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London - At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that this adorable cat has been to a face-painting party. But look closely and you will see her look is entirely natural.

The British shorthair’s appearance, with her face divided into halves of grey and black by a straight line, while the rest of her body is black, is down to a quirk in her DNA. 

The two-tone cat, pictured at her home in France by animal photographer Jean-Michel Labat, is a chimera – the result of two embryos fusing together in the womb, merging non-identical twins.

Although rare, chimeras – which have two sets of DNA – occur in many species including humans, where signs can be subtle, such as having different-coloured eyes.

The word comes from the fire-breathing female monster of Greek mythology that had a lion’s head, goat’s body and serpent’s tail. Chimera is also used to describe something illusory or impossible.

The word chimera comes from the fire-breathing female monster of Greek mythology that had a lion’s head, goat’s body and serpent’s tail. Picture: Flickr.com