Cats with four ears are uncommon, but not unknown. Strictly they do not have four ears, but rather four 'pinnae', or outer flaps that stick up from the head; the extra 'ears' have no ear canals or inner-ear mechanism and so do not help the cat's hearing. The phenomenon is thought to be due to a recessive gene and occurs only when a kitten inherits a rare genetic mutation from both sides of its family. The 'spare' pinnae are generally smaller than the real ones.
A small, female tabby cat with four ears was born in Ashville, Ohio, USA in 1946. From normal sires she had 16 offspring that were also all normal, but when mated with one of her sons who was heterozygous, some of the kittens had the four-eared mutation.
Lilly from Germany
More recently, in 2004, a black-and-white domestic cat with four ears came to a German animal shelter at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Bavaria, from a family who lived on a nearby farm and already had more cats than they could cope with. Named Lilly, she was healthy and could hear perfectly well but only through the front pair of ears; the rear pair are slightly smaller. Head of the shelter, Tessy Lödermann, said Lilly was 'not a freak', but rather an energetic, loving and well-adjusted kitten. The other cats in the shelter played with her in a normal manner and didn't ostracize her. She was a bundle of energy, but liked to be cuddled.
Lilly was neutered and then, following a suitable interval, was put up for adoption. The shelter was deluged with requests to adopt her, from people all round the world after the local press published pictures of Lilly and then the story was picked up by the Reuters news agency. However, the shelter quite rightly wanted to make sure that whoever took her in was looking for a normal cat and would not treat her as a joke or make an exhibition of her. She went to a 'completely normal family' that had taken cats from the shelter in the past.
Yoda from the USA
In 2006 Valerie and Ted Rock of Chicago took in a four-eared kitten after visiting a bar near their home in the south of the city, where he was being passed round by curious drinkers. He came from a litter of eight kittens and the owners were looking for homes for them. They were not planning on having another cat, having just lost one that had been their pet for over 20 years. But when he was passed around he reached for Ted, crawled up into the crook of his neck and fell asleep. 'Ted was a goner,' said Mrs Rock. 'It was a done deal when the kitten made himself at home on Ted's shoulder.'
Taking him in to the vet's for a check-up, the vet was mystified, having never encountered anything like him before, but gave the kitten a clean bill of health. He was named Yoda after the well-known Star Wars character. 'We began to realise that we had a very special kitten,' said Valerie Rock. 'As a result, he has been an indoor cat and has a chip installed in case he gets lost. Yoda is so different that we were concerned that he might be catnapped. People do a double take when they see him or his picture, and it's great fun showing him off,' she continued. 'We have actually had people asking if we had his ears cut to look this way. But he is a perfectly normal affectionate, curious cat and is a joy to have around.
'Yoda is not afraid of anything and is very sociable, unlike some of the other cats I have owned. But he does have an interesting obsession with bread I can't leave bread on the counter for a moment. And when he purrs, it is not audible. The only way I know that he is purring is to put my finger on his throat to feel the vibration. He is not very vocal; he does meow, but only softly, and not very often.'
Luntik from Russia
In late 2010 it was reported that a four-month-old kitten, born with four ears, was living at an auto repair shop in Vladivostok, the port city in the far east of Russia. His vestigial ears are in front of his normal ones. Apart from the cute photos, courtesy of Reuters, we have no other information about Luntik.