Animals & Wildlife Magazine

Two-Faced Venus is One Cat Or Two Cats?

By Ningauble @AliAksoz

We know that 99 percent of the internet is cats and Venus the two-faced cat is currently one of the celebrity felines on the planet.

The three-year-old tortoiseshell whose one half is solid black with a green eye—the other half has typical orange tabby stripes and a blue eye, appeared on the Today Show recently.

Two-Faced Venus is one cat or two cats?

But how does a cat end up looking like that? Leslie Lyons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who studies the genetics of domestic cats says that ”She is extremely, extremely rare,” Lyons said. “But you can explain it and you can understand it.”

Many reports about Venus refer to the cat as a “chimera.” In mythology, a chimera is a monster, a horrible mixture of a snake, goat and lion.  A feline chimera is a cat whose cells contain two types of DNA, caused when two embryos fuse together. Among cats, “chimeras are really not all that rare,” Lyons said. In fact, most male tortoiseshell cats are chimeras. The distinctively mottled orange and black coat is a sign that the cat has an extra X chromosome.

But female cats, said Lyons, already have two X chromosomes so they can sport that coat without the extra X. That means Venus is not necessarily a chimera. To find out would require genetic testing, said Lyons. With samples of skin from each side of the cat, “we can do a DNA fingerprint—just like on CSI—and the DNA from one side of the body should be different than the other.”

If Venus isn’t actually a chimera, then what would explain her amazing face?

“Absolute luck,” Lyons said. One theory: perhaps the black coloration was randomly activated in all the cells on one side of her face, while the orange coloration was activated on the other, and the two patches met at the midline of her body as she developed.

Cat fanciers who are transfixed by Venus’s split face may be missing the real story: her single blue eye. Cat eyes are typically green or yellow, not blue.

A blue-eyed cat is typically a Siamese (like Mojo) or else a cat with “a lot of white on them,” she explained.

Venus appears to have only a white patch on her chest, which to Lyons is not enough to explain the blue eye.

“She is a bit of a mystery.”


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