Calling someone “two-faced” is generally meant to be a harsh insult–but what if they were born that way? For some people (and animals), they simply can’t help it. Diprosopus (also knows as craniofacial duplication), is an extremely rare congenital disorder where parts, or even all parts of the face are duplicated on the head.
Despite some resemblances to conjoined twinning, craniofacial duplication is not a result of two fused embryos, but instead, a protein SHH (sonic hedgehog–yes, we’re serious) which behaves abnormally during development. This protein governs the width of facial features and elements of healthy brain development. When this abnormal behavior happens, humans and animals are born with varying degrees of duplication and what looks like “sharing” of facial features.
Unfortunately, most humans who are born with this condition are stillborn. If babies are not stillborn, the likelihood of them surviving more than a few minutes or days is extremely rare. The same goes for animals; complications with abnormal internal organs and brain developments very often cause fatal complications. There are, however, some exceptions.
Take the case of “Frank and Louie,” sometimes affectionately referred to as “Frankenlouie,” a diprosopus cat who is in the 2012 Guinness Book of World Records for being the longest-living “Janus” cat. These cats are nicknamed Janus after the Roman God, typically described as having two faces; one to look to the past and one to the future.
Frank and Louie was born in 1999 and was brought to a vet’s office by the breeder, who did not expect him to live very long. The veterinary nurse who took care of him ended up taking him home and tube feeding him for three months. After that, Frank and Louis lived until December 4th of this year, to the ripe age of 12. Check out more about the life of this record-holding cutie.