In August 2010, Laura was given three little kittens to bottle feed just two and a half weeks after a feral cat had given birth to the litter near her office. “[They were] my first ever bottle babies after a lifetime with pets,” says Laura. Shortly after she began caring for the kittens, she noticed the tiny grey and white kitten — whom she eventually named Gracie — seemed to be unable to hear, prompting a visit to the vet that confirmed the young cat had been born deaf.
Laura, who had lost her beloved cat a year earlier, felt a special connection with the special needs kitten. “I knew immediately upon seeing Gracie that she was my new cat,” remembers Laura, and so she adopted Gracie and her litter mate Joey. Laura also found a home for the third kitten, and she even trapped the feral mother cat and got her spayed so that she wouldn’t have anymore litters.
Having never had a special needs cat before, Laura quickly discovered that in addition to being deaf, Gracie was different from other cats in a number of ways. “She is amazingly curious and fearless,” says Laura, which she attributes, at least in part, to Gracie’s lack of hearing. “[There are] no loud noises to scare her,” explains Laura, “so she just takes in the world with her eyes and her paws.”
In fact, while most cats prefer the comfort and security of their homes, this adorable grey and white girl loves going everywhere with her mom. “Her favorite things are walking on her leash, riding in the car — the top of back seat is her signature spot — and going to stores,” says Laura.
Locals in Laura’s hometown of Brea, California, have become accustomed to seeing this remarkable grey and white girl all over town, not only in stores that cater to pets, but also the mall where Gracie loves making new friends. Laura even takes Gracie to restaurants with her, although due to health code regulations, this grey and white beauty has to dine al fresco, happily sitting in her stroller while she greets other patrons. “She wants to explore everything and go everywhere,” says Laura.
While Gracie’s deafness may be partially responsible for her ability to handle stressful situations better than other cats — she has no trouble tolerating booming fireworks, barking dogs, and the roar of the vacuum — it does cause Laura to worry about her special grey and white girl. “If she ever got out of my house,” says Laura, “she’d just sit in the middle of the street or run up to a random coyote. She loves dogs and runs up to them so innocently.” While this concern is warranted, other concerns people have about deaf cats like Gracie aren’t. Some people believe Gracie’s deafness makes her harder to care for or less likely to enjoy life, but Laura has found neither to be true.
In order to communicate more effectively with her deaf cat, Laura taught Gracie sign language. While Gracie knows the signs for “goodbye” and “come here,” this deaf cutie doesn’t seem to understand the sign for “no,” something which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s ever had a cat, deaf or not. Gracie is such a remarkable cat, Laura created an Instagram account to share her with the world, and this adorable deaf girl quickly gained a loyal following while helping to raise awareness about special needs cats.
Tragically, Gracie was diagnosed with lymphoma at the end of 2015. While deeply saddened, this special cat’s Instagram followers rallied around her and her mom, helping to raise thousands of dollars for Gracie’s medical care. “The response of the [Cats of Instagram community] loving her and helping me with her bills truly restored my faith in humanity,” says Laura.
Over the course of the past two years, Gracie has tried multiple medications and therapies, but her cancer has continued to spread. While no one can say for sure exactly what the future holds for this remarkable girl, what is certain is that Gracie found the perfect mom when she met Laura as a tiny two-week-old kitten.
“Her outrageous vet bills helped me to re-prioritize how to spend money,” says Laura. “Money is for life, expanding it and enhancing it and saving it.” Gracie may be a bit thinner and not have as much energy as she used to, but she’s still enjoying her life while teaching valuable lessons to everyone who is lucky enough to meet her in person or through social media. “[She has shown me] what it is to be fearless and brave despite disabilities and cancer,” explains Laura.
As Laura and Gracie continue to battle lymphoma together, they will always have one another to turn to for comfort, reassurance, and inspiration, making their bond truly special. “Gracie means the world to me,” says Laura. “She really is like my own child.”
To learn more about this remarkable cat, you can follow Gracie on Instagram.