A Kitten with a rare abnormal features of three eyes, two mouths and two nose was born in Eastern Cape, South Africa, on Dec 12. Named Bettie Bee, she has four paws, a tail and two ears like other kittens.
She is a two-faced cat or “Janus Cat”. In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions. It has two faces.
Its double face made it difficult for her to nurse. She could have started to die. The cat-owner brought it to a nearby cat rescuer who is known for taking in special-needs cats.
The rescuer, who wishes to remain anonymous, started tube-feeding the kitten. She wrote in an email to Newsweek that she “can feed either mouth, both are functional, both lead to the stomach.”
The rescuer started a Facebook page for Bettie Bee with pictures and updates.
The kitten appears to have a condition called craniofacial duplication, or diprosopus, Newsweek reported.
The online medium noted that while two-headed animals are usually forms of conjoined twinning, two-faced creatures form differently in the womb.
A protein called Sonic Hedgehog Homolog (SHH) signals genes to control for facial width, among other things.
However, if SHH acts abnormally, the face becomes too wide, and parts of it start to duplicate, and you can end up with varying degrees of craniofacial duplication, such as is likely the case with Bettie Bee.
The opposite of this condition, where the face is too narrow, is called cyclopia because it results in the animal having just one, large central eye, like a cyclops.
Craniofacial duplication can deform a brain or make it difficult to eat and breathe, so animals affected by this trait often die in the womb or shortly after birth.
Complete duplication is also highly associated with organ deformities. But Bettie Bee seemed to be doing just fine initially, until her sudden death at 16 days old.
The rescuer said Bettie Bee was growing like a normal kitten. However, a few days after her story of survival went viral, Bettie Bee came down with pneumonia, according to the official page’s Facebook post.
It’s possible that the cat was inhaling with one mouth while drinking from the other, and got milk in her lungs.
The rescuer treated the pneumonia, but then, the kitten vomited and inhaled more liquid. The rescuer decided it was time to take her to a veterinarian to be euthanised.
“She was struggling and I said to myself from the beginning I would not let her suffer,” the rescuer wrote on Facebook.
“For 16 days, I gave my all and so did she, I would do it all over again, she deserved to have a chance at life but sadly it was not meant to be.”
When Newsweek asked the rescuer for comment, she declined, saying she needed time to grieve.
Craniofacial duplication, or diprosopus, occasionally occurs in all sorts of animals, but can come with a host of other complications.
Usually, the animals die in the womb or shortly after birth.
Sometimes the condition can cause brain deformities and is also often associated other fatal mutations.