2021, S Hartwell

The Helki was developed in 2009 from feral cats by Aubrey Anderson, but was eclipsed by "flashier" breeds such as the sparse-haired Lykoi.

It had "semi-rex" coat with a mix of wavy and straight guard hairs that could look unkempt. "Helki" means "touch" in Miwok Indian (Northern California) and reflects the silky, fleecy texture of the coat.

Early breedings to domestic cats show 50% semi-rexed kittens indicating a dominant gene mutation. Non-rexed kittens could display a mohawk (an upright ridge of fur) along the spine when happy. As well as the texture, the fur had a high degree of rufousing, making some colours hard to distinguish. The colour could change during the cat's life; a cream kitten might turn blue and end up reddish-brown while a blue might turn black. The wavy, brittle whiskers were moulted in the first year and replaced by long drooping whiskers and there was a Laperm-like moult of wavy fur as the kittens grew.

The breed was mainly developed from feral/semi-feral cats around South Sacramento (Northern California) and the mutation appears to have originated there with LaPerm-type cats also present among local feral colonies, however the Helki is smaller than the LaPerm. The local feline population includes descendents of various Asian cats that arrived with immigrants several decades previously.

When Leslie Lyons was at UC Davis, Aubrey took a whole litter and their mother to be genetically tested. Lyons didn't think it looked that interesting but one of the other researchers disagreed. Shortly after, Lyons left UC Davis and went to a different university and Aubrey never received the results of the genetic tests, or any other feedback. Breeding ceased in 2012 due to a combination of changed personal circumstances and lack of interest from other breeders, in part due to the appearance of, and interest in, the more distinctive sparse-haired Lykoi.

Since then, other cats with the same fur texture have been seen and are sometimes mistaken for LaPerms, but there has been no selective breeding.


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