Imagine yourself home on the night of a full moon. You’re eating popcorn and watching American Horror Story. You don’t notice your bedroom door creaking open slowly and a pair of yellow eyes glaring at you. Stealthily, it approaches your bed. You feel its fur brush your elbow. You gasp and turn, spilling your popcorn to the floor. And then… you hear purring.
Sound bizarre? Well, reality could be a whole lot freakier. Dr. Johnny Gobble, a Tennessee veterinarian, is behind the creation of a new cat breed–a natural mutation of the domestic shorthair–resulting in a cat that behaves a bit like a dog and looks like something you’d want to keep off the streets of London. They have a fitting name: Lykoi cats.
Greek for “wolf cat”, the Lykoi is the result of a gene mutation observed over the past 20 years. The mutation effects hair follicles, resulting in cats that are nearly hairless on their legs and stomach, as well as on their muzzles and around their eyes. Without an undercoat, they appear to resemble a partially-transformed werewolf. Dr. Gobble noticed this effect of a recessive gene and studied it extensively. After finding two unrelated cats to breed in 2010, the Lykoi were officially recognized as a new breed in 2012 by the International Cat Association. And this new breed exhibits unusual traits. Like a hunting dog, these smart and affectionate creatures are motivated by scent and very loyal to their owners. They also have a fondness for using their paws like hands and are sometimes observed clasping them together in a prayer-like manner.
Of course, they’re not without their controversy. So-called “designer breeds” of dogs and cats often ruffle some fur and raise questions about health and unscrupulous breeding practices. By turning a mutation into a breed, they might be viewed as unnatural abominations, which is ironically the same as werewolves in legend (and possibly real wolfmen). Wally Conron, creator of the “Labradoodle,” knows this the bad sides all too well. Today, he regrets ever making them. Their popularity led to widespread breeding prompted by pure greed without thought of background and genetics resulting in animals prone to problems. “I opened a Pandora’s Box, that’s what I did,” Conron told The Guardian. “I released a Frankenstein.”
Breeding opinions aside, these animals are not monsters. And just like Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster, they didn’t choose to be the way that they are. But with a price tag ranging from $1000 to $2500, odds are that you’ll want to stick with looking at pictures of them on the internet for now. As breeding expands, though, they may become more economically attainable, yet you may want to make sure you’re getting them from reputable breeders (like Johnny and Brittney Gobble, the first breeders) who aren’t just out to make a fast buck. There are so many cats in shelters across the country, looking for a good home. Just because they aren’t weirdly unique in appearance doesn’t mean they may not be as quirky as their future owners.