Wondering how to properly take care of your Sphynx cat? While some might think it’s super easy to groom a hairless cat - this couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, Sphynx cats require quite a specific grooming routine (so you do need a quality Sphynx cat shampoo!) due to their unusual skin and hair.
Yes! Sphynx cats do have hair!
We just can’t see it with a naked eye. But they are covered with a very delicate suede-like coat of hair that requires special treatment. Oftentimes, irritation, infections and skin rashes come from using improper grooming products and techniques.
Quick fact: did you know that modern Sphynx cats originated in Canada? That's right, Sphynx breeding started in Ontario in 1966 when a hairless kitten was born to a pet cat.
"Most Sphynx cats born today are descended from three hairless kittens found in Toronto in 1978" - I guess I only find that cool since I am writing this article in Toronto, but hey, I didn't know that, did you?
Okay, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Cat skin, much like ours, produces natural oils.
With furred cats the fur helps distribute skin oil along the hair shaft, so as you brush a cat or it comes in contact with the objects surrounding it - the excess skin oil gets removed.
In contrast, hairless cats don’t have this luxury. So you need to make sure to clean and exfoliate their skin diligently to help prevent oil buildup, which can lead to rashes and irritations. Oh, and lead to stains on your furniture!
Another thing to keep in mind is how sensitive their skin is. Much like human skin, Sphynx skin is prone to allergies and can burn easily in the sun. So it is essential not to keep your Sphynx in direct sunlight for too long.
Also hairless cats can sometimes get acne and blackhead breakouts if not bathed regularly. Much like us humans! So set up that bath routine - it’s very important!
Tips for bathing your Sphynx cat
Hairless cats require frequent baths, at least once a week, to keep their skin clean and healthy. Don’t over-bathe a sphynx since that can strip off too much of natural oils, especially if you are using shampoos with harsh soaps. This can cause the skin to overproduce oils to protect itself from dryness, and make your sphynx look and feel dirtier... No good!
Make sure to use warm water for bathing and ensure that all shampoo is thoroughly rinsed off - any residual shampoo can cause skin irritation if left on the skin for too long!
Once you choose a Sphynx cat shampoo (we will help you with that down below), try bathing once every 2 weeks and just pay attention to how your cat’s skin reacts to it. If it looks dry, cut back, if it looks oily - try bathing every week. Also, of course, if you notice any irritation - change the shampoo.
Take care of your cat’s ears while bathing as water can easily get into the ears and cause infections. So never immerse the head entirely in the water. We would recommend using a cat shower cap if you are new to bathing to make your job easier. You can gently wipe your cat’s head with a wet cloth after bath.
To help clean dead skin cells and excess oil, you can use gentle exfoliating gloves as long as they don't irritate your Sphynx's skin.
Hairless cats tend to get cold, so make sure you have a towel on hand and can get your cat dry right away after bath. A nice organic cotton towel would be ideal for Sphynx's sensitive skin.
Much like we can get our feet dirty while walking barefoot, Sphynx cats tend to collect some dirt under arms or around the neck, so in between baths you can use sensitive skin wipes. Wiping can help maintain your cat’s coat and skin on the go or help reduce the number of baths. Just experiment to see what works best for your and your Sphynx.
Remember we talked about breakouts? If your Sphynx does have some acne or blackheads, just clean the affected area with gentle antibacterial soap and warm water. If the breakouts persist even on a regular bath schedule - its best to do a vet check-up.
Tips for taking care of your Sphynx's ears
While with furred cats the fur helps with oil distribution, it also prevents dirt and debris from getting into ears. Hairless cats here will need your help, since without the fur their ears tend to get dirty pretty quickly. Make sure you establish an ear cleaning routine to avoid any problems and infections. Ideally the ear cleaning can be done right after bath. What you will need: cotton swabs or balls, and a pet ear cleaner. If you don’t have any handy - you can use a slightly wet gentle cloth but best to come prepared!
While you could just squirt some ear cleaner into the ear, your cat will likely not be happy about that. So we recommend soaking the cotton ball with some pet ear cleaner and wiping away any dirt with that first, before using a q-tip or special ear swab to get into some nooks and crannies of the exterior part of the ear canal. Male sure to be very careful and don’t get inside the ear canal!
Tips for taking care of your Sphynx's nails
Another important grooming step during bath time is nail clipping. Without the hair to protect its skin, a hairless cat can easily scratch herself if her claws are not trimmed. Trimming would also prevent your cat from getting stuck on furniture and fabrics as well as prevent ingrown nails.
First step is to clean the nails - you can use a wipe here, pull skin back to expose the top portion of the nail and gently clean around it like shown in the video.
Then, squeeze the paw to expose the nail and cut just the tip of the nail. You can use regular nail clippers or special pet ones - whichever work better for your Sphynx.
Since Sphynx cats don’t have eyelashes, it’s easier for dirt to get into their eyes. So once in a while, if you see some buildup in the corners of your cat’s eyes, it's okay to go ahead and clean it. Take a warm, damp cloth. Starting from the outer corner and working your way into the inner corner carefully wipe away any dirt from its eyes.
If your Sphynx isn’t used to bathing or you are about to attempt a bath for the first time, be gentle and go slow - let him get used to the idea. Chances are he won’t be thrilled about, so it’s definitely easier to get him comfortable with it when he is young. A reputable breeder would usually ensure your kitty is used to bathing by the time you get to take him home.
Some strategies that can help:
- Use a toy
You can try placing some toys in the tub to give your Sphynx a distraction and something to focus on while you do the bathing
- Fill the tub
Surprisingly, some sphynx prefer being submerged into the water neck-high rather than just a few inches
- Ask for help
It might be easier to have someone help you keep your Sphynx in the tub while you soap and rinse it
- Use wipes or a damp washcloth
If your cat is just terrified of the bath, try starting with sensitive wipes or a damp cloth only, eventually working your way to a full bath
- Give a treat
Make sure you give lots of love and attention to your car after a bath. You can also reward your Sphynx with a treat, to make sure he associates bath with a pleasant experience
Most importantly - don’t give up! This may take some time.
Best shampoo for Sphynx cats
Before we jump into the best shampoo, here are some things NOT to use for your hairless kitty’s bath routine.
- Harsh soaps
They strip away the oils, leaving skin dry, irritable and causing allergic reactions
- Conditioners not designed for hairless cats
They are also often loaded with chemicals that would only irritate the sensitive Sphynx skin. Unless your vet recommends it, stay away from conditioners
While hairless cats can have a stronger odor, pet colognes tend to have too many chemicals, which are not only not great for the skin but can get licked off the skin by your kitty as well
- Rinse-less Bath Products
Stay away from any products that stay on the skin as Sphynx are really sensitive. In addition, these types of products also tend to get licked off, which can make things even worse
Now the best Sphynx shampoo as you can see would be without any harsh soaps or chemicals. Those strip away the oils leaving your kitty’s skin dry and irritable and leading to more oil production. The best shampoo for Sphynx will use gentle cleansers and natural ingredients, and of course those designed specifically for hairless cats. Safety is important, so look for a hairless cat shampoo that is not toxic if ingested like this Kotomoda sphynx shampoo.
Much like with us humans, skin type is an important factor when choosing a shampoo. If your cat’s skin is on the dry side, your best bet is a product that contains soothing ingredients such as oatmeal, or aloe vera.
If your cat has oily skin, it is best to choose a product that focuses on cleaning ingredients, such as coconut oil and honey. You can also go with a Sphynx shampoo with a hypoallergenic formula for the kitties with extra sensitive skin.
A good shampoo for a Sphynx cat might have one of the following ingredients:
- Coconut oil - it's an excellent cleanser for gently dissolving and removing excess oil. It also contains Vitamin A, D, and E which are essential for healthy skin and coat including.
- Jojoba oil - it's excellent for cat and even human skin since it mimics the natural oils found in the skin itself.
- Aloe Vera - its healing and reduces long-term irritation, while adjusting skin moisture levels allowing the skin to begin repairing itself.
- Oatmeal - it soothes skin and reduces itchiness so your cat won’t scratch and make the irritation worse.
Don’t forget to do a patch test on a small skin area before using a new shampoo. Same precautions here as there are with sensitive human skin.
One more note on keeping the skin clean - do wash your Sphynx clothes rather often as the excess oil tends to build up on the hoodies, shirts and other Sphynx-wear. Same goes for your cat’s blankets and his bed. Do wash it regularly. If you have a heated cat bed (i need one of those!), make sure there is a removable cover on it that you can throw in the wash.
Hope you found these tips useful and best of luck with your Sphynx bathing routine!