Stephanie Durkee didn’t believe her daughter when the youngster raced into the room breathless and gushing about a two-headed kitten. She replied, “I think you are just tired, you’re crazy, that doesn’t happen.” Well, it turns out the kid was right and mom was wrong – cats are prone to this two-faced disorder known as craniofacial duplication.
Craniofacial duplication is caused by a protein with an equally odd name: sonic hedgehog homolog. This protein causes a partial or entire face duplication on the head of the inflicted individual. These cats are thus also called Janus cats, a reference to the Roman God of beginnings and endings who was represented on Roman coins with two faces, one looking forward, one looking back.
After seeing for herself that this newborn kitten did indeed have two faces and that mama cat wanted nothing to do with the helpless critter, Stephanie called her vet. The vet did a health check and said other than having two faces, her kitten seemed to be fine. So Stephanie is now a surrogate mom, hand-feeding the kitten she named Duecy. Stephanie need not worry about missing a feeding however, as Duecy makes it loud and clear from both of her mouths when she is hungry. In addition to her two rosebud mouths, the kitten has four eyes and two noses, but only one set of organs, one body and one tail.
Most kittens born with this two-faced disorder rarely live more than a few days as they typically have problems nursing, are born with other complications and/or the mother rejects them. In 2011, a Janus cat named Frank and Louie however bucked the odds and he (they?) celebrated his 12th birthday – and was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the longest lived Janus cat in the world.
Maybe, if Duecy is lucky, she will join Frank and Louie and live a long and happy life. Thus far, with Stephanie’s tender care, she is off to an auspicious start.