Renee Cook was surprised to find this two-faced kitten among a litter of seven her Persian-mixed cat Amber deposited in her bedroom in Amarillo, Texas, on Feb. 19. Amber had the litter of kittens overnight.
AMARILLO, Texas We were taught in college journalism classes to approach things with a somewhat cynical and skeptical attitude. It's a healthy attitude in covering public officials, government legislation and tips on two-faced kittens.
"So, this two-faced kitten," I asked over the phone. "It's got, you know, two faces?"
"Oh, yes. It's got two mouths, two noses, four eyes. It's got double of everything except ears."
Renee Cook is a nurse who holds down two jobs. One is a home-care nurse for special-needs children. The extreme of that is her job at the Clements, Texas, prison.
She got back early Tuesday morning from the prison. She knew Amber, her 3-year-old Persian and Calico mix, was going to deliver sometime this week.
It was a mild surprise when she got in from work and saw Amber had seven little kittens that were born Monday night.
Then came a huge surprise. Cook saw one of the kittens slightly away from the others.
"I picked it up and said, 'Oh my goodness, two faces,'" she said. "I thought it was dead at first because it was cold. But then it started to wiggle and it kept wiggling and wiggling. He has a strong heartbeat and was kind of feisty. So now I'm thinking that it's going to live."
This may not be exactly procedure, but Cook went to Northwest Texas Hospital early Tuesday and procured some formula from pediatric ICU and a syringe. She fed the unnamed kitten here's an early vote for Double Trouble.
She had her choice of mouths to feed and gave the kitten about a cc of formula.
"It can't nurse, but it will take formula," Cook said. "It tries to nurse, but has no ability to grasp. I worry about it getting pneumonia because the formula getting in the lungs."
At first, Amber seemed a little standoffish to little Double Trouble but has started to warm up to him.
As for the father cat, Ruby Jim the Pirate, he walked around like most new dads looking absolutely clueless.
"She (Amber) did reject it at first, but after I messed with him, she's tried to pick him up and put him with the others," said Cook, who's had cats since she was 7.
"Someone said I should take it to a vet, but I don't want to spend a lot of money unless I know it will live."
And those chances?
"It all depends on the structure and how it coordinates with the GI tract in the lungs," said veterinarian Dr. David Hodges. "But they're not common. You don't see hardly any adult cats like that, so the chances of a long-term survival are pretty slim."
Hodges said the only two-faced cats he's seen were in jars at vet school. Gulp. But a Google search did reveal a 7-month-old two-faced kitten in Arizona, and one in 2006 in Massachusetts, Frank and Louie, that was 6 years old.
Cook will try to give the kitten formula every couple of hours since the little fella looks incapable of nursing from momma. The first 24 hours are crucial, and if makes it through the first week, that would be a big step.
Cook doesn't think the lower jaws are formed so that it can chew on its own. She believes it does have two tracheas.
"It's all a matter of a will to live," Cook said. "It will always depend on someone to survive, but right now I don't seen any reason that it can't. Who knows? I'll take it day by day. That's all I can do."
The little kitten looks just like his brothers and sisters when he's in a pile and his face or faces are buried. But he's definitely got some long odds ahead.
"I'm a nurse for special-needs children," Cook said. "This is not that different just a special-needs kitten."
Well, hang in there, little guy. We skeptical and cynical types are rooting for you.
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