A kitten with two faces, affectionately known as Biscuits and Gravy, was born late last week and quickly captured the internet’s heart. Unfortunately, the tiny kitten died just three days after his birth due to complications related to his unusual condition.
Biscuits and Gravy was born on May 20 along with a litter of three other kittens. Known as Biscuits for short, the kitten was notably smaller than its siblings and, perhaps most obviously, he had duplicated facial features – two mouths, two noses, and four eyes – which were split into two parts across his face.
The owners, the King family from Oregon, shared photos of their extremely special kitten on Facebook where he gained widespread attention.
“We are doing everything we can for the little sweetie and he is quite a fighter. Thank you all for loving this little one, he is a lucky little kitty,” they posted on Facebook on May 23.
Speaking to CBS News, the King family said they contacted their vet and learned there wasn't much they could do, medically speaking, for the kitten. For its first couple of days, Biscuits appeared to be doing remarkably well too with a healthy appetite. But despite this early optimism, the family announced that Biscuits and Gravy had passed away on May 25.
“He was born with the longest of odds and by living nearly 4 days, he beat those odds,” their owners posted in a short tribute on Facebook.
The kitten was born with diprosopus, aka craniofacial duplication, a congenital defect in which the fetus develops duplicated facial features. In some especially rare cases, they might have duplicated brain structures too. The precise cause of the condition is debated among scientists, but it’s widely believed to occur during embryogeny due to the excessive production of a specific protein called SHH, known as the Sonic the HedgeHog protein, which is a chemical signal that's essential for embryonic development.
Cats with this condition are sometimes known as "Janus cats" as a hat tip to the two-faced Roman god Janus. The condition is known to occur in humans too, but it’s exceptionally rare with only a few dozen cases documented since records began. Humans with the condition are typically stillborn or die at a very young age, although there are instances of other animals with diprosopus experiencing long and happy lives. The record for the oldest living Janus cat goes to Frank and Louie, who died at the ripe old age of 15 in 2014.