Really? It’s come down to this, has it? A veterinarian in Tennessee has been working hard to breed a new type of cat. His crowning achievement is the Lykoi, a cat that looks like a werewolf and acts a little like a dog.
Web sites from Perez Hilton to Gizmodo are cooing over the “scary cuteness” of this new cat. Is anyone stopping to consider what type of person is most likely to want a cat that looks like a movie monster? What are these hipsters and freak fans going to do with these sweet cats when the exotic thrill wears off and the litter boxes still need to be changed?
So What‘s a Lykoi Anyway?
The word “lykoi” translates from Greek as “wolf cat.” No one really “created” the Lykoi, contrary to many stories on the web. The cat is a result of an apparently rare but natural gene mutation that is sometimes seen in domestic shorthair cats.
The mutation causes it to have a strange type of fur growth. Portions of its face around the eyes, muzzle, legs and stomach are nearly bald. The rest of its fur is patchy and appears grizzled. Due to a genetic glitch in its hair follicles, the Lykoi has no undercoat.
During the summer of 2010, a woman with a pair of unusual kittens contacted Dr. Johnny Gobble of Vonore, Tenn. Dr. Gobble, a veterinarian, was fascinated with the mutation evident in these cats.
After running several DNA, heart, skin and other tests to be sure this recessive gene mutation isn’t a precursor to disease or other disorders, Dr. Gobble decided he wanted to breed for this specific kind of cat. According to his website, when the Gobbles saw an advertisement selling similar kittens from a different set of parents in September 2010, they knew they had their “founding cats.”
The Lykoi personality is roughly similar to that of a hunting dog, Dr. Gobble says. They exhibit extreme loyalty and are highly motivated by scent, to the extent that “these guys go almost ‘on point’ when they get a whiff of something!” Smart and affectionate, they are said to use their paws a bit like hands and sometimes clasp them as though “praying.”
Interesting and cool? Yes, they are. The question is: Did we really need another trendy pet for people to clamor over?
Currently there are only seven authorized breeders of the Lykoi in the United States, Canada, South Africa and France. The International Cat Association (TICA) recognized the Lykoi as a new breed in 2012. Gobble hopes to complete the full registration process with TICA so the Lykoi may enter cat show competition as early as 2016.
See a video of a Lykoi kitten here:
Dr. Gobble says he gets daily requests to buy his kittens. People ask him about the Lykoi at least ten times a day. To say these cats are popular sellers is an understatement. They’re a gold mine, and therein lies the problem. A man named Wally Conron knows all about what’s coming next.
Regrets of the Man Who Created the Labradoodle
Wally Conron is widely credited as the man who first bred the Labradoodle, a cross between a labrador retriever and a poodle. His purpose was noble. In the late 1980s, he was trying to help a couple from Hawaii who were looking for a dog that was both hypoallergenic and able to assist the blind.
Others also wanted dogs with these qualities, but didn’t want anything put purebreds. Conron’s stroke of genius was coming up with the name Labradoodle for the poodle/retriever mix.
“I went to our PR team and said, ‘Go to the press and tell them we’ve invented a new dog, the labradoodle.’ It was a gimmick, and it went worldwide,” Conron told The Guardian. “No one wanted a crossbreed, but the following day we had hundreds of calls from people wanting these master dogs.”
In time, everybody started breeding Labradoodles and other poodles mixes, but with no consideration for genetics or background.
“I opened a Pandora’s box, that’s what I did,” says Conron now, with much regret. “I released a Frankenstein.”
For most of these unscrupulous breeders, the only real consideration is money. Much the same thing is happening with other designer dogs, such as Peekapoos, Puggles, Maltipoos and Cheagles. The list of such hybrids is dishearteningly endless.
Conron himself bred only 31 Labradoodles and then stopped. Today he lives on a pension in a small apartment. He purposely chose to make no money from the Labradoodle craze. He rues the day he ever came up with the breed.
“I’ve done a lot of damage,” Conron told The Associated Press recently. “I’ve created a lot of problems.”
Dr. Gobble seems like a nice man with a genuine affection for these cats. The Lykois themselves seem to be sweet-natured, interesting companions. Putting these factors aside for a moment, though, isn’t it abundantly clear by now that world doesn’t need more exotic breeds?
We have far too many homeless companion animals already and yet people are breeding more. Will the world someday heed the experience and advice of Wally Conron? Will we stop creating Frankenstein dogs and werewolf cats?
Photo credit (all photos): Lykoi Cats Facebook Page / B. Gobble