If you’re a die-hard feline enthusiast, you might have heard of a new breed called the Lykoi, often referred to as the “werewolf cat” because of its patchy black coat and yellow eyes. The cats are bred to inherit a rare mutant gene variation, which prevents their hair follicles from producing or maintaining fur. However, The Dodo reports that a rare Lykoi kitten was recently found in South Africa, born to a stray tabby. According to experts, the kitten represents the 35th known cat to have ever spontaneously developed the Lykoi mutation.
Members of TEARS Animal Rescue found the rare Lykoi—which they later named Eyona—among a litter of six kittens born underneath a bush inside a Cape Town park. They noted that Eyona had a patchy, grey-flecked coat, but his siblings and mother didn't. The strange cat was also aloof, and acted more like a canine than a kitty.
The cat tested negatively for skin diseases, and vets confirmed that he wasn’t a member of the Devon Rex breed, a type of shorthaired cat with a thin, curly coat. TEARS ended up contacting Dr. Johnny Gobble, a United States veterinarian and Lykoi specialist. He confirmed that the balding kitty with the dog-like personality was a member of the strange new breed.
“All of the Lykoi that started the breed were found in very similar situations,” Gobble said in a release. “We have some from shelters, some from feral cat colony trap and release programs, and some that were found on the streets. This is why we call the Lykoi a second chance breed. All of the cats in the starting program were rescues.”
The Lykoi breed was created over the past decade from two litters of cats found in Tennessee and Virginia. They’re missing the majority of their undercoat, and have balding spots on their faces or near their paws. The gene that causes this hair loss is likely recessive. Therefore, very few Lykoi kittens currently exist, even among breeding colonies. Since Eyona didn’t inherit the mutation, he’s considered one of the rarest cats in the world.
TEARS commemorated Eyona’s discovery by giving him his name, which means “the one” in Xhosa, a South African language. Even though some prospective owners shell out sums as high as $2500 to purchase Lykois, the members decided to give Eyona to a loving foster owner.
"Everybody wants to meet him, and everyone wants to buy him. But that's not what we want," TEARS operations manager Mandy Store told The Dodo."The last thing we ever want is for him to be exploited. We have the responsibility to makes sure he has a normal life so he can be who he is."
[h/t The Dodo]