By: Brittney Gobble
The Lykoi Cat is a natural mutation from a domestic shorthair that has the appearance of a werewolf. The mutation has occurred in domestic cats over the last 20 years, but to date, no reports of anyone starting a breed have been made. Our founding cats come from two unrelated litters. The first litter was presented to Patti Thomas in Virginia as a possible Sphynx mutation (which was later disproved with DNA testing). This litter was born around July 2010. The mother appeared to be a normal black domestic shorthair. Dr. Leslie Lyons did a complimentary DNA test for the kittens to confirm they were not Sphynx or Devon. As Patti Thomas did not have the time or resources to do all the work to all the genetic and health testing needed or to establish a new breed she opted to give them to Dr. Johnny Gobble (at the suggestion of a mutual friend, Cheryl Kerr). We were immediately fascinated by the appearance of these cats! I (Brittney Gobble) drove to get the two unusual cuties and their mother. Since we live in different regions of the United States this was a bit of an adventure, but the kitties were great travelers! Soon after I responded to an advertisement that had been sent to me by Cheryl Kerr about another set of similar appearing cats in Tennessee. When I arrived to pick them up I could immediately tell that these two siblings had the same gene as the first pair we had gotten. We see the second set of siblings as a blessing from God! After genetic testing and health evaluation, they were added to the program to increase the number of cats in the gene pool (these two were born approx. September 2010).
Upon receiving the “mutants” (as they were lovingly nicknamed until a breed name was decided on), Johnny (who is a veterinarian) decided that testing would need to be done to ensure that we are not dealing with disease or disorders causing the hair coat appearance. Infectious disease tests were performed first in his clinic. DNA testing was then done 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). We also performed DNA panels for genetic disease, color and blood type on all the founding cats. At the University of Tennessee, dermatologists examined them for any skin abnormalities (and they too fell in love with these cats!). Along with biopsy samples of the skin, the dermatologists could find no reason for the coat pattern. What they did find is that some hair follicles lacked all the necessary components required to create hair (which is why Lykoi lack an undercoat). They also found that the follicles that were able to produce hair, lacked the proper balance of these components to maintain the hair (which is why Lykoi do molt and can become almost completely bald from time to time). Our cardiologist also performed cardiac scans to look for any structural problems with the hearts. In the end, we found that the cats are healthy and the hair pattern is not from any known disease or disorder. It was determined that it was indeed a true natural mutation and the Lykoi breeding program began! September 14th, 2011 we welcomed the first kitten ever from a Lykoi to Lykoi Cat breeding.
The name “Lykoi Cat” roughly means “Wolf Cat” in Greek….a very fitting name for these guys! After the name was agreed upon, Johnny sent in all the necessary documentation and fees to TICA to have the Lykoi breed listed as “experimental” (basically letting TICA know we were beginning the process of establishing a new breed).
We have noticed that the black colored cats express the pattern of the werewolf cat more dramatically so we are focusing on only producing solid black cats that have the gene. Since their parentage is domestic shorthair (no known pedigreed cats have been involved) we are outcrossing using only black domestics. This is being done to broaden the gene pool and ensure healthy kittens. The founding Lykoi and subsequent outcrossing has all been done here in our cattery in Tennessee. We have now placed breeding Lykoi with breeders in the USA, Canada, and several countries around the world. We are also keeping in contact with Dr. Leslie Lyons and her team who are working on discovering more about this unique gene and the entire Lykoi gene pool!
Since the original breeding, Johnny and Brittney have been able to obtain Lykoi that have occurred in the feral cat population from places like Texas, Missouri, Canada, California, South Carolina, as well as a couple other locations. Cheryl Kerr located a colony in Vermont and we were able to be a part of that as well (also helping with getting the other cats in the colony spayed/neutered and vaccinated). Other breeders in the US and around the world have also located additional natural mutation Lykoi and have successfully added them to the gene pool.
Dr. Lyons’ Research
December 2014, Dr. Lyons and her team came to visit Johnny and Brittney Gobble in Tennessee. They came to visit us and talk in more detail about the Lykoi breed, our findings so far, and take samples from the different bloodlines as well. They are working hard to learn as much as possible about the genetics involved. It is so exciting to see what science will say about these unique cats!
Learn more about Lyon’s Lab HERE.
HERE is an article about some of the preliminary findings. Dr. Lyons recently gave the update that 4 Lykoi gene variants have been located, but there is still more research to be completed and she needs help. Here is a note from Dr. Lyons-
“Donations can be made at the 99 Lives site – ignore the video. For each donation – put Lykoi – Lyons lab in the comments. MuGiveDirect – tax deductible – from my website.”
The Lykoi were taken before “The International Cat Associations” Board again in 2014 and were passed to “Preliminary New Breed” status. Every board member accepted the Lykoi, so we were passed with no objections! In September of 2015 Lykoi went before the TICA board in Austria and were passed to Advanced New Breed. Septemeber 2016 the Lykoi visited the board in California and were passed to Championship status!
Now although we are passed to championship status in TICA, this is ONLY for the Black Roan colored Lykoi. All other colored Lykoi’s in TICA are shown as HHP. There’s a reason for this. That reason is because the Black Roan color is and always was, the (show standard) color for the Lykoi. It’s the color that makes them most look like a werewolf the most and Black Roan color is the most striking color of them all.
Click Here to see our Lykoi Breed page
on the TICA website. Clicking through the link will show you our updated Breed Standard, as well as our Powerpoint presentation that was shown at the TICA Annual board meetings in Austria (in 2015).
The Lykoi breed are now officially accepted into CFA!! (Cat Fanciers Association). As of May 2018, Lykoi cats can be shown in CFA as MISC Status. It will be a few years before we finalize the breed standard completely and decide on exactly what colors we want to stick with within our “standard” with CFA, but we are ultimately getting there. There will be Lykoi of all variations and colors, some that judges have never even seen before! It’s truly amazing that we (as breeders) get to branch out now a little bit within the associations. Now, there’s a show for anybody, anywhere…whether it be TICA or CFA! Come to a show sometime and see Lykoi_VA and some amazingly new colored Lykoi and of course our gorgeous Black Roan’s as well…
Photos by Judy Pristash.