6 Facts About the Lykoi: The Modern Day Wolf Cat

Actual cat, or online myth? The Lykoi is a fairly new name, but the breed has plenty of science backing it up.

Apr 7, 2024By Maya Keith
facts about the lykoi

Werewolves have been around nearly as long as we’ve been telling stories, from The Epic of Gilgamesh to the Legend of Lycaon and so many stories since then.

The Lykoi may seem like a feline fit for these tales, but it's every bit as real as any other cat breed. While these were-cate are relatively new, they already have an established history and plenty of fun facts to take in.

Lykois Get Their Name from the Greek Word for "Wolves"

lykoi kitten blue background
Image Credit: Lykoi Wisconsin

The name Lykoi is derived from the Greek word for “wolf”: λύκος (lýkos). This is obviously a nod to the cat’s weird wolfish appearance, with their sparse, wiry-appearing coat, their intense eyes, and their athletic structure.

Lykois also have roan coloring, meaning there’s a mix of colored and white hairs on their body. This makes their hair look coarse and wiry, but it’s actually velvety soft.

Unfortunately, many have taken this name and ran with it. Plenty of images of Lykoi cats found online are doctored to emphasize their lupine features, and it can be difficult to track down an accurate picture.

Lykois Get Their Appearance from a Genetic Condition

lykoi cat
The disheveled coat of a Lykoi actually comes from Hypotrichosis.

The striking appearance of the Lykoi is not a disease or a mutation of another breed. It comes from a condition called hypotrichosis. Cats with hypotrichia have fewer follicles per hair follicle group, resulting in this partially hairless appearance.

The condition also affects their ability to keep this hair. While they may shed less on the average day, Lykoi are also known to “Wolf Out” and molt their coat. They remain completely bald for a time until their coat grows back.

Lykois Have a Few Health Concerns

Lykoi kitten
Image Credit: Nada Catz

Lykoi have fewer health problems when compared to other purebreds. When determining the reason for these cats' sparse coats, founder Johnny Gobble performed extensive tests to rule out health issues. These included:

  • Genetic testing at the University of California Davis
  • Dermatology consults at the University of Tennessee
  • Cardiac scans

Despite these tests, Lykois have a few health issues to consider.

Because they have a lower number of hair follicles, the breed is susceptible to Lymphocytic Mural Folliculitis. For cats with normal coats, this is usually related to allergic reactions and manifests as scales or crusts on the head, neck, stomach, lips, or eyelids.

The lack of skin coverage also means Lykoi are more prone to sunburns. Because of this, owners usually invest in a cat-safe sunscreen and limit their feline’s time out on the “catio”. They may also use UV-blocking garments or adding UV-blocking film to their windows.

Black-colored Lykois are More Expressive

lykoi kitten olive dragon costume
Regardless of coloring, every Lykoi cat has a striking appearance.

The development of the Lykoi utilized cats from the across the United States and Canada known to carry the gene responsible for hypotrichosis, including those from feral cat populations in:

  • California
  • South Carolina
  • Missouri
  • Texas
  • Vermont

Selective breeding from such a wide and well-tested gene pool ensured the Lykoi had a strong foundation to build off of. While there are different color patterns within the breeder, founders Johnny and Brittney Gobble found that the roan is most dramatic in black-colored Lykoi and are currently focused on crossing only black domestics in the program.

Lykois Have a Moderate Grooming Requirements

Baby Lykoi
Image Credit: Shalnavazz Sphynx + Lykoi

Less fur does not mean less work. Lykois may not need regular grooming like Maine Coons or weekly baths like hairless breeds, but grooming is more involved than your average domestic shorthair.

You should run your hands over them daily to feel for cuts, bumps, or scrapes that are easily disguised by their unkempt appearance. Use a soft brush every other day to limit mats and remove loose hair that would otherwise become a hairball.

You should still bathe these cats about once a month. This ensures their skin is clear of any oily build up or debris that a normal coat would otherwise wick away.

Lykois Spend Plenty of Time as Lap Cats

lykoi held
Image Credit: Lykoi Poland

Lykois are intelligent and energetic. They have a lean physique more similar to moderate foreign breeds than the laid-back mixed breeds warming laps across the globe, but they can easily do both.

The breed is recommended for experienced owners. They get bored without proper enrichment and exercise, including simulated hunting scenarios and interactive play with their owner. Because they’re also independent and curious, cat-proofing the house is a must.

Lykois are also cuddly and love to spend hours napping in warm sun spots around the house. They prefer calm environments, so households with small children may not be the best fit.

Maya Keith
By Maya Keith

Maya is a lifelong animal lover. While she switched from studying veterinary medicine to English, she continues to help by fostering animals in her community. Her permanent residents include 3 dogs, 2 cats, 5 quail, 19 chickens, and a small colony of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.