When a one day old kitten with a rare birth defect arrived at Tuft’s University in 1999 to be euthanized, no one could have anticipated that one day, he would end up in the Guinness World Records. Sadly, on December 4th, Frank and Louie went off to kitty heaven after 15 years of relatively normal cat life.
On average, diprosopus cats only survive for a few days after birth. More commonly, the condition (found occasionally in many different animals as well as humans) is referred to by the name of the two-faced Roman god of beginning and transitions: Janus. Unlike conjoined twins, Janus cats are caused by abnormal protein activity resulting in the duplication of either individual facial features or the entire face.
When the helpless kitten arrived at Tuft’s University in September of 1999 for euthanization, its strange appearance attracted the attention of many staff members, including Martha Stevens. But unlike her curious peers, Martha was drawn to the kitten on a deeper level.
“Can I try to save him?” she asked the veterinarians. Though warned that he would not survive, Martha took the tiny kitten home and tube-fed him, reporting back daily. After three months, Frank and Louie learned to eat on their own (though technically, it was only Frank, since his side of the head had the esophagus) astounding the veterinarians.
Of Frank and Louie’s three eyes, only the outside two functioned. The central eye was blind. Frank could eat and purr, but Louie lacked a bottom jaw and needed surgery to remove a few of his teeth. Aside from their strange appearance, though, Frank and Louie lived a normal, playful, loving life of a cat who enjoyed going out for walks on a leash and rubbing against the legs of strangers even if they reacted with horror to their abnormal faces.
Guinness sent out representatives in 2011 to honor Frank and Louie as the oldest living Janus cat and presented Martha with a certificate.
In late November, Martha noticed Frank and Louie were “feeling a little down” but their condition continued to deteriorate, likely the result of cancer. Martha took them back to Tuft’s where it was decided to put Frank and Louie to sleep and prevent any further suffering. Though losing Frank and Louie was painful, Martha told the media that if given the opportunity to raise another Janus cat in the future, she would gladly do so again.
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