Meet Venus, a five-year-old tabby who’s become an internet sensation for her strikingly unusual appearance – half of her face is orange while the other is black!
The divide, right down the center of her face, seems too perfect to be true, so much so that you’ll be tempted to dismiss it as fake. It doesn’t help that her eyes are different of different colors as well, one green and the other blue. But on her website, Venus insists that she is 100 percent natural.
“No makeup at all,” she says. “Not even eyeliner. In the salon where I get my pedicures done Photoshop and spray paint aren’t even allowed.” And she also dismisses the idea that she’s a Chimera – a mythical lion-goat-snake creature. “It’s appalling, but hey, I didn’t invent the English language.”
Christina and Chris, Venus’s owners, first saw her at a dairy farm in North Carolina in 2009. She looked like a mixture of their other two cats – an orange tabby and a black tuxedo – so they knew they had to take her home immediately. People are always shocked when they Venus for the first time, and some have even accused the couple of dying her fur. But they insist that she was born that way and that they had nothing to do with her bizarre coloring.
While Venus’s appearance might seem implausible, it turns out that her coloring can be scientifically explained. According to Professor Leslie Lyons who studies cat genetics the University of California, the black coloration might have been randomly activated in all the cells on the right side of her face while she was a fetus in the womb. The orange color was probably activated on the other side and they met in the middle.
Another theory states that Venus could be the product of two embryos, ultimately frozen into one – a chimera. But Virginia Papaioannou, Professor of Genetics and Development at Columbia University, calls Venus a striking example of a ‘calico cat’. “It’s a fairly straightforward example of X-inactivation mosaicism, with the addition of a white spotting gene,” she said. The color of Venus’s eyes could be different because of the white spotting gene, which is also responsible for the white patches on her coat and paws. In any case, DNA testing could help establish the exact reason behind Venus’ two-toned face.
Thanks to her unique visage, Venus has established a massive online presence. Her Facebook page titled Venus the Two Face Cat has over 930,000 likes. And her YouTube account of the same name has videos with over two million hits. She’s also huge on Instagram and Twitter and has her own line of merchandise sold through her website. Chris and Christina mostly use these accounts to spread positive messages about loving yourself, and to help cats in other shelters.
“No matter how different you are, love yourself and all of your imperfections!” a Facebook post reads. “We all have them. Be true to yourself and don’t change for anyone! We’re not all supposed to be the same. Our differences are what make us unique, which makes everyone one of a kind.”
Photos: Venus the Two Face Cat/Facebook