Lykoi (Wolf Cat)

Janelle Leeson
By Janelle Leeson. Reviewed by Barri J. Morrison, DVM on Sep. 14, 2023
portrait of a loafing lykoi cat in front of a dark gray background

In This Article

General Care

The Lykoi (pronounced “lie-koi”) is a wild-at-heart cat who generally prefers to be busy embarking on self-assigned missions rather than lounging idly in a lap. Should you be fortunate enough to spot a Lykoi—they are quite rare—you could easily mistake them for a mini werewolf. In fact, “Lykoi” roughly translates to “wolf cat” in Greek.

Sparsely furred bodies aside, Lykoi cats are similar to other small- to medium-size cat breeds in size and weight. They stand 8–10 inches tall and weigh 6–12 pounds. 

Caring for a Lykoi

The Lykoi is a partially hairless cat with a unique appearance that results from natural mutations. They have a roan coat pattern, which is a mixture of colored and white hairs on the body, with their face, tail, and legs mostly solid-colored. Their fur may look coarse, but it’s actually smooth. And because it grows in patches without an undercoat, Lykoi cats are soft to the touch.

Dr. Antonio DeMarco, DVM, chief medical officer of GoodVets, has seen just one or two Lykoi cats in his practice spanning the past 15 years. He says these so-called “werewolf cats” get their partially hairless appearance from a genetic condition called hypotrichosis. Lykoi cats have a lower number of follicles per hair follicle group compared to normal house cats, he explains: “Essentially, it causes very thin hair.” 

As with the similarly nearly naked Sphynx, Lykoi cats require a high-quality diet and occasional baths to prevent oily skin. They may shed less than some other cats most seasons. But be warned, Lykoi cats molt and can become almost completely bald from time to time—a phenomenon affectionately termed “wolfing out.” 

Lykoi Health Issues

The Lykoi cat breed was established in 2011 by veterinarian Johnny Gobble. According to the Atreyukatz Cattery, Gobble took great care in establishing the breed, testing the founding kittens (from separate litters) for infectious diseases, disorders, and even performing a complete cardiac exam on each one. He also worked closely with geneticists from University of California, Davis, and dermatologists from the University of Tennessee to rule out breed-related health conditions.

As a result of Gobble’s careful breeding practices, Lykoi cats are considered a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan of 12–15 years. However, their unique fur makes them prone to a few health conditions, and they can still be affected by many of the health conditions other domestic cats face. Therefore, pet insurance may be beneficial for your Lykoi kitten.

Lymphocytic Mural Folliculitis

According to a study led by the University of Missouri, lymphocytic mural folliculitis is the only condition found to be associated with the lower number of hair follicles in the skin of the Lykoi breed. Typically, this condition is associated with allergic reactions in cats with normal coats. 

Cats with lymphocytic mural folliculitis may have scaly, crusty skin on their head, neck, and belly. They may also have sores on their lips and eyelids, and their paw pads may be dry and cracked. If you notice these or other skin abnormalities, visit your vet, who can diagnose the underlying cause.

Dental Disease

All cats are at risk of developing dental disease, which can lead to bad breath, pain, and even tooth loss. The best way to prevent dental disease is to brush your cat’s teeth regularly and schedule regular veterinary checkups.

What To Feed a Lykoi

Lykoi cats and kittens need to eat cat food that meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional guidelines for their life stage. Lykoi kittens should eat food formulated specifically for kittens. When they’re around 1 year old, kittens should switch to a food formulated for adults.

How To Feed a Lykoi

Lykoi kittens can be free-fed (have access to food all day) or be fed multiple meals a day at scheduled times. Once they reach adulthood, cats should be fed small meals two times a day or more.

If your Lykoi is eating too fast or could benefit from mealtime enrichment (most cats can!), consider serving a few meals or snacks using a food puzzle, lick mat, or slow feeder.

How Much Should You Feed a Lykoi?

Kittens have a lot of growing to do, so they require multiple meals of high-quality food formulated for growth every day. Adult cats, on the other hand, are at risk of weight gain and obesity.

Talk to your vet about your adult cat’s ideal weight, lifestyle, and any underlying health conditions. Your vet can recommend how many calories your adult Lykoi cat should eat daily.

Nutritional Tips for Lykois 

As long as your Lykoi is eating complete and balanced cat or kitten food, they typically don’t require supplements.

That said, your vet may recommend a food enriched with omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, which may improve the health of your nearly naked cat’s skin. Your veterinarian may also prescribe supplements on an as-needed basis for other health issues your Lykoi may be susceptible to.

Behavior and Training Tips for Lykoi Cats

Lykoi Personality and Temperament

While they’re friendly cats who love their people, don’t be surprised if your little Lykoi stalks and pounces when you round a corner. This breed’s limited generations trace back to feral cat populations, so while they are pleasant house cats, their prey drive is strong. That said, smaller pets—or pets that are timid—might not be good companions for a spirited Lykoi.

Lykoi Behavior

Lykoi cats aren’t opposed to a warm lap on a cool day; their lack of fur can leave them chilly, DeMarco says. However, they’re more likely to be found near their human companions, checking off items on their own to-do lists.

Whether it’s playfully batting at houseplants or stealthily stalking their favorite toy mouse, the intelligent and high-energy Lykoi is always looking for something new to do.

Lykoi Training

Learning new tricks is a favorite pastime of many cats and kittens; Lykoi cats are no exception.

However, due to their high prey drive and nearly naked skin, Lykois may not be ideal candidates for leash and harness training. Instead, consider a shaded and secure catio for outdoor enrichment. Indoors, try training your Lykoi using treats, toys, and praise to do tricks like fist bumps and recall.

Fun Activities for Lykoi Cats 

Lykoi Grooming Guide

Make no mistake: Lykoi cats should not be considered low-maintenance kitties. They may lack a full coat, but they still require daily to weekly brushing, just like most other cats. Their skin needs regular attention, too.  

Skin Care 

Maintaining the Lykoi’s wolf-like appearance requires occasional baths to prevent dirt and oil from accumulating on their partially exposed skin. Opt for a cat-specific shampoo that is gentle and free from strong scents or skin-drying agents.

Don’t bathe your Lykoi cat too often. Too many baths in a short period can lead to skin dryness, flakiness, and irritation.

As DeMarco points out, cats are at risk of sunburn. A Lykoi’s thin coat can make them especially sensitive to the sun’s rays, he says. It’s best to keep Lykoi cats indoors or secure in a shaded catio.

However, if you decide to take them outside on a harness (or even if they just like to spend time snoozing in a window perch), you can prevent sunburns by dressing them in an ultraviolet (UV)-blocking shirt or applying pet-safe sunscreen. You can also consider applying UV-blocking film to your windows.

Coat Care 

Despite their thin coat and lack of an undercoat, Lykoi cats still shed. In fact, they are known to molt their coat (or “wolf out”). 

The amount of hair they shed, the parts of their body that molt, and how often they molt varies from cat to cat. The Atreyukatz Cattery says it has seen Lykoi cats who molt their entire coat, except for an adorable patch of hair on their head that resembles a mohawk. Some Lykoi cats become completely bald between molting and growing their coat back, while others hardly molt at all.

To stay on top of your cat’s regular shedding or molting, and to reduce hairballs, matting, and the fur around the house, brush your Lykoi a few times a week. 

Eye Care 

While their eyes don’t require any special care, if you notice changes (for instance, excessive or colored eye discharge), take your cat to the vet to rule out any underlying infections.

Ear Care

With little fur around their ears, dirt, wax, or oil could build up. If you notice that your cat’s ears appear dirty, gently clean them when necessary.

Considerations for Pet Parents

The ideal home for a Lykoi cat is one that appreciates an active and adventurous companion, as the breed is known to be high-energy and naturally curious. Their unique appearance requires occasional baths with gentle, cat-friendly shampoo, and pet parents shouldn’t be alarmed if their Lykoi molts their entire coat!

While their friendly and affectionate nature suits most households, those with small children or pets should be cautious of Lykoi cats’ high prey drive. Daily play and mental stimulation are essential to keep these inquisitive felines content.

Lykoi FAQs

Why are Lykoi cats called “wolf cats” or “werewolf cats?”

The name Lykoi comes from the Greek for wolf, “lycos” or “lycus,” which is a fitting tribute to their unique looks. Lykoi cats are partially hairless with a roan coat pattern, and short fur that grows in patches and lacks an undercoat. This gives them the look of a miniature werewolf. What’s more, Lykoi cats shed their entire coat, which the establishers of the breed affectionately term “wolfing out.”

Are Lykoi cats high-maintenance?

Lykoi cats do require special care for their coat and skin. They may lack a full coat, but they still need to be brushed daily to weekly to remove dead hair and prevent matting. Their skin also needs to be checked regularly for signs of dryness, irritation, and even sunburn. 

How much is a Lykoi cat?

The typical Lykoi cat price starts at around $1,000.

Featured Image: iStock/Angela Emanuelsson

Janelle Leeson


Janelle Leeson

Freelance Writer

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