One day in May 2021, a woman went to the vet with a kitten she thought was very sick. It had lost a lot of its fur and looked very thin. But in fact, the kitten was not sick at all! He was doing very well. Indeed, it was not just any cat. It was a wolf cat, also called lykoi. This breed has a very rare genetic mutation in its genome, which makes it lose a lot of hair, to the point of looking like a werewolf. This is why it is also called a werewolf cat.
The history of the wolfcat
The breed was officially recognised only ten years ago, although it seems to have emerged about twenty years ago in Tennessee. Several DNA tests carried out on two wolf cats showed this genetic mutation. They also showed that these cats do not carry the sphynx gene, as their fellow wolf cats who have no hair at all. But for the lykoï, although their fur falls out regularly, it grows back.
This breed has subsequently tended to become more popular, due to its rarity on the one hand, and the fact that these cats trigger fewer allergies on the other. Some breeders therefore try to breed these cats. The mutation can occur naturally in cats, but the gene responsible is recessive, which means that this particularity is less likely to occur. According to the studies conducted on this subject, this breed has what is called hypotrichia. A strange name for a congenital hair deficiency, caused by a reduction in the number of hair follicles. The remaining follicles have more difficulty in supporting hair (or rather, in this case: hairs). And by the way, the resistant hairs are likely to be discoloured.
A curious cat breed
The emergence of new cat species is growing, but breeds as striking as the wolf cat are rare. This kind of natural mutation should be eliminated by a natural selection in nature. "The fur of cats and all mammals is a selective advantage for thermal regulation, camouflage, protection from predators and a barrier to disease. In cats, coat colour and hair quality are often selected as one of the main traits for developing a new breed," say the authors of a study on the breed.
However, these cats may be at risk of health problems due to this mutation. For example, sphinxes are prone to lung infections and other respiratory diseases because of their lack of fur. As wolf cats are relatively new and their population is small, there are very few studies on their health.