The kitten on the right is an example of a new breed called Lykoi. Veterinarian Johnny Gobble breeds Lykois, a name that is derived from “lycanthrope,” or werewolf. The cat is result of a mutant gene that inhibits hair growth, leaving a cat with sparse hair, especially on its face. Although the gene is naturally-occurring, these cats do not last long in the wild. Due to lack of fur, they are suseptible to hypothermia.
According to Gobble, the cats’ infirm appearance is only skin deep. Aside from the patchy hair that makes them notable, the first few generations of Lykoi cats seem rather healthy thus far. Tests conducted by Leslie Lyons, an aptly named expert in cat genetics at the University of Missouri (home of The Tigers), found no recognized genetic disorders in the cats; a battery of tests done by Gobble at his clinic, from blood screenings to thyroid function exams, turned up nothing out of the ordinary. Gobble cautions, though, that giving the breed an entirely clean bill of health right now would be premature. “It’s way too early,” he emphasized. “A lot of health problems won’t show up until a cat is 6 or 7 years old, and we don’t have any Lykois that old yet.”
Cats with the sparse hair gene are bred with black cats to highlight their unusual fur pattern. A cat must carry two copies of the gene to be a true Lykoi, which is why the littermates in the above picture look so different. The black cat on the left carries only one copy of the pertinent gene. Read more about this new cat breed at Nautilus. See more pictures of Lykoi cats at Gobble’s website.
(Image credit: Brittney Gobble)