Ever hear about the werewolf cat? It isn’t some weird urban myth. The werewolf cat is actually a legitimate breed called the Lykoi. It’s called the werewolf cat because of the unusual appearance of its coat, which resembles that of a werewolf.
It has a unique combination of build and color, but the real shocker is its unusual hair pattern. It has patchy, thin, and wiry hair, which from time to time sheds to such a degree, the cat appears hairless. It is classified as partially hairless because of this unique “trait”.
The strange look has appealed to some cat fanciers, as now the breed is gaining popularity. This cat also has the strange ability to change skin color, believe it or not! Let’s take a look at this interestingly strange breed of feline, the Lykoi.
- 1 Things to know about the Lykoi Cat
- 1.1 1. Lykoi Discovery: Where It Started
- 1.2 2. Preserving the Appearance
- 1.3 3. Lykoi: The Second Chance Breed
- 1.4 4. Lykoi Cats Are Hairless (Sort Of)
- 1.5 5. Physical Description Of Lykoi Hair and Color
- 1.6 6. Lykoi Physical Characteristics
- 1.7 7. Size
- 1.8 8. Lykoi Personality
- 1.9 9. Lykois Are Excessive Shedders
- 1.10 10. Lykois Sometimes Change Color
- 1.11 11. A Lykoi Kitten Can Cost a Pretty Penny
- 1.12 12. Lykoi Should Stay Indoors
- 1.13 13. Care of the Skin and Nails
- 1.14 14. The Lykoi Is Not a Designer Breed
- 1.15 15. Lykois Have No Health Concerns
- 1.16 16. The Lykoi Is Still Rare
- 2 Final Thoughts on the Lovely Lykoi
Things to know about the Lykoi Cat
1. Lykoi Discovery: Where It Started
It’s believed that the look of the cat is a result of natural mutation. It would seem that a pair of shorthair cats, both carrying a hairless gene, created offspring that carried this mutated gene.
It was originally believed that this gene was similar to the one carried by hairless Sphynx and Devon Rex cats. Later on, extensive studies revealed it was not the same gene after all.
The mutated gene created a patched fur condition that gave the cat partial facial fur. The rest of the body also contains patches of thin fur. The cats, therefore, tend to look somewhat bedraggled and feral. The first Lykoi cats discovered were indeed feral felines.
The word adopted for the cat was “Lykoi”, derived from the Greek word for “wolf”. Roughly translated, they are therefore called “wolf cats”. The cat is still considered an experimental breed, as the first official identification happened fairly recently in 2010.
Interested parties studied the newly identified cats for any specific anomalies. Identifying the new look as a natural mutation, the consensus was that the gene was recessive, and presents no additional health concerns.
2. Preserving the Appearance
Breeders have sought to preserve the look of the cat by breeding the discovered Lykoi with domestic black cats. The Lykoi was originally found to be principally black, which is also the preferred color of the cat.
Another reason to introduce domestic black cats was the dearth of actual Lykoi, at least at the beginning (they were quite rare). Expanding the pool helped to prevent in-breeding by introducing some fresh genetic material.
3. Lykoi: The Second Chance Breed
Lykoi cats are considered unique in that they were found as ferals and strays. The fact that they are now becoming a somewhat in-demand cat makes it a rather fortunate discovery. One of the key discoverers and investigators of the breed, John Gobble, coined the phrase “second-chance cat” to describe its fortune.
Veterinarian Gobble, along with his wife Brittney and another researcher called Patti Thomas founded the breed in 2010, when they brought together cats found in two unrelated litters for study. A few years later, they confirmed a cat found as far afield as South Africa as Lykoi.
This further cemented the notion that the gene mutation was natural. The pattern held true, as the South African cat was also feral. Many more cats were found in shelters and feral colonies, most without any genetic or congenital defects.
4. Lykoi Cats Are Hairless (Sort Of)
There has been some speculation as to why the Lykoi appears to be hairless, as dermatologists could not isolate a reason for the odd pattern. They do lack an undercoat, so their fur is indeed thin, and in some places basically non-existent.
Later on, it was determined that the skin and follicles did not possess the necessary ingredients to maintain hair. That explains the tendency for Lykoi to lose extraordinary amounts of hair, despite them not having that much, to begin with.
When they shed, the process is so severe that several areas of their body go hairless for some time.
5. Physical Description Of Lykoi Hair and Color
This is a cat with a unique description in terms of color. A classic Lykoi has a combination of fur colors as it is partly black and partly amelanistic. This means that some of its hair has no melanin and is therefore colorless.
In other animals where this occurs, the animal is said to be roan. Horses, in particular, are often described as roan, as this isn’t limited to animals with black hair. Other colors often arise alongside the pigment-less hair. The Lykoi is the only known cat in which this occurs.
As much as the color can vary, so too can the degree of hairlessness. Some cats are fairly well-covered, others may barely have hair at all. All cats, however, will not have hair around their eyes, muzzle, and the back of the ears. This is what offers a werewolf look to the cat.
What hair they do have on their bodies will be lost and replaced at least once in their lifetime. This is not a health issue, but purely due to the fact that, for some reason, the dermis lacks the conditions to maintain hair from time to time. It is also, as far as scientists can tell, perfectly natural in this cat.
6. Lykoi Physical Characteristics
The parts of the cat that are exposed by having no hair (eyes, muzzle, nose, etc) have a leathery feel to them. When the cat loses hair it exposes pink skin. Although as previously explained, even though the cats can look silver in some cases, they are categorized as “black”.
Breeders have tried to ensure that the predominant color of Lykoi cats is black. Differently colored individuals have been found in naturally occurring circumstances, though. The Lykoi kittens are always born with hair that is totally black. After a few weeks, the patches and areas of amelanistic hair develop.
Generally, male Lykoi are larger than females. That said, they aren’t particularly large or small as a cat species – for most intents and purposes, they are a medium-sized cat on average.
They sport a lean, strong body suited to a feral existence, with a short-ish tail, and medium-length legs. They have large, pointed ears, which some say add to the “creature-like” appearance of the face.
8. Lykoi Personality
So, does the Lykoi act like a werewolf? Will it transform at midnight or at the sight of a full moon? Not as far as we know, although we can’t say the same for when you try to bathe them
The Lykoi’s feral roots are still very prevalent in the breed’s traits. For example, they display very strong predatory instincts and will love a good chase. That said, when faced with a new situation, they will err on the side of caution and prefer to assess a situation before jumping in.
Breeders have attempted to favor friendly personality traits in the process, with some success. Lykois are friendly once trust is gained. They are still quite active, even as pets, and will thrive if they have the space and energy to express their high-energy selves.
When at play with cat toys, they will better enjoy the kind they can stalk and pounce upon. Lykois seem adept at problem-solving and they are able to play fetch, a lot like a dog.
They may not be the best at being lap cats that sit quietly with you for a long time. While they enjoy a bit of human interaction, and they do like being petted, they would much rather be off doing their own thing most of the time.
9. Lykois Are Excessive Shedders
It may seem counterintuitive that a cat with less hair than most other cats sheds excessively. But they do in fact lose most of their hair at one time or another. Much of it grows back, so you may have a situation where a fairly hairless cat is leaving more hair around your home than other, more common breeds.
Because of this condition, Lykois are not hypoallergenic cats. Some people mistakenly believe that Lykoi cats are hypoallergenic, and realize too late that these cats can trigger reactions in those who suffer from allergies.
A better fit for people with allergies is the Devon Rex, the Russian Blue, or the Balinese 9unlikely as that sounds. To clarify, the production of the Fel D1 protein and the structure of the coat (not necessarily the absence of shedding) contribute to allergen triggers.
10. Lykois Sometimes Change Color
Another unusual Lykoi trait is the ability to literally change color. Lykoi skin is usually pink, but researchers have discovered that it is able to turn dark, even black if exposed to sunlight and heat.
11. A Lykoi Kitten Can Cost a Pretty Penny
Regardless of whether the cats are from feral stock, their popularity has skyrocketed in the ten or so years of their official existence. Pedigree Lykoi kittens can cost $1500 or more, sometimes reaching $2500, depending on traits and breeding.
The black roans described above are the most in-demand, with prospective buyers happy to sit on a waiting list for their desired cat. Other, less costly variations of the cat include Blue Lykoi and Black Tuxedos.
12. Lykoi Should Stay Indoors
In the cold, the cat will be exposed to harsh elements without the normal protection and warmth of fur. The sun will adversely affect its skin and may lead to other ailments like sunburn.
13. Care of the Skin and Nails
Lykois have one or two other special care requirements worth noting. Oils, dirt, and other impurities will start to gather on the nails, skin, and ears of the cat. In most cats with hair, these symptoms are less prevalent.
As such, a wipe of the ears, skin, and claws with a cloth will be necessary from time to time. If needed, consult a vet for the best advice on what to do and how to do it. If the ear cleaning feels complicated, allow a vet or professional groomer to do it regularly, or show you how to do it properly.
Remember to keep the cat out of too much sun in the summer, though a mild to light tan might be unavoidable, as cats like sitting in a window from time to time.
14. The Lykoi Is Not a Designer Breed
The Lykoi should not be confused with a designer breed. It is a natural breed that, up until recently, had not been recognized or discovered. Breeding currently seeks only to maintain the presence of a recessive gene.
15. Lykois Have No Health Concerns
The average life expectancy of a Lykoi is 12-15 years. They do not exhibit any particular health predispositions or vulnerabilities. That said, scientists do warn that the cat is still a new breed, and not enough time has elapsed for a definitive study.
16. The Lykoi Is Still Rare
There are less than 100 show-standard Lykoi in the world. Show Lykois are all black roan (though classified as black), even though other colors do exist. All things considered, around 25 colors have been noted or documented
Final Thoughts on the Lovely Lykoi
If you’re looking for a cat that plays into your love of mythical movie monsters, you’d be hard-pressed to find quite such an iconic representation. Our little werewolf cat isn’t just unique-looking, but also oddly coded when it comes to genetics – just like a cute little monster should be.
But rest assured this cat isn’t an engineered monstrosity. Its appearance in the cat genus is purely natural, the result of a natural mutation of a recessive gene. Perhaps it’s also appropriate to refer to it as an X-man, or rather, X-cat.
If you can afford a Lykoi, and you’re fascinated by it, consider scouring local adoption centers and shelters first. Chances are low you’ll find one there, but you never know – these cats look feral, and someone might have inadvertently submitted one.
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