There’s a new breed of cat silently lurking in the moonlight: the Lykoi, or Werewolf Cat (lykoi from the Greek word meaning “wolf” – so, literally, ‘wolf cat’). I kid you not, this a real “up-and-coming” breed of cat that’s being developed by a group of breeders who initially worked with hairless cats. Their appearance may be slightly off-putting, but there really is no reason to fear these wolf-like kitties. They’re characterized by a lack of hair surrounding their eyes, nose, ears, and muzzle, with a patched coat on the rest of the body. You might be wondering just how a werewolf cat came to be…
From the Lykoi website:
“The Lykoi Cat is a natural mutation from a domestic shorthair that has the appearance of a werewolf. The mutation has occurred in other cats, but to date, no reports of anyone starting a breed have been made. Our founding cats come from two unrelated litters. The first litter was presented to Patti Thomas as a natural occurring Sphynx mutation (they were born around July 2010). The mother was a black domestic shorthair. Upon receiving the kittens, (a brother, sister, and their mother), she knew they were not Sphynx. This confirmation was done with DNA testing for Devon/Sphynx gene which the kittens did not have.”
So the cats were not some type of Sphynx (hairless) cat that just retained some of its hair. No, these were something else entirely. However, everyone wanted to make sure the cats with this mutation weren’t sickly or suffering in any way before they decided to start a breeding program. Testing was done to rule out any genetic illness:
“Upon starting the program, we decided that testing would need to be done to ensure that we are not dealing with disease or disorders causing the hair coat appearance. Infectious disease tests were performed first in my clinic. DNA testing was done by UC Davis to confirm that these cats do not carry the Sphynx/Devon gene. We also performed a DNA panel for genetic disease, color, and blood type. At the University of Tennessee, dermatologists examined them for any skin abnormalities (and they too fell in love with these cats and we have quite a fan club there!). Along with biopsy samples of the skin, the dermatologists could find no reason for the coat pattern. What they did find is that some hair follicles lacked all the necessary components required to create hair (which is why they lack an undercoat). They also found that the follicles that were able to produce hair, lacked the proper balance of these components to maintain the hair (which is why the Lykoi do molt and become almost completely bald from time to time). Our cardiologist performed some cardiac scans to look for any structural problems with the heart.
In the end, we found that the cats are healthy, and the hair pattern is not from any known disease or disorder. It was determined that it was indeed a true natural mutation, and our breeding program began. September 14, 2011 we welcomed the first kitten from a Lykoi Cat to Lykoi Cat breeding…. She has been named “Daciana” and to date she is the only known second generation Lykoi.”
In 2012, the Lykoi went before the The International Cat Association (TICA) and were passed to “Registration Only” status. This means that they are now a recognized breed with TICA.