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Can Cats Have Identical Twin Kittens?


By Prev Info - October 16, 2022

 If you think you're seeing double when you look at two of your feline friend's kittens, there might be a reason for that. While some feline siblings may simply resemble each other, other pairs may indeed be true identical twins. Just as with people and other animals, identical twins are possible in cats, although they're somewhat uncommon.


Twin Kittens


Siblings Sharing Genetics


While all kitten siblings share some genetic traits with each other, identical twins have the exact same DNA. These little guys are conceived from the same egg and same sperm from their parents, rather than separate ones. During the mother's pregnancy, this fertilized egg splits and develops into two embryos rather than one, making them literal clones of each other. When the kittens are born, they may share the same placenta, although this is not always the case. It depends on when the split occurs during the pregnancy, advises "Why Do Cats Bury Their Poop?: More Than 200 Feline Facts, Fallacies, and Foibles Revealed."


Mirror Mirror Kitten Images


During development, when the cat mama’s fertilized egg splits into two embryos, the physical characteristics of each cat may "mirror" each other. What this means, is that due to the split, markings that appear on one kitten may appear on the opposite side of the other one. This gives the cats the appearance of a mirrored reflection when they stand in front of each other. Usually mirrored traits appear when the embryo splits between nine and 12 days into a mother cat's pregnancy. If the split occurs prior to this, the little ones may resemble each other in every way, including their markings, or differ slightly due to cell-splits that occur during their separate development.


Conjoined Identical Twins


In some cases, if a mother cat's fertilized egg begins to split very late in the pregnancy, the two fetuses may not have the time necessary to completely separate from each other and the little ones may end up being conjoined at birth. This means that they will be physically connected by one or more body parts or may even share some of their organs. While sometimes referred to as "Siamese" twins, referring to a set of conjoined human twins from the 1800s, don't confuse these rare identical kittens with the Siamese cat breed. This is a fairly uncommon condition in any breed, which is not often seen in either humans or our feline friends.


Kitten Sibling Genetics and Traits


The only way to truly determine if your kittens are identical twins is to have a vet perform a DNA test on them. Even if your kitty gives birth to only two kittens, this doesn't mean that they are necessarily identical. In fact, kittens from the same litter can have multiple fathers. Because of this possibility and the frequency of multiple births in cats, all kittens are usually considered siblings and not fraternal twins, as would be the case with human twins who are not identical. If your kitty does happen to have identical twin kittens, the twins may resemble each other and share the same DNA, but this doesn't mean that they'll necessarily have the same personalities.


Seeing Double


Sure many kittens from the same litter look alike, but identical twins are truly a special occurrence. Find out how they occur.


A black cat wanders in, sits, curls his tail around his toes and gazes up at you with amber eyes. You pet; he purrs. You turn to go, and there he is again, sitting and blinking, waiting to be adored. Are you seeing double? No you're seeing twins! Identical twins are a fascinating phenomenon, and for cat lovers, a pair of twins can be double the pleasure and the fun.


ULTIMATE LITTERMATES


When is a twin a twin? That depends. Human twins occur any time two babies are born from the same pregnancy. They may not be identical, but they are still twins.


Cats are a different story. Jessica Sylvester, a cat breeder and rescuer in Rhode Island, says, Because its normal for cats to have multiple births, there is no such thing as fraternal twins in cats. There are only identical twins. What makes them different from other littermates is that they were conceived with the same single egg and same single sperm.


[Twins] share the same exact DNA, says Michael H. Andress, a veterinarian at Gate City Animal Hospital in Greensboro, N.C. Twins are formed when a fertilized egg splits into two separate embryos. Other litter mates develop from a separate egg and a separate sperm.


The scientific term for identical twins is monozygotic, and the same process occurs in cats as in humans. No studies have been done on twinning cats, but according to human twin research, 23 to 33 percent turn out to be mirror image twins, which exhibit reversed characteristics, such as markings found on the right side of one kitten appear on the left of its twin. 


This happens when the fertilized eggs splits later in the process (around days nine to 12). If the division takes place too late, conjoined twins occur. Conjoined twins are identical twins that did not completely separate and are therefore joined in some way, such as sharing organs or limbs. These are often referred to as Siamese twins in humans, named after the famous brothers.


 However, with cats, the term Siamese twins can be misleading, as this phenomenon can happen in any breed, not just Siamese. The exact percentage is not known, but conjoined twins are estimated to occur once in ever 85,000 human births.






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