Like most kittens, Bettie Bee is adorable. She’s tiny – weighing in at just over half a pound, her meow is more of a whispered “eee!,” and you want nothing more than to scoop her up and hold her all day long.
But there’s something unique about Bettie Bee. She’s not like most other kittens. Bettie Bee has two faces!
She’s what is called a “Janus Cat,” named after the two-faced Roman god Janus. Bettie Bee has an extremely rare disorder called diprosopus, where some of her facial features are duplicated. She has two functioning mouths, two noses, and three eyes.
That’s not to say that she’s two cats, though! She’s just one cat, with one brain, one personality, and so on – she just has duplication of some of her facial features.
Because of her deformities, she wasn’t able to feed from her mother very well, which is common among cats affected by diposopus. Bettie Bee was rescued by an anonymous individual and tube fed. According to her Facebook page, she’s doing just fine as of this post. She’s very active, is moving, has her two “normal” eyes open, and still has the adorable “eee!” sound when she tries to meow.
Extremely rare condition
There have been other cats who gained internet fame for their extra features. In 2014, the two-faced cat named Frank and Louie (another ragdoll cat!) passed away at the age of 15 due to cancer, setting the record for the longest-living cat with diprosopus. Just earlier this year, another two-faced kitten was born in China, however it unfortunately passed away after just two days. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for two-faced cats to have a short lifespan.
While two-headed animals are typically the result of conjoining, two-faced animals are a result of a problem with a protein while the animal is still forming in its mother.
The protein is called “Sonic Hedgehog” (no, seriously). This protein essentially tells the face what to look like. If the protein tells the face to be too wide, it results in duplication of features, like with Bettie Bee. If the face forms too narrow, you have the opposite issue, called Cyclopia. According to Live Science:
Previously discovered, related proteins, had been named after different species of hedgehogs because of their spiky shapes. The discovery of the sonic hedgehog gene happened just around the time the Sega game hit the U.S. (The researcher who named it had kids who were aficionados.)
Mutations in the sonic hedgehog gene are partially responsible for the loss of limbs in snakes, for example, and changes in the gene have been implicated in the evolutionary divergence between species.
Basically, Bettie Bee’s body had too much of the Sonic Hedgehog gene while she was forming inside her mother. The reason Janus Cats generally don’t have long life expectancies is because they often have other health issues as a result of their two-facedness.That said, we know that like humans, cats can be highly adaptive, and cats like Bettie Bee don’t even know that they’re not normal.
Diprosopus in humans
Diprosopus is incredibly rare in humans, with only 36 total cases being reported in all of the medical literature as of 2014. The report in the Journal of South Asian Federation of Obstetrics stated that most human fetuses that have diprosopus develop other abnormalities, which may result in the fetus not being viable. The longest-living human with diprosopus was born in 2008, and lived for only two months.
Back in 2014, Leslie Lyons told National Geographic that while these types of cats certainly have one brain, there are likely impairments to their brain function as a result of their deformities. They often will have a cleft palete and other facial abnormalities. While Bettie Bee has no problems eating from both of her mouths, Frank and Louie didn’t have a lower jaw or esophagus, which likely contributed to his (their?) long life/lives. Of course we don’t know what Bettie Bee’s situation is, but she appears to be receiving care from a veterinarian, so hopefully she can live a long, happy life!