Our First Blog - Introduction and how we started breeding.
Updated: Jan 14
Thank you for visiting, first and foremost. You may have visited our About Us page, and gotten a quick synopsis of who we are. I'd like to take this opportunity to explain more. My name is Angela and I am the heart of Free Range Sphynx. My husband Don, daughters Paige and Payton, are the heartbeats. Without them, the heart would be useless.
I have loved cats since I was five years old. I have photos, embarrassing, ugly kid photos, with lines of kittens following me around the house. Unfortunately, as I got older, I developed serious allergies to cats, which included asthma attacks, eye swelling, bright red welts and itching. I would go to the pound about once a month to spend time with the cats and kittens, knowing the consequences I'd face. My husband watched year after year as I subjected myself to the discomfort, and the sadness that I could never have a cat in my life. Then one day he changed my world. My husband had found a breed of cat that was known for being tolerated by people with allergies, and he gifted my first for my birthday. He stuck me on a plane and shipped me off to Texas to pick the kitten up.
The breeder was so kind, meeting me at the airport with a beautiful, lanky, sweet, black male kitten. This was prior to 9/11, when air travel was more relaxed. When I boarded the plane the kitten was given his own seat, which he didn't use. He spent the entire flight rubbing all over me, cuddling and covering me with unconditional affection. About an hour into the flight, the captain came back and sat next to me to see the kitten. He held the kitten, took photos, and chatted for a bit. The entire time he was chatting away, I was silently wishing he would return to the front and FLY the plane. I didn't realize that the copilot was as skilled at flying the plane as the captain was.
It had been a long day as I had flown out and back the same day. As soon as I got home, I showed the kitten where the litter box and food and water were, and then we crawled into bed. My husband rolled over and said, "I spent all that money on THAT?" This was the most unique looking cat we'd ever seen. I was thinking "Say whatever you want about my kitten, for he is perfect." The kitten snuggled up against me in the little spoon position as we drifted off to sleep. I woke up about 30 minutes later, sure that I was going to roll onto the kitten and smother him. My military, less-than-impressed husband had the kitten tucked under his armpit, his fingers playing away, as he spoke baby talk. I'd never heard my husband ever use baby talk. From that moment on, that kitten was the king of the house. He was my baby, but always had a sweet connection with my husband. Side note, I let my husband name the kitten. That was the first and last time I ever let him name a kitten. The kitten was named Poozcat. Also, don't let your kids name a pet. More on that in a different post.
Now 28 years later, Poozcat sits in a golden urn on our fireplace. We lost him at the age of 10, taken from us by HCM, Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most commonly diagnosed cardiac disease in cats, not just Sphynx. HCM is a condition that causes the muscular walls of a cat's heart to thicken, decreasing the heart's efficiency and sometimes creating symptoms in other parts of the body. It is a fatal disease, although some medications can extend the life of the cats. You will see I discuss HCM in many places on this website. More about that shortly.
My love for Poozcat, his anti-cat like personality, which was filled with affection, intelligence, and playfulness made my want to add another Sphynx to our home. I would often visit local breeders, thinking I would add another baby when I found the perfect one for our family. I ran across a local breeder, with all her cats caged, that deemed she had a litter that was dying from "kitten fade". The kittens had no sign of the real condition known as "Fading Kitten" but instead were suffering from what I call "Lazy Breeder". It turns out that the over-bred mother (problem #1) of the litter had refused to nurse the babies (problem #2), and the breeder didn't want to put time into hand-raising them (problem #3). Rather than hand-feed the kittens, the breeder let the kittens nurse off other lactating mothers (also overbred), watching as they slowly died as they were turned away from nursing. I asked the breeder if I could take them home and try to save them. The lazy breeder denied my offer to nursemaid them to health, instead allowing me buy them. I grabbed my checkbook, knew my husband would be questioning my choices, and purchased each kitten in this dying litter. I took the skeletal, weak, premature kittens home, and began the most nurturing experience I’d had with kittens to date. With the advice of my veterinarian, I was able to feed them every two hours for two months. I ended up with four beautiful cats whom I adopted out to friends and family. When I saw how much joy these babies brought to their new families, I realized that perpetuating the incredible Sphynx breed was what I wanted, what I needed, to do.
Choosing to raise Sphynx really had to be a family agreement. The side most people don't see includes the challenges with raising kittens. One of the many gross aspects is endless litter box cleaning. Imagine up to seven large litter boxes that needed to be scooped twice a day. That amount of scooping creates dust, everywhere. Potty training, poop on the floor, poop on me, poop on blankets. Pee on me, on the floor, on the bed on the blankets. I do loads of blankets almost every day. I could write a book about all it takes, but let me leave you with this right now, in 25 years of breeding, I've taken two vacations, each less than four days long. I can't ask anyone else to pick up the demanding task of hairless kittens.
In the pursuit of educating myself about Sphynx, how inbreeding and line-breeding perpetuated the first hairless litter, I learned about the unwanted health issues that resulted. Ultrasound scans of the parent cats hearts, including more recently genetic testing at UC Davis, have resulted with bloodlines that haven't had any confirmed HCM deaths. I say confirmed as I haven't kept in touch with every kitten family over the years, so I don't know the outcome of all the cats. But I can say I've never had reports of HCM deaths. Including HCM scans and genetic testing, expanding bloodlines helped eliminate chances of HCM. Outcrossing is the process of breeding in a non-Sphynx bloodline, and then breeding resulting kittens back to purebred status over the period of four generations. This is a multiyear process. I'll blog with more information of outcrossing later.
If I still have your attention at this point, please take a moment and tell me how you were introduced to Sphynx, whether you're seasoned or brand new to the breed.
Many thanks for your time and interest.