For the last few days Lykoi, aka “werewolf,” cats have been trending on Facebook. This new breed of cat is described as “acting like dogs while looking like cats,” according to Wendy Barnes, the online programs coordinator for K-State Counseling Services.
“I think they’re very cute,” Dorinda Lambert, director of Counseling Services, said. “I know some people react differently to them, but they’re just so cute … they’re very sweet cats.”
The breed was discovered in the last 20 years by Johnny Gobble and his wife, Brittney. In order for Lykoi to be recognized an official breed, they had to be registered with The International Cat Association. The Gobbles sent the organization paperwork to notify them that they were experimenting with a new breed, and in 2011 Lykoi was formally established.
Barnes and her husband Dominic, Fort Riley and Military Student Services coordinator for K-State’s Global Campus, were the first in the Midwest to breed the cats and are currently the only Lykoi breeders in Kansas.
“A friend of mine shared one of the Gobble’s images of a Lykoi to my page and she’s like, ‘here’s the cat for you,'” Wendy said. “I was instantly in love.”
Information about the breeding practices of Lykoi cats has been met by a torrent of factual inaccuracies. According to Wendy, the Lykoi gene is a natural mutation of a recessive gene.
“(They’re) not genetically modified,” Wendy said. “The Gobbles aren’t sitting in their basement with a laboratory acting like mad scientists.”
So Wendy emailed the Gobbles with an adoption request and soon a standard Lykoi cat, Loki, joined the Barnes family. That wasn’t the end, however, as the Gobbles also asked Wendy if she was interested in breeding Lykoi in addition to owning one.
According to Wendy, the couple was looking for breeders they could guide for the proper needs and care of a Lykoi cat.
“I just never responded,” Wendy said. “I had no breeding and show experience.”
The Gobbles reached out to her again in March 2013 to once again ask if she was interested in helping with the breeding program.
“They had a little male kitten and it would be available in a couple months time,” Wendy said. “I responded … saying that ‘I’m in love with the cats, but I understand that you want to have people that know what they’re doing and I guess I’ll just wait until you get one back.'”
At that point in time, there were only seven breeders in the world and only 25 standard cats.
Lykoi cats can only breed with a black domestic short-haired cat. The Barnes’ cat is considered a “foundation cat,” because he is a standard Lykoi; meaning he has a roan fur pattern.
This roan pattern, known as an even mixture of white and pigmented hairs that do not fade as the animal ages, was previously only seen in horses and dogs before the Lykoi breed was discovered. According to Wendy, it took over a year to get the term added into the acceptable terms used in defining these cats.
“It has been recognized as an official color pattern with TCIA,” Wendy said. “So they added that color to the accepted colors for the international organization.”
Once Loki or another foundation cat breeds with a black cat, their offspring are considered F1 because they are one generation from the foundation cat. Any black kittens can stay within the breeding program; however, any classified as blue have to be petted out, meaning they will be adopted out instead of used for breeding.
“We’re trying to diversify the bloodline,” Wendy said. “We’re trying to keep the cats from inbreeding.”
Due to the fact that Lykoi are a new breed, the Barnes and Loki participate in local and national cat shows in order to spread awareness and knowledge of the breed.
“(Loki) was the first cat to show in any cat show in (the experimental breed) category,” Dominic said. “We just happened to be the first ones there.”
Since there is no prior information on Lykoi, Dominic said that breeders have to educate not only spectators, but also judges at shows. According to Dominic, judges cannot judge a cat without a standard to draw information from.
“We had to teach the judges,” Dominic said. “Before all this happened, as a group we decided what the standard would be and then it was published. We took with us copies of the standards for all the judges … and we had a judge that looked at (Loki) and said, ‘This is not a black cat.'”
Since then, Lykoi were established as an advanced new breed by the association. The Gobbles’ website said they are hopeful the cats will be a championship breed by 2016.
Despite the challenges the breed faces, the Barnes say Lykoi are very intelligent, sweet creatures.
“You either look at them and say, ‘Oh that’s a cool cat,’ or you just don’t like them,” Wendy said.