What to Know About a Lykoi

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on July 31, 2022
7 min read

Lykoi cats are great pets with a unique appearance and an adventuresome personality. With an adorable fuzzy wolflike face, Lykoi cats are one of the newest recognized cat breeds and are still a well-kept secret. If you are looking for an intelligent, loyal, and healthy cat that is sure to turn heads, the Lykoi cat may be the right breed for you.

The name Lykoi comes from the Greek word “lycos,” which loosely translates to “wolf.” This cat breed is also known as the Werewolf Cat or Wolf Cat. With its grizzled, wild hair coat and distinctive “mask," it is immediately apparent why the Lykoi cat is compared to a werewolf. 

Although born with a full hair coat, as the kittens age their undercoat sheds, leaving them with a sparse partial top hair coat of coarse-looking hair. Though they look bristly and rough, Lykoi cats are actually surprisingly soft to the touch.

Their faces are hairless around their eyes, nose, ears, and mouth — called a “mask” — giving them a wild, grizzled appearance. The most common hair coat pattern, and the only one accepted in the show ring, is called roan. Roan is a type of hair pattern in which some of the hairs are white (or amelanistic) and the rest are pigmented (usually black, but other dark hair colors are acceptable). Lykoi cats have an inherited gene for abnormal hair follicles. This gives them the characteristic lack of undercoat and distinctive “mask”.

Aside from the inherited wolflike hair coat, the Lykoi cat is genetically the same as the common domestic house cat. The Lykoi cat size is medium, though this can vary. They usually weigh around 8 to 13 pounds, though the males are often a little bigger. They have wide-set eyes, pointy ears, a muscular body, and a medium-length tail that comes to a point. Their eyes are bright, big, and round, adding to the appearance of a werewolf. The Lykoi cat lifespan is similar to other cat breeds at 10 to 15 years.

The Lykoi cat personality is friendly and outgoing, though reserved with strangers at first. Although they are loyal and affectionate, they are more known for playing and exploring than cuddling in laps. They are curious, intelligent, and trainable. Many describe the Lykoi cat characteristics as doglike, even reporting that some wag their tails and tend to run together in “packs”. The Lykoi cat enjoys a constantly rotating supply of toys, and many of them will learn tricks and how to play fetch.

The Lykoi cat does require some basic grooming care, as their sparse hair coat results in oily skin that needs to be bathed once to twice a week. This will help prevent the blackheads that many of them are prone to. In addition to bathing, the Lykoi cat has other basic grooming requirements to stay happy and healthy:

  • Clean their ears weekly (the ears also tend to get greasy)
  • Trim their nails weekly
  • Wipe their eyes daily (as increased eye discharge is common)
  • Brush their teeth daily

Depending on the quality and thickness of the hair coat, some Lykoi cats also require frequent brushing to keep healthy. Despite their sparse hair coat, which is often unstable, Lykoi cats actually shed a lot. The Lykoi cat molts two to three times a year, and some Lykoi cats will shed their entire hair coat, which can grow back thicker or thinner each time.

Lykoi cats have the same basic requirements as all cat breeds. They need to be fed a high-quality cat food and have fresh water available at all times. They require a litter box in a safe, easy-to-access location in the house, to be cleaned daily.  As the Lykoi cat is very active, they do well with lots of toys and places to explore, as well as personal bonding time with the family. Vertical climbing spaces and a good-quality scratching post will help keep the Lykoi cat busy and out of trouble.

The Lycoi cat, though generally very healthy, still requires yearly visits to the veterinarian for checkups, any recommended vaccines, and parasite prevention. To help pay for potential health care costs, pet insurance is recommended.

Vaccine and heartworm prevention recommendations vary based on where you live and your cat’s lifestyle. Most veterinarians recommend the core vaccines – feline herpes virus, feline calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia. Cats in all states except Hawaii will also be vaccinated against rabies virus. 

Cats are not the natural host for heartworm, but they can still get it, and some veterinarians in areas with a high incidence of heartworm will also recommend heartworm prevention for your cat.

Due to their sparse hair coat, the Lycoi cat should not be let outdoors if possible. They are prone to hypothermia (low body temperature) and sunburns. The pink skin of a Lykoi cat can darken after too much time in the sun, and they can burn, so if they must go out, a cat-safe sunscreen is recommended.

As the Lykoi cat is a new breed, developed from the standard domestic house cat, common Lykoi cat health problems are not yet known or documented. Special care has been taken since the Lykoi cat was established to avoid inbreeding and to screen heavily for any genetic defects. Routine veterinary care, plus special care for the unique hair coat, should be sufficient. However, genetic testing, when available, is recommended, as the breed is still too new to have much information.

The Lykoi cat is an exceptionally healthy and easy-to-care-for breed. With care and affection, they make a great addition to a family and are wonderful with children. Intelligent, lively, and gentle, the Lykoi cat will generally get along with other cats and dogs. Most Lykoi cats do have a strong prey drive, so they are not recommended for families with small pets like rabbits or guinea pigs.

Although their sparse hair coat would suggest that the Lykoi cat is hypoallergenic, they are not. They do have the longer topcoat and shed regularly. Families with known allergies should not get this breed.

The Lykoi cat is still very rare, with a few select breeders who are very protective of their genetic lines. For this reason, the Lykoi cat is currently expensive and hard to find. By current counts, there are only about 100 registered Lykoi cats in the world. 

Most Lykoi kittens from a reputable breeder will cost anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500. There are already many scams and false advertisements out there, so be sure to speak to the breeders, speak to other people who have bought their kittens, and see the cats in person if possible before handing over money. Reputable breeders also sometimes have adults up for re-homing, so check back often. Very rarely, the original recessive gene that causes the distinctive Lykoi hair coat will pop up in a kitten at a shelter or rescue, so keep your eyes open and you may get lucky and find one there.

The history of the Lycoi cat is very short and a bit unusual. The defining characteristics of the Lycoi cat are the partial hair coat and the roan pattern, but in all other respects, the Lycoi is a standard house cat.

The gene that causes the distinctive Lykoi hair coat naturally and randomly occurs in populations of domestic shorthair black cats. This relatively rare natural genetic mutation was first noted over 40 years ago, but it wasn't until very recently that this special cat, with the distinctive werewolf look, started to gain attention.

In 2011, a woman named Patti Thomas rescued two unusual kittens from a rescue organization in Virginia, U.S. She named the male cat Silver Lining and named the female cat Ray of Hope. These kittens, who were littermates, had the same distinctive hair coat and came from the same solid black domestic short hair mother. 

Concerned the kittens had a disease, Pattie brought her new kittens to a veterinarian in Tennessee, Dr. John Gobble, who became part owner of the kittens. He determined that the cats were perfectly healthy, but everyone involved wanted to know more about where the unusual hair coat came from. Were these kittens related to two other known hairless cat breeds, the Devon Rex or Sphynx? Dr. Gobble, with the help of a geneticist, Dr. Leslie Lyons, was able to determine the kittens did not carry the genetics of these breeds, and they were in no way related.

Soon after, Dr. Gobble and his wife, Britney Gobble, were given two more kittens with the same distinctive hair coat. They bred them with the unrelated first pair, and the Lykoi cat breed was born. Patti Thomas and the Gobbles quickly established a breeding program to control and monitor the Lykoi cat’s health and gene pool. The Lykoi cat is closely protected, and breeders are careful not to interbreed or accidentally introduce new genetic health problems. The Lykoi cat breed was officially included in the International Cat Association in 2012 and the Cat Fanciers Association in 2018.

Today, the Lykoi cat is still considered rare, nearly as difficult to find as its namesake. However, the “Werewolf Cat,” with its engaging personality, easy good health, and fanciful fuzzy face, is definitely worth the effort.