Considering getting a Sphynx
November 29, 2018 11:12 AM   Subscribe

I have medium cat allergies. I am considering getting a hairless cat. Let me know your experiences with them! Specific questions inside.

I have allergies to cats (not bad - I lived with two cats and a dog for eight years, just mildly stuffed up the whole time) and want to get another cat. I have mixed (negative) feelings about not getting a shelter cat, but the lack of sniffles might be enough to tip me over the edge.

I have the following questions:

1. Are they actually good for allergies?
2. Are they weird-looking in person? My extensive instagram browsing shows me they are truly adorable in photos, but I have never seen one in person.
3. Have you had one? Is it different than having a furry cat?
(Bonus) 4. Where could I see a hairless cat and hang out with it briefly in Toronto?

posted by hepta to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
They are not hypoallergenic - the stuff that aggravates allergies is found in skin cells and saliva - but because they're not dropping saliva-soaked, skin-flake-dusted hair all over the place, they are often less allergenic than regular cats.

I looked into adopting one, and a cousin has owned several. The main difference from a regular cat is, you have to bathe them weekly. Breeders bathe them from the time they're kittens, so apparently they really don't mind this and many of them enjoy it, but it's certainly an extra hassle. You in particular might want/need to wear gloves for this process.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:37 AM on November 29, 2018 [7 favorites]

I have mild cat allergies, and mine were actually worse when I spent time around a hairless cat. The two standard mackerel tabby furballs who live with me don't give me anywhere near the problems the Sphynx did. Go figure. I think that might be because people who are allergic to cats aren't allergic to the fur so much as the saliva.
posted by holborne at 11:39 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another potential issue: while I personally think hairless cats are perfect little wrinkly angel goblins, a significant portion of the population find them offputting. My cousin with hairless cats has definitely gotten comments along the lines of "what's with the weird gross cat?" This would not stop me from adopting one, but it's worth keeping in mind.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:40 AM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh, and as for your bonus question: see if there's a Facebook group for sphynx owners in/around Toronto. I'd be slightly surprised if one doesn't exist.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:48 AM on November 29, 2018

I have a weird gross naked cat!!! AMA!

I love him. He is certainly gross. You will be looking at the cat's butthole a lot more than with other cats, they have no fur to hide them, and since ours is male we also have to look at his little nuts all the time. This may serve to make you more aware of the extent to which all cats put their butts on things.

They all produce skin oils in varying amounts by individual (some people call it "browning up"). These oils end up on everything especially their preferred nests/lounging surfaces/you, if they sit on you, which they will because they need to keep warm. That's what the regular baths are for.

We have banned both our cats from the bed, after an embarrassingly long run, and my sheets are significantly less disgusting as a result (he liked sleeping under the covers - also good for getting skin oils all over you and anyone you like to sleep with.) I did like having him in the bed, he's like a hot water bottle made of wrinkly leather and claws, but it was so gross. Something about the structure of his toes traps cat litter more than any other cat I've known, too.

I find their personalities to be like Siamese or maybe Bengals, independent and curious and fond of climbing everything, so if you just want a fat lap kitty it may not be the best choice.

Ours hates clothes, which is hard for him because he has no fur and is always cold. We keep a big basket full of blankets and a wicker chair with cushioning and more blankets so that he has choices about where to burrow. He is not an outdoor guy (although someone in my mom's neighborhood in Winnipeg takes his Sphynx on leash walks in summertime. That cat's name is Winston and he is amazing.)

Now that it's winter he hangs out on the couch under blankets with anyone who is willing, he's a bag of hot skin, I love him so much.

They never stop being weird looking. It's funniest when I'm just back from a trip, his frowny little face is so striking.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:23 PM on November 29, 2018 [30 favorites]

This is me!

I have moderate cat allergies, and my daughter has more severe ones (not drastic, but definitely stronger than mine). We recently got a sphynx cat, and are super happy with him. So, your questions:

1. My allergies are almost not triggered by him at all, as long as he's bathing weekly and we are washing the blankets he likes to burrow underneath. When my symptoms get bad, I'll take a Zyrtec and it's all better, but I don't even do that every day. My daughter is still having some trouble - she keeps the cat out of her bedroom to keep it an allergy-free zone - but it's also better for her. I think the bathing is huge, though.

2. I think they move and hop and play and purr just like kittens (but extremely snuggly and social kittens), so at first there's a bit of cognitive dissonance as you watch a house-elf running around pretending to be a cat. But in my eyes, it's adorable. Note: their looks are kind of polarizing and this makes some people feel awkward, but I kind of enjoy the looks of confusion on people's faces when they try to figure out whether to break it to me that my cat is super ugly. (Note: he isn't. HE IS ADORABLE AND THE CUTEST CAT EVER.)

3. It's a lot like owning a normal cat, but with baths, but the baths aren't that bad. Petting a cat who doesn't have fur is funny because you can pet it backwards and it's still happy. I've put caps on his claws, because he's snuggly and chill enough to not mind me putting them on, and it keeps him from accidentally scratching us and giving us little welts because of allergic reactions. HOWEVER, getting one of these cats is roughly a $1500 investment (depending on the breeder), so if that's a big chunk of cash, I have a good friend who has had alleergy-abating success using "Allerpet" on her cats regularly. Not sure if you have a cat you could borrow for a week and use Allerpet on, but if you're into getting a shelter cat, that's a route you could consider.

Short story: I researched less-allergenic breeds and fell in love with this breed for their super-silly sociable nature. It's not a miracle cure, and it works better for some people than others, but they're really great cats. If you go meet some, remember that you're going into a breeder's house and even with hairless cats, it'll probably set off your allergies much more than bringing a cat home would.
posted by flarb at 12:25 PM on November 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

I also have moderate cat allergies, and I've found that for some reason I don't react to all cats the same way. The rescue tuxedo kitten I adopted doesn't cause me to react at all, and my grandson with cat allergies doesn't react to him either. (I played with him at the rescue home, handled him, and made sure to have him close to my face just to be sure.) I've had him about a year, and so far, so good.

So... you might want to do some research, because if you could find one that you didn't react to, it would open up your choices a lot.
posted by summerstorm at 4:37 PM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am moderately allergic to cats.m y friend had hairless cats that would headbutt and nuzzle, which caused non painful but ugly hives for about a day, each and every time
posted by Jacen at 4:40 PM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hi there, another Sphynx owner chiming in.

1. No. They still make dander and saliva and all that stuff. Plus, they are way more affectionate than other cats, so they're more likely to do something stupid, like... rub their spit all over your eyelid in a fit of love.

2. If you like the pictures, you'll like them in person. The only thing that's different in person is *touching* them. This experience varies from cat to cat. My Sphynx has light fuzz all over; others are like petting soft leather.

I second the sentiments above about some people just not taking to them. If you are thin skinned about people thinking you have an odd pet, look out! But the flip side experience will happen, too — my cat was a celebrity at his vet back in Atlanta.

3. Loads different from your average furry housecat. Peculiarities of the Sphinx cat:

a. They seek warmth. They'll hang out around the refrigerator vent. They'll want to sit in your lap, or just sort of sit on your chest while you watch TV. Don't be surprised if yours wants to sleep under the covers with you. Even as I typed this, the cat decided that he wanted to sit sort of on my arm in front of the computer.

b. They are so, so, so, so sociable. Obviously that varies from housecat to housecat, but you could pet mine just about all day. It can be a problem.

c. I think they tend to be special snowflakes. Health problems are common. Mine is all out of teeth, and has to eat expensive semi-cooked special snowflake food from the freezer if I want him to poop out something besides butt lava. I thought I was so clever getting him for free like I did, but here we are. I'm sure he'll cost me several more thousands of dollars before all is said and done.
posted by billjings at 7:42 PM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Have you considered Siberians? They're often bred for low allergen levels and don't have as much upkeep requirement as a Sphynx (surprisingly it's a long-haired breed, so you'll have to brush semi-regularly, but that's about it).
posted by serelliya at 8:35 PM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

There is a severe lack of cat tax in all these comments :|

I do not own a Sphynx, but my humble contribution is having hung out with one at a cat cafe in Scotland. As to your #2 question, they frequently can look off-putting but the sphynx I met was probably the most popular cat there. She was adorable and a bit timid—much to the dismay of several breathless visitors who seemed to be solely there for her—and definitely way cuter than I imagined a sphynx would be in real life. Her name was Elodie and they sold merch with her face on it.
posted by sprezzy at 10:50 PM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

I used to be in a Sphynx-y household. Two of my family members had mild-to-moderate cat allergies and they got along with them very well.

Over the years I was co-caretaker for four of the little butts, and they were all really friendly and sweet. Two of them were so laid back that one housemate would carry them around in a sling like a baby. If you think they're adorable in photos, you will like them in person even more - I had friends who thought they were horrible at first but grew to love them for their personality.

As mentioned, you do definitely need to give them baths, or else they get filthy. Mine liked to lay on top of the (old-fashioned, chunky style) computer monitor, and it got seriously gross after a while.

I would get another one in a heartbeat if I could. They're splendid cats. Warm bodies, soft peach fuzz, strong purrs. Talkative, too.
posted by Gordafarin at 8:46 AM on November 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Siberians - my husband and I are both allergic and have had our girl for nearly 18 years. Her younger brother died last December. They both would sleep with us and shed a lot in the springtime, so we got used to washing our bedding a lot and getting them lion cuts for the summer, and didn't have problems.

The only major exception was when we visited a friend who had severe cat allergies and she was having problems just from being around our clothes.

Siberians are friendly, curious, and affectionate cats and make wonderful companions. If you can check them out at a breeder you might consider them as well.
posted by marguerite at 2:26 PM on November 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

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