Dr. Ralph Tran has treated countless kittens during his career as a veterinarian. He worked at the ASPCA kitten nursery in Manhattan, and when he decided to move his life across the country to San Francisco, he got a surprising text. A cat had given birth to an extremely rare kitten that seemed to have two faces. Of course, Dr. Tran knew he needed to help.
The Right Place at the Right Time
When Dr. Tran first heard the news about the two-faced kitten, he was stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire. He was driving across the country toward a new job and a new home, and he just so happened to be stuck only 30 minutes away from this newborn kitten. Once he got his tire situation figured out, Dr. Tran made a detour to go pick up what his friend was calling a “Janus kitten.”
The name “Janus” refers to a two-faced Roman gods. Janus kittens are rare, but they aren’t unheard of. There was actually a famous Janus cat named Frank and Louie that died at the healthy age of 15. Frank and Louie lived a long life, but most of these kittens die within a few days of being born. Most people assume a Janus cat is like a Siamese twin–two kittens that are born physically connected to each. But that’s not the case. A true Janus kitten has one brain and one head, but a gene mutation causes the kitten to develop two working faces. There are two mouths that operate separately, two functional noses, and usually more than two eyes.
After making the extra trip to meet the day-old two-faced kitten, Dr. Tran knew he could help. The kitten had been rejected by her mother, and she was going to need around-the-clock care if she was going to survive. With a new tire and a new kitten, Dr. Tran got back on the road to start his new life in California.
Stronger Every Day
Finally at home, Dr. Tran got to work caring for his newest family member. He named the tiny female kitten Duo (obviously), and treated the kitten for a respiratory infection. Duo needed to be fed through a tube every few hours, and as she grew a little stronger, she was fed with a syringe. She also suffered from a chronic eye infection, and Dr. Tran determined that one of her eyes wasn’t viable, and it will eventually need to be removed.
Surgery, however, will have to wait until Duo is stronger. She’s currently four months old, but Dr. Tran estimates she’s developmentally equivalent to a six-week-old kitten. It took several weeks for the two-faced kitten to start recognizing people and other animals, and she didn’t show interest in toys until she was about nine weeks old. She struggles to learn basic kitten skills like using the litter box and eating solid foods. She’s currently eating wet food out of a bowl, but she ends up wearing more food than she eats. The problem is that both of Duo’s mouths want to eat. They operate completely separately from each other, and this makes simple behaviors more difficult.
But despite those difficulties, Duo is thriving. She is still small for her age, but she is slowly picking up new skills and behaviors. She has already lived longer than most kittens with her condition, and that’s all thanks to Dr. Tran’s dedicated care.
Duo now has her own Facebook page, and photos and videos show that the little kitten is living a happy life. She plays with toys and interacts with other cats. There’s still a lot she needs to overcome, but she has a loving support system to keep her safe. Dr. Tran plans on removing her infected eye and also doing x-rays and a CT scan to get a better idea of how Duo is constructed. With love and specialized care, Dr. Tran is hopeful his two-faced kitten will live a long and healthy life.
Featured image via Facebook/Duo the two-faced cat