Sphynx cats look like cute little old men – bald and wrinkly! This breed seems to be gaining in popularity by the day and is in high demand. Is the temperament of the Sphynx as sweet as its appearance or is there another side to this popular naked kitty?
Are Sphynx cats aggressive? If you’re thinking of getting a Sphynx then rest assured that they are not known as an aggressive breed. But, as with any cat, it is possible for a usually gentle Sphynx to have random aggressive moments, for example, if it is provoked, scared or in pain. The way you deal with such an outburst is key to limiting the level of aggression.
Why Sphynx cats aren’t usually aggressive
The Sphynx is a fairly needy cat. It thrives on human attention and company. From a young age, they learn to get up close to humans as a means to keep warm. Remember these cats as good a run about naked and feel the cold just as we do. We put warm layers on to keep warm, a Sphynx likes to lay on us to steal our heat. Therefore, it’s in a Sphynx cat’s interest to be friendly to people.
If you have other pets a Sphynx will usually cuddle up to them too – even your dog. So it’s unlikely one will behave aggressively towards other family pets and lose these other heat sources that are invaluable when there are no people around.
Sphynx cats are intelligent creatures and require lots of stimulation. It is difficult to ignore a Sphynx when it wants your attention. Owners report that their Sphynx cats are quite demanding and follow them around form room to room.
Signs that a Sphynx may turn aggressive
A Sphynx, like all cats, will usually give plenty of warning through body language and vocalizations before it actually attacks. Signs and sounds of aggression include:
- The tip of its tail begins to wag and then progresses to thrashing wildly
- Throaty growling
- Ears turning and flattening backward against the head
- Dilated (enlarged pupils)
- Staring intently without blinking
- Tail held high with hairs raised (resembling a bottle brush)
- Back arched
Types of Sphynx aggression
Sphynx aggression, as with all cats, falls into one of 9 categories. Understanding which type is causing your cat’s aggression will help you to manage it as best as possible:
1. Play Aggression
This is more noticeable in Sphynx kittens or young cats who were raised without littermates. Playing with their siblings is how they learn not to bite and scratch too hard as their littermates do it back or stop playing.
Signs of play aggression in a Sphynx include enlarged pupils, a thrashing tail and ears pinned flat to the head. A cat will often pounce at another household pet or a person.
If you notice these signs try to prevent the playful attack from happening through distraction techniques such as introducing a toy to play with instead. Beware of sudden attacks from concealed locations and if these occur, prevent your cat from entering these spots. You may need to halt a play session with an aggressive cat and walk away to discourage the behavior. Be careful about petting a cat who has just attacked as it may see this as a reward and repeat the behavior.
2. Petting-induced Aggression
A Sphynx may unexpectedly turn aggressive whilst you are petting it. It’s as if the enjoyment suddenly becomes too much. It isn’t always petting that causes petting-induced aggression but other attention such as grooming and claw clipping.
The signs of this aggression manifesting are often the same as for play aggression so heed the warning and stop whatever it is you’re doing at the time and allow your cat to calm down.
If your Sphynx shows signs of petting aggression, keep petting sessions short and stop the moment any signs of aggression manifest. Gradually increase the length of sessions and hopefully, you’ll eventually be able to enjoy petting sessions with your Sphynx without fear of an attack.
Be very careful to supervise young children around a cat that displays this type of aggression as they will not be able to read the signs of aggression like an adult can.
3. Fear-induced Aggression
Anything unfamiliar can cause fear-induced aggression in a Sphynx. It might be triggered by a visitor, an unusual noise, or another pet suddenly entering the room.
Signs of fear aggression include hissing, crouching low, tail tucked between legs, a show of teeth, ears flattened against the head, and hackles up.
Try to remove the cause of the fear as much as possible and then gradually expose your cat to it in a controlled manner to help it to become accustomed to that stimulus. If it’s strangers, in particular, that cause it, ask them to keep a distance and let your cat settle and also not to make sudden moves. If a new pet is causing the problem this will take a lot of patience to resolve. Gradual introductions are always better, even separate rooms for a while.
4. Redirected Aggression
Sometimes your Sphynx may show redirected aggression towards you because something that it can’t reach has excited it, or angered it. For example, it may have seen a bird or a strange cat in the yard whilst looking out of a window.
If you can see your Sphynx is watching something and chattering, growling or swishing its tail it’s best not to intervene. You could carefully close the blind or curtain but be careful as you do so.
5. Status-induced Aggression
Status-induced aggression can occur when a Sphynx decides it wants to rule the roost. It may try to exert dominance through acting aggressively. This can be toward you, another person or other household pets.
You may notice your Sphynx lashing out at other pets or yourself as you pass by. Its tail may be flicking and its pupils might be dilated (I call these naughty eyes) Try your best to ignore this behavior and withhold attention until your cat’s demeanor returns to a calm state.
6. Territorial Aggression
Your Sphynx considers your home as its territory. Often introducing a new cat causes territorial issues. You may witness your cat swiping at a new cat, chasing and even attacking it quite viciously.
Ideally, you should not place a new cat straight into your existing cat’s territory. It is best not to even let them see each other at first. Keep them in separate areas of the house with their own litter box, food, water, bed, and toys.
After a few days feed them in separate rooms either side of a door so they can sense each other whilst having the positive experience of eating. A few more days later, as long as they have been calmly eating either side of the door, carefully swap them into each other’s areas to get the scent of each other for about 30 minutes, then swap the back. Do this for a few days.
Eventually, with the help of another adult, let the cats see each other from a distance in the same room, maybe in pet carriers or on leashes. Don’t allow them to interact. Do this for a few days, gradually closing the gap between them. Once they seem accepting of each other, feed them in the same room without being enclosed or harnessed. If this goes well play with them separately to reinforce good feelings. This should work but be prepared for it to take weeks.
7. Inter-cat Aggression
You might see inter-cat aggression between two male Sphynx cats raised together from kittens as they mature. Having them neutered can help as inter-cat aggression is generally caused by hormones. Occasionally females exhibit this type of aggression too.
If this type of aggression carries on it may be necessary to separate the cats and gradually reintroduce them as described in point 6 above.
8. Pain-induced Aggression
An injured or unwell Sphynx may display pain-induced aggression if you try to touch it or pick it up. It may hiss as a warning and if you persist it could even lash out or bite.
If you suspect aggression if due to illness or injury it’s important to get your Sphynx to the vet for a check-up. Be careful not to hurt it more as you put it in its carrier.
9. Maternal Aggression
A Sphynx with newborn kittens can exhibit maternal aggression if approached. Make sure mum and kittens have a safe and quiet area to themselves. Limit visitors as much as possible. This type of aggression should soon pass.
How a Sphynx kitten is handled between the age of 2 and 7 weeks is crucial to shaping its future behavior. At this age, kittens are extremely receptive to new experiences in their lives. After 7 weeks of age, kittens begin to become more knowing and suspicious of things they haven’t experienced. Breeders have a huge responsibility to make sure their Sphynx kittens are properly socialized so they behave in the way that people expect them to.
From about 2 weeks of age, kittens should be handled and gently stroked for a few minutes each day. This way they develop a positive opinion of people and the more different people they meet the better they will be. Meeting children and other pets at this age is also ideal. That way they will grow into confident adult cats, tolerant and well-behaved around people, children, and other pets. It’s a good idea to expose kittens to everyday noises, such as music, TV, and vacuum cleaners so that they don’t fear those.
The breeder should also introduce Sphynx kittens to a grooming regime. It is particularly important that this breed is introduced to bathing as soon as possible. Their lack of fur means they get very oily skin and if not bathed regularly they can become quite dirty, stain everything they lay on and smell quite bad too. Therefore, kittens must be trained to tolerate water and to accept having their ears and feet cleaned too.
Kittens learn so much about good behavior from their mothers and siblings which is why it is imperative that they aren’t rehomed when too young. The ideal age for Sphynx kittens to leave their mother is after 12 weeks.
If you buy a kitten that has not been properly socialized and acclimatized to the care routine, it may become aggressive towards you when you handle it or attempt to bathe it. This is why it is really important to establish just how good your chosen breeder is.
A Round-up on Sphynx Aggression
Sphynx cats are not usually aggressive. Choose your Sphynx kitten carefully from a breeder who socializes it correctly and you should not see aggression problems. Ensure you never encourage aggression by teasing your Sphynx and allowing it to attack your hands. Follow the above advice to understand what aggression looks like, what might cause it and how to deal with it.
If you don’t own a Sphynx but are thinking you would like to get one you must find out Why Are Sphynx Cats So Expensive first.