PEOPLE often describe themselves as either a cat person or a dog person, and are judged accordingly. But William Murray found himself quickly changing teams when striking sphynx cat Diana, named after The Princess of Wales, entered his life.
“I grew up with pet dogs mostly,” says William, who features in My Pet and Me series.
“Although, we did have a large ginger tom at one point who eventually and thankfully decided to move to a neighbour’s house.
"But there was no love lost there as the cat used to vomit under my bed. So, until we got Diana, I was firmly a dog person.”
This switch from Team Dog to Team Cat is not so surprising when you learn the sphynx cat is described by the Animal Discovery website as being “one of the more dog-like breeds of cats, frequently greeting their owners at the door and friendly when meeting strangers”.
Before meeting Diana, William always thought of cats as “aloof, selfish and temperamental”. But having now had Diana for six years, he is firmly dissuaded of these notions.
“I see and feel the love she gives back,” says William.
“I know her moods, the things that frighten her and the things that make her feel safe. She has a truly individual personality.
“My happiest memory of Diana is being reunited with her after spending over a month away. She jumped up into my arms and started purring loudly, nuzzling her head into my chest.”
Although hairless, sphynx cats feel better to the touch than you would imagine and are described as having a suede-like or peach fuzz texture.
William, an artist and Ballymaloe trained chef, and his partner James Kavanagh, a well-known social media personality and TV presenter, own the food company, Currabinny, for which they cater events and sell produce at Irish food markets. In 2018 they released The Currabinny Cookbook, featuring traditional food with contemporary twists. That year, the book won the EUROSPAR Cookbook of the Year award at the An Post Irish Book Awards.
The couple and their beloved cat divide their time between Phibsboro in Dublin and Currabinny, Co. Cork, and Diana has been acclimating to life on the move since William’s partner James first adopted her from a sphynx breeder in Wales. Because of her frequent travels, Diana has now become “very accomplished at long car journeys”, says William.
Originally named the Canadian hairless, the idea of the sphynx cat was born in Toronto in 1966, when, because of a naturally occurring genetic mutation, a hairless kitten called Prune was born as one of a litter of domestic shorthair kittens.
A process of selective breeding then took place by science graduate Ridyadh Bawa and his mother Yania, a long-time Siamese breeder, until they were able to determine the autosomal recessive nature of the Sphynx gene for hairlessness. And it is this hairlessness that has left Diana with a permanent penchant for the radiator.
“She loves the radiator,” explains William.
“Diana has little to no fur, meaning she isn’t so good at regulating her temperature. So, she loves sunspots on the carpet, radiators and sitting by the fire.
“She loves to get into our bed in the morning when it is warm and will express all kinds of affection.”
Far from the ‘aloof, selfish and temperamental’ cat William had imagined, Diana is instead “highly personable and friendly, she loves attention…adores human company”.
This comes as no surprise as the sphynx cat was rated the most affectionate of all breeds in a study in 2012 by the National Veterinary School of Alfort in Paris.
The study alluded to a theory that pedigrees are friendlier because breeders leave the kittens with their mothers for longer during that crucial early time in their development when they are becoming aware of and responding to humans.
Although Diana is not yet as famous as Ted Nude-Gent - the cat who played Dr Evil’s cat Mr Bigglesworth, she is making herself well known on Instagram where she reigns supreme as Princess Diana Kavanagh to her 9,000 followers. An avid campaigner, she played her part in repealing the eighth amendment by wearing her Repeal t-shirt proudly while urging followers to ‘Vote YES tomorrow. Meow.’ Meow, indeed.
Diana continues to bring love to the lives of William and James, and according to William, she has taught them both so much about “being loving, compassionate, caring, and sensitive”.
Follow Diana’s adventures @dianathesphynx