The name “Lykoi Cat” roughly means “Wolf Cat” in Greek. A totally fitting name for these cats! The cats have the appearance of a werewolf due to their lack of undercoat. The coat varies in thickness and hairlessness based on the individual cat as well as the climate in which the cat lives, hormones and genetics. Some of the lines including those used in founding the breed shed or molt several times throughout their lives as their hair follicles lack properties needed to sustain a full coat. We are breeding for stronger, more stable coats and are trying to eliminate the predominantly hairless cats from the program.
The Lykoi Cat
The Lykoi is a natural mutation from a domestic shorthair cat. The mutation has occurred in domestic cats over the last 30 years, but to date there has not been anyone reported to specifically breed for it. The founding cats come from two unrelated litters. The first litter came from Virginia and was identified as a possible Sphynx mutation by a rescue which was later disproved through DNA testing. The mother appeared to be a normal black domestic shorthair. Dr. Leslie Lyons did DNA test on the kittens to confirm they were not Sphynx or Devon mutation. Patti Thomas then offered these babies to Dr. Gobble and his wife who were fascinated by the appearance of these cats.
Upon starting the program, testing was conducted to ensure that we were not dealing with disease or disorders that cause the coat appearance. Infectious disease tests were performed as well as DNA tests by UC Davis to confirm that the second set of cats did not carry the Sphynx/Devon gene (all results came back proving that NONE of the founding cats have the Sphynx/Devon gene). Additional DNA panels were performed for genetic disease, color, and blood type on all of the founding cats. At the University of Tennessee, dermatologists examined them for any skin abnormalities. Along with biopsy samples of the skin, the dermatologists were unable to find any reason for the coat pattern.
What the dermatologists did find is that some hair follicles lacked all the necessary components required to create hair. This is why they have no undercoat. They also found that the follicles that were able to produce hair, lacked the proper balance of these components to maintain the coat. This is why the Lykoi can molt and become almost hairless. The Gobble’s cardiologist also performed cardiac scans to look for any structural problems with the hearts. In the end, it was found that the cats are healthy and the hair pattern is not from any known disease or disorder. It was then determined that the Lykoi is a true natural mutation and so the breeding program began! September 14th, 2011 the world welcomed the first kitten ever from a Lykoi to Lykoi cat breeding.
From this breeding all the necessary documentation was submitted to TICA to have Lykoi listed as an experimental breed. This means the process of establishing the new breed had begun. Also at this time the first 5 cats were registered.
Our Breeding Program
It is noted that full colored cats express the pattern of the Lykoi coat more dramatically so we have focused on producing solid colored cats that have the gene. Since their parentage is domestic shorthair with no known pedigreed cats, we are outcrossing using only domestics. The purpose of this is to widen the gene pool and ensure healthy kittens. Cats from the founding pair of Lykoi cats were placed with Patti Thomas and Cheryl Kerr. Since then, Lykois have been graciously placed with breeders around the world. We are keeping in contact with Dr. Leslie Lyons and her team who are working on discovering more about this unique gene and the entire gene pool.
Since the original breeding, several new natural mutation Lykoi Cats have been obtained and introduced into the gene pool. These include DSH from around the world. Natural mutations have been found in Texas, Missouri, South Carolina, obtained from rescues, shelters and personal residences. This was all within the first few years of breeding. Cheryl Kerr also located a colony in Vermont which was a rescue effort for spay/neuter that allowed a VT gene to be introduced into the breed. They were able to work together to obtain 8 cats from that colony. Another small colony of Lykoi were found in Canada and have been shared amongst the small breeding population. Since then a few more natural mutations have been added to the program from California, Georgia & Utah so the gene pool is constantly growing.