel Gibskin, Skindiana Jones, and Paul Nudeman — portrayed Mini Mr. Bigglesworth in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
You might think their lack of coat would make Sphynx low or even no-maintenance for humans, with no more shedding or time-consuming brushing for your humans. But Sphynx actually require more work than some long-haired breeds.
Dr. Rigoni says Sphynx need frequent baths. How frequently depends on the individual cat. Some can look forward to a regular Saturday night bath, while kitties who produce more oil than Saudi Arabia may need twice-weekly ablutions. Other cats have fur to absorb body secretions. With nothing to soak up their normal oils, they collect on the skin, clogging pores, forming blackheads, and leaving oily stains on the furniture and linens. If grease isn’t washed away, the skin gets sticky. Their bedding should be laundered frequently.
On the plus side, Sphynx are easy to bathe. Dr. Rigoni says, all it takes is, "Lather, lather, rinse, then you can almost blow them dry using lung power." Also, breeders train them from the time they’re small kittens to tolerate bathing.
Like most pedigreed breeds, Sphynx cats have a couple of kinks in their genetic armor. This breed has a predisposition for deadly disease hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Dr. Rigoni says the Sphynx are "fairly healthy if their hearts are good." There is no accurate way to tell if a kitten will develop cardiomyopathy.
Magnus, your human mom should question the breeder about the history of the parents, grandparents, and backwards generations. She should be wary of kittens born out of cats with a history of HCM. A conversation with the breeder’s vet wouldn’t be out of line, either.
Like all cats, Sphynx love to lay the windows and sunbathe. Without a coat to protect them, they’re more at risk of developing skin cancer than cats with fur. Indoor sun worshipers should wear a cat-safe sunscreen. Humans should check with their vet before using any human products on any kitty. Sunscreen containing octyl salicylate is toxic to we kitties.
Some humans believe that Sphynx are hypoallergenic cats because of their lack of fur. Not true. They still produce the allergy-causing protein, Fel d 1, found in cat dander, hair, saliva, and pee. Cat lovers who suffer from milder allergies may be able to tolerate Sphynx because they get frequent baths. Sphynx are magic but not a magic pill for people with severe allergies. They may not shed on the furniture, but they can still make you reach for the tissues.
Bottom line, it take may take time and effort for humans to keep these kitties warm and clean. But while your mom is pimping out your new roommate, you can happily enjoy National Nude Day in your birthday suit.
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Got a question for he who knows everything feline? Just Ask Einstein in the comments below and you might be featured in an upcoming column. (Letters don’t have to be written from the cat’s point of view.) Remember, any change in your cat’s behavior or activities could be a symptom of disease and should be investigated by your vet, even if it unfortunately involves glass tubes and cat posteriors.
About the author: Einstein’s assistant, Dusty Rainbolt ACCBC, is the vice president of the Cat Writers’ Association, editor-in-chief of AdoptAShelter.com and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She’s the award-winning author of eight fiction and non-fiction books including her most recent paranormal mystery, Death Under the Crescent Moon.