Legends of men turning into wolves date back to antiquity. Viking sometimes wore wolf skins into battle, thinking it would make them as fierce as wolves.
The legends of werewolves came into full force in medieval Europe when it was believed that any misadventure must be the fault of some demonic entity.
It was the 1941 Universal film The Wolf Man that the modern idea of a man turning into a wolf under a full moon began to enter the public imagination in full force.
Now, it seems there is a new breed of cat that closely resembles the werewolf as depicted by Lon Chaney Jr.
What is a Lykoi Cat Breed?
The Lykoi is also known as the werewolf cat or wolf cat due to looking more like a wolf than a cat. The bald patches around the luminous eyes and muzzle cause a resemblance closer to a werewolf still in transition.
This appearance is due to a random mutation found in feral cats. They were called “Lykoi” after the Greek word for “wolves”. According to Greek myth, a man named Lycan angered Zeus by tricking him into committing cannibalism.
As punishment, Lycan was turned into a wolf. (The moral of this story is the same as many Greek myths. Angering the gods will get you turned into an animal.)
Today “lycanthropy” is used to describe a delusional disorder in which one believes one is an animal. The little lycan cat has been observed as acting more canine than feline.
Origin of the Lykoi cat
It all started when a pair of different litters of domestic shorthairs carrying the Lykoi gene were adopted from a rescue shelter after being found in Virginia in 2010, by Patti Thomas, who co-founded and named the breed.
It was in 2011 that another pair was found in Tennessee by Johnny Gobble, a practicing veterinarian in Vonore, Tennessee.
A complimentary DNA test performed by Dr. Leslie Lyons on the kittens confirmed that they did not carry Sphynx or Devon genetics as first suspected.
Diseases and infections were also ruled out. As Ms Thomas had neither the time nor resources to put in the extensive effort towards all the genetic and health testing required to establish a new breed she chose to give them to Dr. Johnny Gobble and his wife, Brittney Gobble.
Lykoi Breed And Mutation
The Lykoi is not the result of an interbreeding of recognized cat breeds, but a breed resulting from interbreeding cats that happen to have the same naturally occurring mutation.
The Gobbles bred their new cats with black cats as they carried genetics similar to this odd mutation. This resulting in the majority of Lykoi having black roan fur, black hairs sparsely mixed with white ones.
As of now, the Gobbles avoid breeding Lykoi cats with other Lykoi cats as that would decrease the genetic variability of the offspring. Purebred cats often suffer health problems such as a weakened immune system.
This is something the Gobbles want to avoid. They do this by breeding their Lykoi with black cats rescued from shelters and occasionally a feral cat as they have a diverse gene pool.
Dr. Gobble has expressed a hope to one day be able to safely breed one Lykoi with another. For now, health and genetic variability comes before looks.
Getting any breed officially recognized is a long and winding road. Dr. and Mrs. Gobble first had to bring the Lykoi before The International Cat Association (TICA) in 2014 where they were unanimously passed to “Preliminary New Breed” status. The next year, they were promoted to “Advanced New Breed”. The next year, TICA brought them up to Championship status.
The Lykoi were officially accepted by the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) as of May 2018 under the “miscellaneous” status. So far, only the grizzled black roan meets breed standard, but there is a push for other colorations.
Physical characteristics of the Lykoi
This new breed of cat has no undercoat, causing the fur to stick out a bit as if it were perpetually in the act of still growing in. This fur is often grizzled. Patches around the eyes, nose, toes and tale are often bare.
Incidentally, in the old werewolf stories it was said that the werewolf had no tail but would stretch out a back leg to pass for an ordinary wolf from a distance. The nose is rather long and black at the tip like a wolf. (The better to smell you with, my dear!)
The eyes are large, luminous and often bold yellow in color. (The better to see you with, my dear!) The ears are large and tapered. (The better to hear you with, my dear!) Like any cat, they have big, sharp teeth. (Don't worry! They prefer sinking their teeth into mice rather than people.) The overall build of a Lykoi is slender yet muscular.
Fortunately, the attitude of the Lykoi is more similar to that Of Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter series than the monster of medieval myth. (The werewolf portrayed by Lon Chaney Jr. was likewise a tragic figure.) Like Professor Lupin, the Lykoi is intelligent but not without a sense of fun and possessing a fierce loyalty. Lykoi tend to be shy around strangers but can warm up quickly.
One odd wolfish habit Lykoi have is an instinct to hunt in packs. While most cats may tolerate the presence of other cats, hunting is something they prefer to do alone. When a few Lykoi get together, they'll go after prey as a team.
It is currently unknown what a Lykoi's full lifespan can be as the breed is so new. It is estimated that if kept safe and healthy, a Lykoi could make it to age 20.
The sparse coat means oil accumulates easily in the ears and claws. This should be monitored. Lykoi kittens are a bit slow to develop and require a lot of social interaction to grow up to be well adjusted.
They are typically ready to leave their mother at twelve to fourteen weeks. Otherwise, there are no known health risks to the Lykoi cat.
Lykoi Cat Cost
This is still a very rare breed. A kitten can cost around $1,500 and an intact adult can run as much as $2,500. There are quite a few breeders who specialize in creating litters with Lykoi kittens. However, the waiting list is enormous and the prices run very steep. Beware any breeder who says they can get you a Lykoi quickly.
As the Lykoi breed is a result of a random mutation, healthy Lykoi kittens are rare as it is. If somehow you do manage to get a Lykoi cat, whether from a breeder or as a rescue, you should get her checked by a vet immediately.
Caring for a Lykoi Cat
The big ears and big eyes can get dirty easily. Have a warm, mildly damp cloth and a cotton swab to help Wolfie keep clean.
Wolfie will be capable of bathing herself, so bathing will not be necessary and may even damage her skin. If she must be bathed, use only shampoo specially formulated for cats or a cleaning cloth.
You will need to be gentle in brushing her as her skin can burn very easily. The brushing should be done once or twice a week unless she's going through a molt. A molting Lykoi may need a daily grooming.
If your Lykoi goes outdoors on a bright, sunny day, consider rubbing some sunblock into hairless parts of her skin so she doesn't get sunburn.
Because Wolfie has such a sparse coat, she may be better off as strictly an indoor cat. Excess oil leads to brittle claws, so you may have to give her a weekly pedicure.
They Are Excessive Shedders
Though Lykoi have very little hair, they do shed a lot. This can cause near baldness in some cats. This shedding is seasonal, typically happening about twice a year.
They are not hypoallergenic
While they have very little hair, the Lykoi can shed as much or more than a typical shorthair. This, unfortunately, means they are not hypoallergenic and would be a poor choice for allergy sufferers.
Is A Werewolf Cat Right For Me?
Because this animal is so rare, you will have to spend quite a bit on just the purchase of the pet. She will need everything any other cat needs plus special attention to grooming. It is unlikely that you will find one in a shelter.
If by chance you manage to rescue a stray or your cat has a kitten that you think may have the Lykoi mutation you must try to get her to a vet. Dr. and Mrs. Gobble may also be interested in talking to you.
The Lykoi is the newest, rarest and possibly most unusual looking of all cat breeds. Random mutation among ferals seems to be the most likely explanation for how the breed got started.
They get their name from looking like werewolves, but are at heart, gentle and loving creatures. The developers of this breed are being responsible and trying their best to keep the werewolf cat breed healthy and viable.
The only health problems they seem to have are the natural results of having no undercoat, meaning skin that is oily and over sensitive to heat and cold.
One wonders what the future will hold for this new breed. As long as people have a soft spot for misunderstood monsters and the Gobbles are taking all the right steps, this breed may be more prolific in years to come.
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