When Mauren Kennedy’s roommate texted her to ask if she wanted to adopt a tortie kitten with a malformed jaw who was found — along with her siblings — in a cardboard box in a drugstore parking lot, she was unsure about adding a feline to her family. “I had never had a cat before and was not 100% sure if I was ready for the commitment fresh out of school,” remembers Mauren, but she also thought the little cat in the photo that accompanied the message was the cutest kitten she’d ever seen.
Consequently, Mauren told her roommate she wanted to meet the tiny tortie before making a decision. In September 2013, her roommate brought the four-week-old cat home with her, and Mauren immediately fell in love with her sweet and affectionate personality. “I didn’t even think about potential health issues at the time,” says Mauren, “just that I wanted to give this baby all my love!”
Mauren knew there was no way she’d ever be able to part with the adorable kitten, so she adopted her! The tortoiseshell cat’s unique coloring reminded Mauren of an orange cat who had rolled in soot, so her friend suggested naming her Gremlin after the soot gremlins in the animated film My Neighbor Totoro. “It’s funny, because she’s the least Gremlin-like in actual behavior,” says Mauren. “Super docile and kind — and you can feed her safely after midnight, too!”
Shortly after adopting Gremlin, Mauren took her to the vet for a thorough examination and to learn more about the cause and implications of her malformed jaw. The examination revealed Gremlin was born with a misshapen, misaligned, and unusually small jaw, most likely a result of inbreeding. “I have no idea if Gremlin came from a breeder trying to keep genes pure, or two cats from the same feral colony who bred together and crossed genetics,” says Mauren.
Thankfully, the vet determined the black and orange kitten wasn’t in any pain or discomfort, and nearly eight years later, Gremlin hasn’t had any medical issues. However, because Gremlin’s malformed jaw causes her tongue to stick out, Mauren has had to field various questions about this special girl.
“A lot of people immediately assume she has a dental disease — she doesn’t — that she can’t eat normally — she can — that she has issues grooming herself — none,” says Mauren, “or that a lot of times they think she’s a stuffed cat, which is one of the more insane comments I get on a regular basis.”
While Gremlin might look unique, she’s actually a pretty typical cat who enjoys eating squeeze up treats, sleeping on her fuzzy pineapple blanket, snuggling with her mom, and getting up to high places to look down on everyone below, both literally and figuratively.
However, her relationship with Shelby, Mauren’s senior dog who passed away in 2019, probably makes Gremlin a bit different from the average feline. “They were buddies, although my dog Shelby never really knew she was there,” says Mauren. “Gremlin would always just sit gently beside her. They had a special bond.”
Mauren hopes sharing Gremlin’s story might encourage other people to consider adopting pets who look a bit different. After all, this gorgeous girl may have a malformed jaw, but she doesn’t have any special needs, though it’s possible Gremlin — like any other cat — might require additional medical care or certain accommodations in the future.
“Gremlin is just one of many cats whom people might shy away from because they’re different, or may have health issues later on,” explains Mauren, “But these cats are just as worthy of love as all the other kitties in the world. If you are able, give a special needs cat a home!”
For Mauren, adopting Gremlin is a decision she’s never regretted, even though she was a bit reluctant to bring her home when she received that text from her roommate more than seven years ago. Despite her initial hesitation, Mauren absolutely adores Gremlin, her first cat and only her second pet, especially because this beautiful tortie has taught her just how wonderful kitties can be! “Gremlin has shown me that cats are intuitive, sensitive, expressive, and magical,” says Mauren. “I love her so much!”
To learn more about this beautiful cat, you can follow Gremlin on Instagram.