Like most newborn kittens, Duecy had a furry little face with a sweet little nose. But unlike most kittens, she had a second face.
Duecy the kitten was born and died this week in Amity, Oregon, KGW.com reported. She was what’s known as a Janus cat—like the Roman god of the same name, she had two faces on her head.
It is a rare condition, but “from a scientific point of view [the cat is] nothing spectacular,” says Leslie Lyons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who studies the genetics of domestic cats.
“That type of deformity can really occur in any mammal,” says Lyons. Duecy could have been twins, Lyons explains, but early on in her development an embryo didn’t completely split in two.
The result can be a cat with two faces, and one not destined to live long. With few known exceptions—like Frank and Louie who lived to at least 12— cats and other animals with this condition typically die young. Duecy’s brain function was likely compromised in some way, says Lyons.
Duecy was reportedly abandoned by her mother, which Lyons says is typical cat behavior when a kitten is deformed. But there are other types of maternal reaction in this situation. “Often when there is a malformed kitten, the mother will consume it,” Lyons says. “Cats tend to know when there is something wrong with the kitten.”
Lyons says it is difficult to estimate how often Janus cats are born, in part because they so rarely survive. Twinning in cats is also poorly understood since genetic testing would be necessary to determine which cats in a litter are actually twins.