The rarest cat known to man, the Lykoi or Werewolf cat has been rescued by TEARS in The Company’s Gardens. Due to its physical features, this cat breed is often thought of as ill or feral, but the hair loss is part of its genetic make-up.
The Lykoi cat was found under a bush in the Company’s Gardens by the TEARS Animal Rescue Feral Cat team and is the only natural born Lykoi recorded in South Africa and one of 35 in the world.
Part of a litter of six kittens taken to TEARS for sterilisation in March after the disappearance of their mother – a short haired domestic tabby – the only strange-looking kitten in the litter has since been confirmed as an incredibly rare Lykoi.
United States veterinarian and world Lykoi specialist, Dr Johnny Gobble, says, ‘The little Lykoi at TEARS is the first natural mutation in South Africa reported to me. The Lykoi breeder in SA started with Lykoi cats from another breeder that we began with our lines so those cats were bred and did not occur naturally.’
According to TEARS, Gobble, fascinated by rare breeds and genetics, was the first breeder of Lykoi in the world from naturally occurring Lykoi. He says that about 20 years ago, these special cats were thought to have the Sphynx or Devon gene but have since been discovered to be a completely new, natural mutation of cat. He is not surprised that the only natural South African Lykoi was found living wild under a bush.
‘All of the Lykoi that started the breed were found in very similar situations. We have some from shelters, some from feral cat colony trap and release programmes, 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 programme were rescues. They have great personality overall, and we have found no genetic health problems so far. Since they come from the feral colonies, I think they have great immune systems,’ says Gobble.
Since monitoring of the breed began in 2011, there have been 34 reported natural mutations from around the world. The TEARS Lykoi is the 35th.
The kitten’s strange appearance prompted TEARS’ veterinarian Dr Tracy Dicks to take skin samples to test for various skin diseases. All returned negative and with the help of TEARS’ Operations and Feline Programme Manager, Mandy Store, the search to uncover the mystery of this strange cat began immediately.
The physical nature of the mother and other kittens in the litter did not give any clues that this cat could be this unique breed.
Eventually, the discovery made sense due to the kitten’s unusual behaviour. Staff had observed that he did not play as a typical cat would, and displayed qualities that were more dog-like. Initially it was assumed that he maintained his aloof and stoic demeanor because he was a shy feral, but it is now clear that this is the typical behaviour of a Lykoi.
TEARS has named the rare feline, Eyona. This is a Xhosa name that means ‘The One’. The Werewolf cat found against the odds by TEARS, truly lives up to his name.
He is currently in the safe care of TEARS Animal Rescue and will not be re-homed.