Two-Faced ‘Janus Cat’ Shown Mewing From Both Mouths [Video]

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I never cease to be amazed by nature. A video of a cat from Chongqinq, China has been released, showing the cat to have two faces, and to be meowing from both of its tiny little mouths.

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The cat is known as a Janus Cat, because Janus is a reference to the Roman god known also for having two faces on one body. Sadly, the little kitten died 2 days after it was born, as its condition is typically not compatible with life.

The condition, called diprosopus, happens when conjoined twinning occurs and two heads form on one body, according to UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine professor emeritus Dr. Niels Pedersen. When a gene that makes a protein named ‘sonic hedgehog,’ doesn’t perform appropriately, it changes the embryonic development of a fetus’s face, skull and body parts.

If the name ‘sonic hedgehog’ sounds familiar (as in a video game), it’s because it was named after the game for several unique reasons. Other related proteins that have been previously discovered have been named after different species of hedgehogs because the proteins have spiky shapes like a hedgehog. When the Sega video game came into the United States market the sonic hedgehog gene had just been discovered. The researcher who gave it its name did so because his children were fans of the video game.

When the body makes too much of the sonic hedgehog protein, diprosopus can occur. Diprosopus is not unique to cats; other cases have been reported in piglets and chickens. In humans, there have been only 36 cases ever reported in medical literature, making Diprosopus extremely rare in humans. In a 2014 report, the Journal of South Asian Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported the case of a 26-week-gestation baby with 2 complete faces. The baby had been born still, and as is common in others with Diprosopus, had other anatomical issues as well, including anencephaly. That report claimed that the odds of Diprosopus happening in humans was between 1: 180,000 and 1: 15,000,000.

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Most born with Diprosopus, human or feline alike, only live a few hours to days after birth. In 2014, a set of conjoined Diprosopus twins named Faith and Hope were born and lived for 19 days.

Remarkably, a Janus cat named Frank and Louie lived for 15 years, and holds the Guinness World Record of being the world’s oldest Janus cat. He died of cancer complications in 2014.