Braith Dustow, of Balclutha Primary School, asks :-

Why does the Sphynx cat have no hair? Is it to keep cool in a hot place like Egypt?

David Thomas, a zoologist at Massey University's Centre for Feline Nutrition, responded.

Sphynx cats are not completely bald; it just looks like they are. If you look closely at one, you can see that it has a fine furry down on the body and often some light and wavy hair on the nose, tail, and toes. However all the hairs lack a well-formed root (bulb), which probably explains why they fall out easily, causing baldness especially on the cat’s body. The reason for this “loose hair” is a recessive gene that all Sphynx cats carry which effects the formation of a protein in the hair (Keratin).

The first recorded Sphynx cat was born on 31st January 1966 in Toronto, Canada and was called “Prune”. It had a normal short-haired black and white mother and was a natural genetic hairless mutant. However, descendants of “Prune” died out, and all modern Sphynx cats are related from other natural mutants that were discovered in the 1970s in Canada and the USA. So the breed originated in North America and has spread from there.

The Sphynx breed has an obvious disadvantage in that it cannot stand a cold climate and must always be kept as an “indoor cat” protected against the cold. But it does have one particular advantage; it does not cause allergic responses in people sensitive to cat hair. It is for this reason, together with its striking appearance, that it is growing in popularity with owners around the world.