Meet the Lykoi, the World's First "Werewolf Cat"
By now you may have seen unbelievable photos floating around Facebook or news websites: tiny kittens with bare faces, silver and black fur, and striking orange and yellow eyes. Are they werewolves? The work of a gifted artist? At first glance they seem too strange to be real. But these fascinating animals do indeed exist-they're called Lykoi cats, and Pet Place interviewed one of the breed's founders to get the inside scoop on these wild and wonderful kitties.
The name Lykoi roughly translates to "wolf cat" in Greek. This is an apt term for the breed whose roan-colored coats and hairless faces have led many people to wonder if they're even cats at all! (Dr. Johnny Gobble, co-founder of the Lykoi, is often asked whether they are the product of an opossum or monkey crossbreeding with a housecat.) And although they share a few hairless patches, they're not related to Sphynxes or Devon Rex cats either; Lykoi are truly a breed of their own.
The breed saw its beginnings when two kittens with an unusual fur pattern were born to a standard black domestic shorthair cat. The kittens were eventually brought to the attention of Dr. Gobble, who soon became aware of an unrelated litter with the same appearance across the country. Struck by their incredible looks, he began studying the source of their unusual appearance. Dr. Gobble tells us:When I first saw them, I thought we needed to do a lot of testing to rule out disease before we started breeding. Once the test were done, we knew that it was a genetic mutation and test breeding began.
After thorough examination by experts including DNA analysis the kittens were all shown to be free of defects and illness, and the Lykoi breed began in earnest. "We know that the gene is recessive. We also know that there are varying levels of hairlessness within the Lykoi cats. The gene seems to cause no other problems with the cats except the unique look," says Dr. Gobble.
Although the silver and black roan patterned coat is the most desired, Lykoi come in a range of colors including and bicolor coats. Their sparsely furred faces are offset by wide ears and large, slightly slanted eyes with hairless rims. Lykoi range from nearly hairless to mostly coated and have a friendly, vivacious nature that makes them a spirited companion. "They are very playful and they are very happy with people," states Gobble. "I love the fact that I can pick one up into my arms and they almost immediately start purring. They love the human play factor."
Unsurprisingly the world has gone howling mad for these tiny werewolves. Although only 51 Lykoi are currently registered with The International Cat Association (TICA), thousands of fans follow the breed through Facebook and the official Lykoi website. Despite their popularity, Lykoi breeders are taking it slow; the small handful of owners producing kittens have continued their rigorous research and remain dedicated to the health and happiness of these unusual cats.
The breed is currently classified as Registration-Only status in TICA and cannot be shown, but that may soon change; Lykoi breeders hope for a championship win in 2015. In the meantime they aim to preserve the health of the animals and introduce greater genetic diversity to the line by outcrossing adult Lykoi to black domestic shorthair cats. Although lacking the same coats as their newsworthy relatives, these outcrossed kitties are the first steps on the path to a more established breed.
Desperate for a wolf cat of your own? Not so fast...the Lykoi website estimates that kittens will be available to the public in 2016, nearly 5 years after those first hairless wonders showed up. But for the right home, it's worth the wait. Take it from the man who knows them best: "The Lykoi cats need a home that has lots of interaction. They like to pretend they are hunting prey and show that when they play. Lots of items to play with and lots of time running and pouncing. They are not cats that just sit and look out the window."
Learn more about the Lykoi and their fascinating history at The Official Lykoi Cat Website.The author would like to thank Dr. Johnny Gobble and Brittney Gobble for their assistance in the writing of this article. Images copyright Brittney Gobble Photography, used with permission. All other rights reserved.