Nature can be very strange and never more so than where the Janus cat is concerned. Just recently one of the oldest two-faced felines on the planet passed away having reached the ripe old age of 15 even though he faced many challenges during his lifetime. However, it was not his rare deformity that eventually meant he had to be put to sleep, but rather an advanced form of cancer.
Diprosopia is a congenital disorder where cats literally are born with two faces. In short, these felines are conjoined twins with one face having an oesophagus whereas the other does not. The cat that recently died was called Frank and Louie and appear in the Guinness Book of Records back in 2006 and did so because the conjoined twins survived for so long.
Diprosopia is an abnormality where a cat's face widens as it develops and then duplicates another face which all happens in the embryonic stage. It's caused by an excessive amount of a very specific protein called SHH being produced when kittens are still in their mother's womb. Cats with the condition are referred to as Janus cats by researchers because the condition reminded them of Janus, the Roman god who had two faces.
Many cats with the condition do not survive and the majority die after just a few hours of being born and others a few days later. The reason being they find it virtually impossible to suckle on their mothers as a normal kitten would.
However, Frank and Louie not only survived birth, but he then went on to live for another 15 years of normal feline life. The original owner had taken the tiny kitten in to a veterinary surgery for them to be put to sleep, but a nurse working at the surgery decided to take the kitten home with her. She went on to bottle feed the little creature right up to when he was 3 months old.
This amazing cat went on to live a normal cat's life and was able to eat and drink without assistance with the one difference being that only one of his faces was able to eat or drink. The other side, as previously mentioned did not have an oesophagus neither did it have a lower jaw which made it impossible for it to chew or swallow anything.
Another deformity that appears to go hand-in-hand with diprosopus is a cleft palate with the majority of kittens also having other facial abnormalities too. This makes it virtually impossible for them to drink or eat and although tube feeding a kitten with the condition may work, there's always a risk of aspiration which could end up with them suffering from pneumonia if they are not tube fed correctly. Tube feeding any animal can be very hard and it needs to be done by an expert to avoid them taking any liquid into their lungs.
A Janus cat normally has two mouths, two noses but three eyes which are shared by both sides of their faces. However, cats with the condition only have one single brain. Their outer eyes have normal vision but their inner eye is blind. Any cat that survives like Frank and Louie would need to be neutered so the gene responsible for this strange disorder is not passed on to their offspring.
However, it was not his deformity that meant Frank and Louie had to be put to sleep, but rather a nasty form of cancer which led to the decision. Amazingly, around 50% of deaths whether cats, dogs or other are cancer related conditions which cannot be treated for whatever reason, whether it is too advanced or too invasive for a vet to recommend anything other than putting a pet to sleep.
Nature can be quite cruel when it comes to deformities seen in cats and other animals we keep as pets. A Janus cat has to be one of the strangest on the planet and it's amazing that a feline like Frank and Louie managed to live to the ripe old age of 15 having been lovingly cared for by a veterinary nurse who took this strange looking little kitten home with them. It goes to show that even with this type of deformity, a feline friend can go on to live a normal "cat's life" and bring an incredible amount of affection into a person's life and home.