A rare Lykoi or so-called Werewolf cat was one of a litter of six feral kittens found recently in a park in Cape Town, South Africa by TEARS Animal Rescue Feral Cat Project staff and volunteers. “The cat, found under a bush, is the only natural-born Lykoi on record in [South Africa] and one of just 35 in the world, making this one of the most exciting discoveries in the [South African] animal world in recent years,” according to a news report on the group’s Website. The kittens, whose mother is a feral Tabby cat, were all brought in to be sterilized and put up for adoption. The kitten, named Eyona, was neutered and cannot be bred, TEARS reports.
The Lykoi’s unique appearance, which includes a largely hairless face and chest, a silver-gray coat and narrow face–is the result of a natural genetic mutation. All Lykois are the product of the same natural mutation. Some breeders in the United States have been cultivating the Lykoi as a new breed by outcrossing rare Lykois with black shorthair cats. The ongoing effort to breed and sell Lykoi for high prices has been controversial. LifeWithCats wrote about Lykoi breeders and the ensuing debate in November of 2015. Eyona will not be rehomed. He has instead been placed in the home of a feline expert and animal lover “with a wonderful track record of rescuing hundreds of feral cats and kittens over the years,” TEARS reported on its Website. “He’s in the very best environment any kitty could possibly be in, and one that will allow him to develop out of the public eye and in the most natural of ways – at Eyona’s own pace.”
The rescue workers were intrigued and puzzled by the kitten’s strange appearance. TEARS’ veterinarian, Dr Tracy Dicks, decided to take skin scrapings to test for various skin diseases. “All returned negative findings and with the help of TEARS’ Operations and Feline Programme Manager, Mandy Store, the search to uncover the mystery of this strange cat began in earnest. Store says, ‘We even tested to see if the kitten was a Devon Rex but results also came back negative. The mother and five other kittens in the litter – all short haired domestic tabbies – gave us no clues about our new arrival so we widened our research.’
‘We were absolutely stunned to discover that we’d brought into our shelter the rarest kitten in South Africa – the weird, wonderful and legendary Werewolf Cat.'” TEARS contacted American veterinarian and Lykoi breeder Dr. Johnny Gobble. Since 2011 when monitoring began, there have been 34 reported natural mutations found around the world, Gobble told TEARS. “The TEARS’ Lykoi is the 35th.”
“The discovery made sense of the kitten’s unusual behavior – 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 behavior of a Lykoi.” Ongoing efforts to breed Lykoi and sell them for exorbitant prices has drawn criticism from the animal welfare community. Eyona is not for sale, however. Instead, he will help other feral cats in need. Eyona will be the “face” of a Quest for Hidden Treasure campaign to raise funds and celebrate “all that is unique and precious, but sometimes hidden from view, in the world around us.”