Monday, December 12, 2016

Hybrid Cat Breeds: Lykoi

Genes are funny things, sometimes springing up for no apparent reason and with no real pattern. Back in 2011 Johnny and Brittney Gobble came across two separate litters of kittens with an unusual partially hairless pattern that was unlike anything they'd seen before. Wary of disease, the Gobbles evaluated the kittens carefully, searching for any signs of sickness or disease. Finding none, Johnny Gobble bred two of the kittens, one from each litter, to see what would happen. The result was the first intentionally bred Lykoi litter.

But there just weren't enough kittens to produce a breed that was both strong and healthy, so outcossing was inevitable. Because the mother of one of the original litters was a black domestic shorthair, black domestic cats from the area were used to expand the gene pool. Unfortunately, it turned out the gene for the unique coat was recessive, so it took some time to have enough cats with the sparse Lykoi coat for breeding programs to succeed. Even now, outcossing is common and will probably continue for some time. Though feral cats are sometimes born with the correct gene, these cats are only occasionally used in breeding programs due to their wild nature.

The Lykoi is a medium sized cat who is only partially hairless, which is not entirely unique in the cat world. The color, however, is like no other breed in existence. The hair is a combination of solid white and solid black hairs. The more white hair a cat has, the more silver he will appear, but the hairs are not actually silver or even grey. In any other animal, the color pattern would be called roan, but since only Lykoi cats have this pattern, it is simply called the Lykoi coat. Kittens are born with black fur, but by four weeks of age their permanent color pattern emerges.

The amount of hair on any give Lykoi can vary. They may be almost completely hairless or almost completely covered. They'll also occasionally molt their entire coat. Regardless of how much hair a Lykoi has, there will always be no hair around the eyes, nose, chin, muzzle, and on the backs of the ears. The skin in these areas will feel like a soft leather.

Because his hairless pattern is so sparse and patchy, the Lykoi looks like a miniature wolf. The lean body and wide ears contribute to this impression. The skin is naturally pink, but when exposed to sunlight for a few days it will darken to black. A few days out of the sun will cause the pink color to return.

These intelligent little guys are great problem solvers and tend not to need a lot of help. They like people well enough, but they don't require people to be happy. Your Lykoi will have boundless energy and will play with anything and everything. If you have two or more of these unique cats, they get along well and will entertain each other for hours on end, but a Lykoi is also perfectly happy alone. They're a little possessive, so make sure each cat has his own toys if you do decide to have more than one cat.

Naturally cautious, expect your Lykoi to take his time warming up to new people. He prefers to watch and wait until he's sure that no one presents a threat. Once he is sure, it's business as usual for this little guy. And business as usual typically means hunting for anything from a mouse to a stray paper clip. He is a predator, just like a wolf, so expect him to act like one.

If you're looking for a cat who looks and sometimes even acts like a little wolf, you might be interested in the Lykoi. Just be prepared to search long and hard for a kitten and to pay the hefty price tag for this rare cat.

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