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The Lykoi, also known as the werewolf cat

The Lykoi, also known as the werewolf cat



Werewolves may have struck terror in the hearts of believers through the ages, but the Lykoi, also known as the werewolf cat, will only warm yours.


The Lykoi is a particularly gentle, sweet, and friendly kitty, who just happens to have a very unusual appearance.


I could never see anything but beauty in the face of any cat, but this breed does remind even me of depictions of werewolves. When you see a Lykoi’s sparse and rangy fur, and the baldness around the facial features, you will immediately appreciate the comparison.


Well, if the Lykoi is a werewolf cat, it’s definitely the cutest werewolf ever.


A brief description of the Lykoi cat


The Lykoi is a domestic shorthaired cat with a natural mutation in the genes responsible for making fur.


This mutation causes hair to be missing in certain spots, especially on the face, and to be thin in others. The hair that remains is mostly the guard-hair layer; this cat’s undercoat is almost non-existent.


(You can learn more about the different types of cat fur in this post.)


The other unusual thing about the fur is the color. Lykoi have white hairs mixed in with whatever other color they are. Breeders call this “roaning,” and I’ll explain more about it in a minute.


Unlike other breeds created by genetic mutation, including the Manx cat and Scottish Fold, the genetic mutation that causes the Lykoi’s unusual appearance doesn’t seem to cause any other health issues.


The history of the Lykoi cat


A short history of cat breeds


Cat breeds are nothing like dog breeds.


Dogs were domesticated from wolves somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago. It’s likely we began selectively breeding dogs thousands of years ago to help us with different tasks, such as hunting, guarding, retrieving, and herding.


Today, we have dog breeds that are as different from each other as great Danes and chihuahuas.


Cat fancy, on the other hand, only started about 150 years ago. There are currently 30-50 different cat breeds, depending upon the cat-breed registry you consult, and even the different breeds are more similar to each other than they are different.


There are only three different ways to get a new cat breed:


  1. Crossing existing breeds together.
  2. Interbreeding domestic cats with small wild cats, as was done with Bengal and Savannah cats.
  3. Finding mutations in feral cats.


The Lykoi was a found mutation.


What is a genetic mutation?


A genetic mutation is a mistake in a living thing’s DNA. DNA is the genetic code that tells every cell what to do. It’s the set of instructions that lives inside every cell in the body.


Every time a cell divides, it’s supposed to copy the genetic code exactly. But copying errors happen all the time. Some mistakes are harmless, and some are repaired by proteins roaming around the body. Some mistakes cause disease, and some mutations are actually helpful to the organism.


Certain mutations are able to be passed on to the next generation. That’s the kind of genetic mutation Lykois have.


How the Lykoi cat came to be


According to at least one source, the genetic mutation that causes the Lykoi’s unusual appearance had been showing up in feral cat populations for decades before the right cat-minded people discovered it.[1]


Patti Thomas, a breeder of Sphynx and Devon Rex cats, both of which have unusual coats, was alerted to a family of cats who’d come into a shelter. Mom was an ordinary black shorthair, but her two partially hairless kittens were assumed to be some kind of Sphynx (genetic tests showed they were not).[2]


Later, a second family of similarly hair-challenged kitties were discovered.[3] Both sets of cats were handed off to Johnny Gobble, a veterinarian, who first worked to confirm that the cats had a mutation and not a skin disease.[4]


Later, these first kitties, along with normally furred black cats who were added to the mix for genetic diversity, were used to start a breeding program.


The new breed, which was first registered as an “experimental” breed with The International Cat Association (TICA), was called Lykoi, from the Greek term for wolf: lycos.


Today, several registries have now accepted the Lykoi for championship status, meaning the cats can compete in shows, including the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in 2023.


Werewolf cats started showing up all over the place


Once the breed was started, the Gobble family started hearing about feral cats with missing hair all over the country: Texas, Missouri, South Carolina, California, and Vermont. Lykoi-type cats were also discovered in Canada and other countries around the world.[5]


These cats were directed to a growing list of Lykoi breeders who were interested in expanding the genetic pool for the breed.


But just because a feral cat appeared to have the same genetic difference as the original Lykoi, doesn’t mean that it was exactly the same.


The genetics behind the Lykoi cat


You can get a hairless, or “less-hair” cat (or dog, mouse, or human) any number of different genetic ways.


The gene that is responsible for producing the hairless Sphynx cat is called Keratin 71. The LPARG gene gives the Cornish and German Rex’s their thin but curly coats.[6]


The Forkhead Box 13 gene gives Mexican and Peruvian hairless dogs and Chinese crested dogs their unique looks, while the serum/glucocorticoid regulated kinase family member 3 (SGK) will turn some Scottish Deerhounds, usually known for their coarse, shaggy hair, completely bald.[7]


Lykoi have hypotrichia



The condition of having missing hair is called called “hypotrichia,” which literally means “having hair” (trichia) that is “less than normal” (hypo).


The genes that cause Lykoi cats to experience hypotrichia work by causing fewer hair follicles to form than is typical, and also causes those few follicles to grow improperly. The follicles are smaller than they should be, and the cells within them are abnormal.


What special genes are responsible for the Lykoi breed?


Researchers were very interested in finding out what genes causes Lykois to look like werewolves. A number of Lykoi guardians stepped forward to allow their cats to participate in this important study.


The researchers found 16 different lineages of Lykoi cats from different geographic areas and six different variations of the Hairless (HR) gene, known more formally as the HR lysine demethylase and nuclear receptor corepressor.[8]


While the Lykoi cats from different regions appear similar enough, their special coats are not necessarily caused by the exact same gene variation. Gene differences probably account for the slight disparities in appearance between lineages.


What does a Lykoi look like?


Lykoi can be completely covered in hair or partially hairless. A Lykoi may lose all of her hair temporarily, but it will grow back.


A Lykoi is usually missing hair around his eyes, chin, nose, muzzle and the back of the ears. He will have very thin hair on his on legs and paws. There is little to no undercoat anywhere on the body.[9]


The hair that does grow appears wiry, but it’s actually very soft and silky to the touch.


The most common color for a Lykoi is black, because it tends to show the unique coat to best advantage. In fact, black is the only color allowed to be shown in TICA shows.


Roaning in Lykoi cats


australian cattle dog

The other reason black is sometimes preferred is because of another unique feature of the Lykoi coat: roaning.


In a roan coat, white hairs are evenly interspersed with normally pigmented hairs.[10]


Roan is a common color pattern in horses and cattle, and in some dogs. It’s usually called “ticking” in dogs. The photo above is of an Australian cattle dog, with a beautiful ticked or roan coat.


Roan is not a common coat pattern in cats.


The rest of the Lykoi


Haircoat aside, the Lykoi is a medium-sized cat, with a lean body.


The head is wedge-shaped, with tall ears, mostly round eyes, and a relatively short tail.[11]


The personality of the Lykoi


Whether or not you appreciate the look of the Lykoi, you will love her personality.


The Lykoi is a gentle, friendly cat who loves everybody: other cats, dogs, and people. This hyper-social cat just loves attention.


Lykois are very loyal to humans, and extremely affectionate toward their owners.


Lykois are quick learners and great problem solvers, who enjoy brain games and puzzle toys. They love to play with you or without you. They find fun in any objects that are available to them for play.[12]


Is the Lykoi a healthy cat?


The Lykoi is a hearty breed. There are no known breed-specific health problems, thanks to the concerted efforts on the part of breeders to ensure a genetically diverse population. [13]


Breed rules allow for the continual widening of the gene pool through the addition of new blood lines, which will help ensure a healthy future for the Lykoi, too.


Love Pinterest? Here's a Pinterest-friendly pin for your boards!
Lykoi pinterest pin



DAwn and Timmy
Dawn LaFontaine

Dawn LaFontaine is a lifelong animal lover who always seems to have a little pet hair in her keyboard. Her blog, Kitty Contemplations, helps cat guardians better understand and care for the special beings they share their lives and homes with. Her cat-products business, Cat in the Box, sells beautiful, well-made, and award-winning products that she designed to meet the biological needs of cats.




[1] Gobble, Brittany. “Breed History.” Lykoi Kitten, Accessed 3 June 2024.


[2] ibid.


[3] Zelevansky, Nora. “Learn What It Takes to Be Recognized as an Official Cat Breed.” Vetstreet, 10 Oct. 2022,


[4] Gobble.


[5] ibid.


[6] LeRoy, Michelle L., et al. “Clinical and Histologic Description of Lykoi Cat Hair Coat and Skin.” Veterinary Allergy and Dermatology Clinic, LLC, Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine, Innovative Vet Path, LLC, 7 June 2016.


[7] Buckley RM, Gandolfi B, Creighton EK, Pyne CA, Bouhan DM, LeRoy ML, Senter DA, Gobble JR, Abitbol M, Lyons LA; 99 Lives Consortium. Werewolf, There Wolf: Variants in Hairless Associated with Hypotrichia and Roaning in the Lykoi Cat Breed. Genes (Basel). 2020 Jun 22;11(6):682. doi: 10.3390/genes11060682. PMID: 32580512; PMCID: PMC7348984.


[8] ibid


[9] ibid


[10] “What Is a Roan?” American Roan Horse, Accessed 31 May 2024.


[11] “Lykoi Facts - Wisdom PanelTM Cat Breeds.” Facts - Wisdom PanelTM Cat Breeds, Accessed 5 June 2024.


[12] Patterson, Jonathan. “The Lykoi Breed.” Welcome to TICA - The International Cat Association, TICA Cats, TICA Pedigreed Cats, Pedigreed Cats, Pedigreed Cats Registry, Household Pet Cat Registry, Domestic Cat Registry, Savannah Cat, Bengal Cat, Persian Cat, Maine Coon Cat, Accessed 3 June 2024.


[13] “Lykoi.” The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, 12 Feb. 2024,


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