A Lykoi kitten — sometimes referred to as a "werewolf cat" — was found by an animal rescue group in Cape Town, South Africa. This extremely rare cat breed comes from a naturally occurring gene in feral cats, according to the International Cat Association. The breed gets its name from the Greek word for wolf.
Although the cat was discovered in March, it wasn't until recently that the group realized how rare he was.
According to Tears Animal Rescue, "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."
They named the kitten Eyona, a South African name that means "The One."
Eyona was one of a litter of six rescued when their mother, a domestic short-haired tabby, disappeared. But this kitten stood out from his siblings. He has patchy, dark hair with flecks of gray and he acts more like a dog than a cat, according to rescue workers. The group describes his unique look as, "like a human, half-transformed into a mythical creature."
Tears veterinarians were so enthralled by Eyona's unusual appearance that they took a skin scraping to test for different diseases.
"He's got the look of a wolf, but the physique of a cat," Tears operations manager Mandy Store told The Dodo. "We thought he might be a sphinx crossbreed, but he's got a lot of little physical differences from cats. He's quite incredible."
Tests came back negative for diseases, so staffers did more research to figure out what he could be.
A Lykoi specialist, U.S. veterinarian Dr. Johnny Gobble, helped identify the kitten as a rare "werewolf cat."
“The little Lykoi at TEARS is the first natural mutation in South Africa reported to me," he said in a statement on the rescue group's website. "The Lykoi breeder in [South Africa] started with Lykoi cats from another breeder that we began with our lines, so those cats were bred and did not occur naturally.”
Gobble said the kitten is the 35th known natural occurrence of the Lykoi genetic mutation. Although other cats have been bred to produce the mutation, Eyona is unusual because his mutation is apparently not inherited.
Although there's a lot of interest in the rare, unusual kitten, rescuers have found a home for him "with one of the greatest feline experts and animal lovers," according to the group.
"Eyona is quite different to other cats, is still feral and will need special care."