If you Google the definition for a chimera you’re faced with a rather exotic description of “a fire-breathing female monster with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail,” which I think we can all agree sounds awesome. Unfortunately, such a beast is confined to mythology but chimeras do walk among us. One potential peach of an example was recently introduced on the Instagram account @kittenitwithkiki (a foster page caring for animals that come through to the Nashville Cat Rescue) which posted photos of a kitten whose face is half black and half ginger. They named the precious floof Apricot.
“Have you met Apricot?” wrote the Nashville Cat Rescue in an Instagram post about the orphaned kitten. “This unique baby was found with her brother during a construction project. The two were introduced to our mama duo, Olive and Pickle, who welcomed them into their family without hesitation.” In an Instagram message to IFLScience, @kittenitwithkiki expressed that neither Apricot or her littermates are available for adoption at this time.
With her two-tonal face split down the middle, it’s possible that Apricot could well be a chimera, but it can’t be confirmed without a DNA test. Heterochromia would be another indicator of a chimera but being just a baby Apricot’s eyes haven’t yet ripened so it’s too early to know what color they will be. Most kittens start out with their eyes closed, and when they first open them they will be blue. This can change when the kitten is around seven weeks old, depending on their genes and the amount of pigment they code for.
Chimeras occur when two embryos fuse together in the womb, creating a single animal that has two sets of DNA. While rare, there have been confirmed cases among humans including this man whose chimerism confused the results of his paternity test. In 2009, an American singer discovered she had tetragametic chimerism after investigating a rare birthmark that ran down the center of her body. Estimates vary, but most sources suggest there have only been around 100 cases documented in humans.
Chimeras among cats are not so rare, according to professor at the University of California, Leslie Lyons, who spoke with National Geographic on the topic. According to Lyons, most male tortoiseshell cats are actually chimeras as their characteristic mottled coat can be the result of an extra X chromosome, making the animal XXY instead of XY. Female tortoiseshells can don the coat without the extra chromosome as they already have two X chromosomes.
On the subject of interesting kittens, did you ever see Garlic 2.0? China’s first cloned kitten.