Her bi-colored face attracts attention wherever she goes. Venus is now world-famous, and this laid-back kitty with the loving personality is helping to promote animal rescue.

When they first see a photo of Venus the cat, many people assume the image has been Photoshopped, or that someone has dyed half her face black. They’re wrong on both counts. This very unusual kitty was “born this way”, to borrow a phrase from the popular song by Lady Gaga.

“There are several theories behind her appearance,” says her person, Christina. “She could be what is referred to as a ‘chimera’, which would mean she absorbed the DNA of a fraternal twin zygote that didn’t survive.” Another explanation is that her coloring is just a very unique example of X-inactivation, a phenomenon found in tortoiseshell and calico cats. The black and orange alleles (alternative forms of the same gene) of a fur coloration gene reside on the X chromosome; for any given patch of fur, the inactivation of an X chromosome that carries one gene results in the fur color of the other, active gene. Either way, her unique looks have resulted in articles in both National Geographic and Smithsonian Magazine.

To add to her striking appearance, Venus also has heterochromia – two different-colored eyes. “One thing the scientists and geneticists seem to agree on is that her blue eye is the biggest mystery,” says Christina. “Normally, the only cats with blue eyes have a lot of white fur or are completely white, but Venus doesn’t have enough white in her coat to explain this. She is tortoiseshell throughout except for the way her face is evenly divided, and a very small patch of white fur on her chest.”

“One thing the scientists and geneticists seem to agree on is that her blue eye is the biggest mystery.”

Venus started her life as a stray, born six years ago on a dairy farm in North Carolina to a tortoiseshell mother – the identity and coloration of the father is unknown. “I first saw pictures of her, along with her siblings, on a friend’s Facebook page; the friend casually posted the photos as just some cute kittens on a farm. When I noticed her two different-colored eyes. I knew she was something very unique and special.” Although Christina and her family live in Florida, she called her friend and made arrangements to adopt the kitten after a vet check. A few days later, her husband flew up to North Carolina to get the kitten. venus 2

Venus bonded with Christina from the moment she arrived home. For those who are wondering why she was named Venus, it’s because of her loving personality and beauty. “She is very easy-going, sweet and loyal, with a laid back disposition. She is also super-easy to photograph. It’s almost like she knows it’s photo shoot time when I bring out props to go with a certain holiday; she just plops down, sometimes in the perfect place, as if she knows what to do!”

Christina had no initial plans to bring Venus to social media. Working a 60-hour week at the time, she simply had no time for it. “The occasional personal Facebook post of my kids and family was as much involvement as I had with social media. I didn’t even know what Reddit was, yet that’s where it all started after Venus’s picture was posted to the site in August 2012 by a teenaged girl. The picture was viewed over a million times in less than 24 hours, and ‘Venus went viral’ from there.”

When Christina learned how popular Venus had become online, and in such a short period, she decided to learn more about social media. “I chose to embrace the experience in the hopes I could use her popularity to bring awareness to animal rescue. I created a YouTube channel and a Facebook page, learning as I went along.”

Venus has over 700,000 Facebook fans, as well as a presence on Instagram and Twitter, and more recently, her own website where you’ll soon be able to purchase merchandise such as a calendar, book, a Gund plush replica of Venus, and even some funky socks. The website is also raising awareness and funds for animal rescue and shelters.

“I chose to embrace the experience in the hopes I could use her popularity to bring awareness to animal rescue.”

The only blip in Venus’s life to date was a complete urinary blockage she suffered in the fall of 2013. “It’s extremely rare in female cats,” says Christina, adding that they almost lost Venus. “I now use odorless and tasteless cranberry drops, made especially for animals, which I add to her water dish.”venus 3

Apart from that one health issue, Venus enjoys a happy and pampered life being showered with love and admiration from her family and fans. “One of my favorite things about Venus and her fanbase is how she continually inspires people to feel okay with being ‘different’,” says Christina. “She has also reached many people with important messages about the importance of animal adoption, and how TNR (trap, neuter, return) programs can help save the lives of stray and feral cats. Last but not least, she is one of the sweetest cats I’ve ever had.”