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What Is a Janus Cat?
A cat born with two faces is known as a 'Janus' cat. This name was inspired by Janus, the Roman God of past and future, who is depicted as having two faces—one looking into the past and one looking to the future.
Janus cats are believed to be born with two faces as a result of the kitten producing an excess of the protein Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) whilst in the womb. This protein plays a role in the formation of the skull and face during the embryonic stage of development.
It is rare for a Janus kitten to survive. Many die within hours of birth and others a couple of days after birth. The poor Janus kitten is not always able to suckle like a normal kitten, and they are often killed at birth by the mother cat.
Janus cats are born with the condition Diprosopia, a congenital disorder where cats are literally born with two faces.
- Diprosopia in cats is an abnormality where a cat's face widens as it develops and then duplicates another face. This all happens in the embryonic stage.
- This condition is the result of an excessive amount of a very specific protein called SHH being produced when kittens are still in their mother's womb.
- This condition does not just happen in cats. It is an extremely rare form of craniofacial malformation seen in newborns of humans, animals and birds.
- Most babies with this condition are stillborn but there are survivors who go on to live a fairly normal life with two heads.
Another deformity that appears in the Janus cat is a cleft palate, which makes it extremely difficult for the kitten to drink and eat. Tube feeding these tiny creatures is a possibility but must be done by an expert as there are risks of choking and aspiration pneumonia through liquid entering the lungs of the cat.
Frank and Louie
Frank and Louie, a Ragdoll cat, was born in Massachusetts in September 1999. The original owner of Frank and Louie took the tiny kitten into a veterinary surgery for him to be put to sleep because it is rare for a cat like this to survive. A nurse at the surgery that day decided to take the kitten home with her hoping she could help him. For months, every couple of hours, she bottled fed the tiny kitten until he was three months old.
Amazingly, this little kitten survived and went on to live a fairly normal life. He eventually could eat and drink without assistance from his adopted mum. He could only eat and drink with one side of the face as the other face did not have a lower jaw or oesophagus.
Frank and Louie, sometimes call Frankenlouie, shared one brain, only two functioning eyes, two noses and two mouths but could only eat and drink from one mouth. He appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2006 for being the longest surviving Janus cat. He continued living for another eight years and died in 2014 at the age of 15. In the end, he had to be put to sleep because he developed cancer.
Duo was born in November, 2019 and was adopted by veterinarian Dr Ralph Tran when she was just a few weeks old. She was born with four eyes, two noses and two mouths that she can eat from. Dr Tran had to hand feed her for the first few months of her life, but she can now eat by herself and she loves to eat. Sometimes she struggles with eating because she likes to eat with both mouths.
Dr Trent says that Duo has a big personality and faces many challenges because of her disability. She will probably have surgery to have one of her eyes removed, but she is full of life and loves to play with other cats and have her belly rubbed. Duo is now over a year old and loving life.
Bettie Bee, a conjoined kitten, was born in 2017. She was born with a very rare congenital condition of craniofacial duplication, which is when facial features are doubled whilst they are growing in the womb.
Bettie had two mouths, two noses and three eyes. This kitten was especially unique in that she only had three eyes, unlike the other conjoined twin kittens with two full sets of eyes (totaling four). Bettie's two mouths led to her stomach and she was able to be fed via a tube. Unfortunately, poor little Bettie Bee passed away just a couple of weeks after birth.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on August 03, 2020:
Thanks for reading Doloras. Fortunately the Janus cat is a rare abnormality in the poor creatures.
Doloras on August 03, 2020:
What a fascinating article. I never knew these cat’s existed
Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on July 05, 2020:
Thanks for reading Doloras.
Doloras on July 05, 2020:
Wow I did not know that such cats existed. Fascinating information thank you
Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on July 05, 2020:
Many thanks Aher Sanchita Santosh for reading my article and for your kind words that are appreciated.
Aher Sanchita Santosh on July 05, 2020:
Animals have always been the motivation. Was privileged to go through such an amazing article.
Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on July 03, 2020:
Thanks for reading Sp Greaney. I agree that it is amazing how some animals can be so strong. I have involvement with many feral cats and I have seen their strengths when they have been hurt or suffered in some way. Such lovely creatures, all of them.
Sp Greaney from Ireland on July 03, 2020:
Amazing too read that even though they were born with this condition, some managed to survive it. It's amazing how strong animals can be.