Sphynx cats are a very special breed of cat, in that they are hairless. Because of their lack of fur, these cats do not have a protective barrier against the weather or the environment. This means they often require more maintenance than other cat breeds due to their vulnerability to various skin conditions, including dry skin. Luckily, there are many ways to prevent patches and flaky spots from developing on these cats’ delicate skin.
Type of skin Sphynx cats have
Sphynx cats are identified by their hairless bodies, wrinkled skin, and large, triangular ears. These cats have a medium-sized, bony body structure that is nicely muscled. At first glance, the Sphynx might look entirely furless, with a peachy-colored skin. However, a closer inspection will reveal very fine, downy hair that is almost imperceptible, making them appear completely bald.
Instead of thick, colorful fur, you can see the pattern of pigmentation on the actual skin. These cats also lack eyelashes or whiskers, making them even more unique compared with other breeds.
Since the Sphynx does not have fur on its body, its delicate skin can be easily injured or harmed by the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Obviously, without the protection of hair, it is susceptible to sunburn or cold if left outdoors.
Additionally, the lack of hair makes it difficult to absorb or distribute the oil produced by the skin. This, in turn, results in oil accumulation on the skin, making it more greasy. Without regular bathing, the grease on your cat’s body can mark your furniture and accumulate in your cat’s nail beds.
With all of these unique features of Sphynx cats, it is important to know that they require special care that is different from that required by other cat breeds. Since it does not have a lot of fur for warmth and protection, your Sphynx will need your help to maintain its skin health. This includes proper bathing and a skincare regimen to avoid common skin problems such as dry and flaky skin.
Causes of dry skin in Sphynx cats
1. Lack of proper hydration
Fluids help maintain the skin’s elasticity. Without proper hydration, your cat is more likely to suffer from dry and flaky skin. Dehydration can also cause other skin problems, such as rashes, infections, and dandruff.
Unfortunately, dehydration is fairly common in cats due to their disinclination to drink from water bowls. Felines are natural predators and they rely on getting most of their moisture intake from live prey. Because domesticated cats are no longer hunting out in the wild, it is up to you to ensure that their diet includes enough fluids.
Most fur parents find a water fountain the best solution to encourage their cats to drink. So, if you find your Sphynx ignoring his water bowl, then you might want to consider getting one of these gadgets to help keep him hydrated. Aside from keeping his skin soft and supple, regular hydration will also help beat other serious health concerns such as kidney problems and heatstroke.
2. Dry air
Have you noticed how your skin becomes more dry and flaky during winter? As we turn on the heaters to combat the cold weather, the forced hot air lowers the humidity inside our homes, resulting in a loss of moisture from the skin.
Unfortunately, it is not only humans who take a beating from such a dry environment – your Sphynx can suffer the consequences as well. Keep in mind that their skin can be more sensitive than ours, so seeing your Sphynx suffer from dry and irritated skin during winter is highly likely.
3. Nutritional deficiencies
Diet plays a vital role in keeping your cat’s skin elastic and supple. Nutritional deficiencies due to an imbalanced diet can cause several feline health problems, and a diet lacking sufficient protein and fatty acids often lead to dry and flaky skin.
If you are feeding your Sphynx with commercial cat food, make sure that it contains all the right nutrients for your cat. And, if you provide him with home-cooked meals, talk to your veterinarian to ensure that he is getting a well-balanced diet.
4. Incorrect bathing
Due to their lack of fur, Sphynx cats can suffer from a buildup of oil and dirt on their bodies. Hence, a regular lukewarm bath is a must to maintain clean and healthy skin. Since your cat can easily accumulate grease on his body, you might be tempted to over-bathe him, but this can actually do more harm than good as it strips the natural oils from his skin.
5. Fungal infections
Fungal infections such as ringworm can cause your cat to have dry and flaky skin. These parasitic spores feed on your cat’s skin for nourishment. Cats can get this infection from the soil through inhalation, ingestion, or an open wound. They can acquire the disease from infected animals or close contact with infected feces.
Aside from the dry and flaky skin, your Sphynx can also develop lesions that are really itchy and uncomfortable. Without proper medical intervention, the infection can increase to cause redness, thick skin, hyperpigmentation, and a foul odor emanating from the lesions.
Parasites like fleas can cause dry and flaky skin in cats. Sphynx cats are also prone to flea allergy dermatitis as a result of flea bites. You can sometimes spot these tiny nuisances with the naked eye, crawling around on your pet. Fastidious cats might remove some of the fleas while grooming, but they will not completely eradicate the infestation without proper treatment.
Cats can also suffer from skin allergies which cause profound itching and irritation. The most common causes of skin allergies in cats are flea bites, environmental allergies, and food allergies. Symptoms are triggered when the immune system responds inappropriately to certain substances, causing inflammation. Aside from the skin problems, other manifestations might involve the respiratory and digestive systems, resulting in coughing, wheezing, flatulence, and diarrhea.
8. Serious health problems
Dry skin in cats can also be an early indication of serious health issues such as diabetes, heart problems, kidney disease, or hyperthyroidism. Senior cats who develop systemic diseases are more susceptible to skin problems since they are unable to groom themselves properly.
Treatments for dry skin in Sphynx cats
1. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is one of the best home remedies to help replenish your cat’s natural skin moisture. This home remedy is a completely natural and safe solution for dry and flaky cat skin.
To use it, simply apply the coconut oil to your cat’s skin before baths. Doing so will help loosen the excess grease that has built up on the skin without causing dryness and irritation. Aside from being an excellent skin lubricant, coconut oil is also a cheap alternative to soothe skin itchiness due to excessive dryness during cold seasons.
2. Aloe vera gel
Aloe vera gel has long been a popular wonder-herb due to its multiple medicinal and holistic benefits. It can be applied to your cat’s skin to treat not just dry skin, but also wounds, burns, and other skin irritations.
However, you must avoid using the latex component of the plant, as this has been known to cause mild or moderate toxicity in cats. The gel part of the aloe is completely safe for cats, even if they ingest it as they groom themselves.
3. Warm towel wrap
Wrapping your cat with a warm towel helps relieve excessively dry skin, leaving it feeling refreshed. It is also a good way to spot-clean your cat without having to bathe him. However, keep in mind that cats hate being wet, so make sure to approach your feline when he is calm and in a good mood. Simply drape the warm towel over his body, focusing on the dry areas. Cover him with the towel for about five minutes.
4. Moisturizing cream and lotion
Since Sphynx cats are hairless, they require a special skincare regimen, unlike any other cat breed. Moisturizing lotions or creams should be applied regularly to maintain skin health and cleanliness. Make sure to use cat-safe and organic creams to avoid any unwanted skin reactions. It is also highly recommended to use moisturizers free of synthetic chemicals and parabens.
5. Topical treatments
Topical treatments for cats with dry, flaky skin are available in most local pet stores. If you are not sure which ointment to choose, you can ask your veterinarian for product recommendations. Remember to choose a high-quality brand with lots of positive reviews from other pet owners.
6. Hydrating shampoo
Cat hydrating shampoos made of natural moisturizing agents are also great at managing excessive skin dryness. However, you should only shampoo your cat during his scheduled bath time or when he has become very greasy and dirty. Keep in mind that over-bathing can further worsen skin dryness. If your cat is not dirty, there should be no reason to bathe him.
7. Hydrating spray
Hydrating sprays are very helpful to maintain the skin’s moisture content, especially if your Sphynx loves the outdoors. No-touch application liquid sprays are not only convenient to use but also help provide long-lasting protection for your cat’s delicate skin. They often include essential oils that are easily absorbed by the skin to soothe itchiness and irritation.
How to care for your hairless cat
1. Avoid over-bathing
Bathing your Sphynx at least every 20 days is essential to keep his skin clean and healthy. If your cat is particularly prone to oily or dirty skin, you might need to bathe him once a week. Regular baths maintain cleanliness as well as reduce excessive oil on the cat’s body. However, you should avoid bathing him more than is recommended. Too much bathing can remove the skin’s natural oils, leaving it dull and flaky.
2. Use cat-safe shampoos
Use special soaps and shampoos that are designed for Sphynx cats’ skin. This will ensure that your cat is thoroughly cleaned without any unwanted skin reactions. It is highly recommended to use shampoos made from organic ingredients, as other shampoos can contain harsh chemicals that are not ideal for Sphynx cats’ skin.
3. Keep the skin clean
Maintaining healthy skin requires a proper grooming and skincare routine. Spot cleaning helps prevent oil and dirt accumulation as well as other skin problems and infections common to hairless cat breeds. The following are some of the steps every Sphynx owner should follow to ensure their cat’s well-being:
- Occasional baths using soft sponges
- Hot water massages every once in a while
- Regular cleaning of the ears and clipping of the nails
- Skincare products to treat and avoid acne problems cause by oily skin
4. Use sunblock or sunscreen
Protecting your Sphynx’s delicate skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays is important to avoid sunburn and irritation. However, there are currently no sunscreen products available on the market that are considered safe for Sphynx cats.
The best natural sun protection is coconut oil. It is guaranteed a safe product for cats, even if they ingest it during the grooming process. Additionally, the organic agents in coconut oil are excellent at keeping your cat’s skin healthy and in top shape.
5. Keep the skin moisturized
A good cat moisturizer can go a long way to protecting your pet’s skin from changes in the environment. Remember that Sphynx cats have different skincare requirements than other cat breeds. Moisturizers are one of the basics to ensure that your feline maintains healthy, soft skin, and prevents various skin-related issues.
When choosing a moisturizer, make sure that the following conditions are met:
- The product must be free from toxic chemicals
- The product must be safe for sensitive skin
- The product must not contain a strong fragrance
- The product must be made of natural, organic ingredients
6. Provide a better diet
Dry skin is often an obvious indicator of nutrient deficiencies. If you think your cat suffers from an imbalanced diet, then consider adding more protein to his meals. Most commercial cat foods are high in carbohydrates but low in protein, which does not meet the criteria for an ideal diet. Consider high-protein food sources such as home-cooked meat or canned tuna. You may also mix some natural protein foods into their dry food to ensure that they have all the nutrients needed. Take note of any improvements in their skin after making these dietary changes.
7. Consider fish oil supplements
Aside from a well-balanced diet, adding fish oil supplements rich in Omega 3 helps to promote healthy skin in cats. These supplements also boost your cat’s immunity to prevent common ailments and cancer.
8. Use a humidifier
A lack of humidity indoors can easily cause excessive skin dryness. To prevent your four-legged companion from suffering these symptoms, consider using a humidifier to bring back the moisture into the air. Place the humidifier in the room where your pet spends most of his day.
Sphynx cats require lots of pampering and attention to ensure their well-being, particularly the health of their skin. Excessive skin dryness can be very common in this breed, especially during the cold seasons. Thankfully, there are ways to beat this skin discomfort. Vets highly recommend skin treatments and moisturizers that are natural, organic, and free of toxic substances to avoid negative skin reactions, especially since Sphynx cats have very delicate skin.
Image: istockphoto.com / JNemchinova