Is this cat a boy or a girl? Bellini is both
A kitten handed in to a Cats Protection home astounded vets who discovered it is a hermaphrodite - having both male and female organs.
Nine-week-old Bellini was part of a litter taken in by the charity's adoption centre in St Helens, Merseyside, in February when just a few days old.
The unusual condition was only discovered when Bellini - having previously been thought to be a male - was old enough to be neutered and vets discovered female as well as male genitalia.
Cats Protection's St Helen's Adoption Centre manager Sonia Scowcroft said staff were still scratching their heads as to whether to refer to Bellini as a boy or girl - and said they would leave the decision to whoever adopts the black pussy cat.
Ms Scowcroft said: "I was pretty stunned, it's so unusual. I have seen over 3,000 cats during my time at Cats Protection and only seen one other hermaphrodite cat. I certainly never thought I'd see two.
"We have got used to calling Bellini a boy, but really it is up to his new owner to decide what they think is best. Either way, he is an absolute cutie pie and will make a really lovely pet."
Although being hermaphrodite should not cause any health issues for Bellini, he, or she, does have a slight heart murmur so will need a new owner who will ensure he has regular veterinary checks.
Having formed a close bond with litter-mate sister, Daiquiri, the pair are now ready to be homed to a new owner together.
Sarah Elliott, Cats Protection's central veterinary officer, said: "Hermaphrodite - or intersex - cats do not frequently occur so Bellini is one of the more unusual cats to be found.
"This may arise through mosaicism - which is when a kitten's cells divide unusually while the kitten is a growing embryo.
"Such mosaicism may result in a cat with either male or female reproductive organs and genitalia, or a pair of mixed reproductive organs and genitalia. Bellini appears to be in the last group with a mixture of both."
Anyone who lives in the St Helens area and would like to offer Bellini and Daiquiri a home can contact Cats Protection on 01744 817718 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For elsewhere in the UK, cat adoption details can be found at www.cats.org.uk/find-a-cat to view cats in need of homes near you.