When Deanna saw a photo of a kitten who was born with one eye and a twisted jaw her friend Cathy — who runs Silver Cloud Special Cat Services in Walla Walla, Washington — had recently rescued from euthanasia, she was eager to learn more about the young calico cat.
“When I saw Gretta’s picture posted, I messaged Cathy within minutes,” remembers Deanna. “Quickly, she admitted she would love to see Gretta come to us, knowing we were equipped to meet the social needs Gretta would have.”
Deanna and her husband Tom had plenty of experience caring for special needs kitties, having adopted Tippy, an adorable black and white cat who developed vestibular syndrome and vertigo as a result of the neglect she suffered as a kitten.
The couple had also fostered Quasi, a kitten who was born with malformed hind legs, making them ideal adopters for Gretta. “Tom and I drove to Walla Walla to meet Gretta, though no introductions were really needed,” says Deanna. “My heart already knew and loved her.”
On August 24, 2018, Deanna and her husband met Gretta in person for the first time when she was just eight months old, and while the calico kitten was very shy, they were certain she was meant to be a part of their family. “Gretta was so guarded, we weren’t truly able to interact with her,” explains Deanna. “It was more getting her to our home, and beginning the work of showing her what safety and security felt like.”
Back at their house in eastern Oregon, Deanna and Tom worked to help Gretta come out of her shell, showing her that they would provide her with the unconditional love she had been denied for most of her life. After all, instead of working to accommodate Gretta’s special needs caused by her twisted jaw, such as simply providing her with soft, wet food instead of hard, dry food, this one-eyed girl’s former family took her to a vet’s office to be put to sleep. “She was very neglected and mistreated. She was so sad, and I don’t think she had ever really been cuddled, or hugged,” says Deanna. “She was being referred to as Princess Grunty Runty by her prior people. Terrible, right?”
While it took several months for Deanna and her husband to gain Gretta’s trust, thanks to lots of patience, love, and the right food, today, this little girl is doing great. “Gretta began growing and thriving once she was able to eat a well-balanced soft diet,” explains Deanna. “We don’t believe she had ever truly been able to enjoy her food before coming to us.”
Now, not only does Gretta like to eat, she loves to cuddle with people and other cats, and she adores bird watching with Tippy, her family’s other special needs cat, and hanging out under the dining room table with Duke, one of Deanna and Tom’s three Russian Blue kitties. “Gretta likes to observe the red dot, but is still a bit too shy to interact with it if any other kitties are playing too,” explains Deanna. “Gretta loves and appreciates a schedule and if I am running at all late, she will let me know!”
While special cats like Gretta often have difficulty finding homes simply because they’re shy or they look different from the average feline, Deanna is certain all the hard work she and her husband have put into gaining this calico’s confidence has been worth it.
“Nothing warms my heart more than to see my 3-year-old and 6-year-old granddaughters treat Tippy and Gretta both with such warmth and respect,” says Deanna. “They know Gretta is different, but it doesn’t matter to them. She is still snuggly and sweet.” By sharing Gretta’s story, Deanna hopes it will convince others to get past the initial sadness they feel for special needs cats.
After all, while it’s easy to understand why someone might feel sympathy for a one-eyed feline like Gretta, pitying a special kitty doesn’t do them or anyone else any good. “Gretta doesn’t feel sorry for herself, she knows no different, and she uses that eye to see the same world a two-eyed cat does, and she does so just fine,” explains Deanna. “If we all live life sitting on our hands, afraid to allow our heart to break for a moment for these kitties who need us, then who will step up and take care of them?”
For Deanna, who is living with chronic health problems caused by a 2009 accident, being able to help Gretta — and other special needs cats like her — has provided her with a sense of purpose, and it has also given a greater meaning to her own health issues. Aside from her unique dietary needs, Gretta’s congenital conditions don’t require a lot of special care, making her easier to look after than a lot of people might expect.
“Other than a diet of soft food and treats, and checking periodically that her teeth are in good shape, she requires nothing unusual,” says Deanna. “She thrives well on love and lots of sweet talk.” Fortunately for Gretta — who was rescued from euthanasia when she was eight months old — she has a wonderful forever home where she is showered with the love and affection she should have been given throughout her entire life.
For Deanna, who has spent the past decade learning to live with a disability, Gretta is an inspiration and a testament to the power of acceptance and unconditional love. “Gretta means a broken spirit being repaired, a wound being healed, a heart finally feeling what love really is,” says Deanna. “Her heart still beats the same, and that one eye still sees the best in life. Gretta is perseverance, and courage and a whole bunch of resilience.”
To learn more about this beautiful cat, you can follow Gretta on Instagram.