Abby was getting ready to leave on a trip in October 2017, when a tiny calico cat appeared in the yard of the home she shares with her partner Mike in Kāneʻohe, Hawaiʻi. The couple was used to seeing cats around their property, many of them feral felines who live in the dense jungles and mountains on the island of Oʻahu, and Mike had spotted this particular kitty just a few days earlier.
“He walked out into the yard to see if he could get a closer look, expecting to her to run away as soon as he got too close – as most stray cats do,” remembers Abby. “However, she didnʻt turn and run.” Instead, the small cat gave Mike a tentative meow, which he interpreted as a request for food. As he neared the nervous feline, he realized not only was she tiny, causing him to assume she was probably still a kitten, she was missing one of her eyes.
Mike went inside to get some food, returning moments later with some kibble and Abby. “We both scurried back to the edge of the yard where she was waiting patiently, and she slowly, hesitantly walked up to us to sample some of the food we had brought her,” says Abby. “It was probably at that moment – though neither of us would admit it to the other right then – that we both decided that she would become part of our family.”
However, Mike was supposed to drive Abby to the airport in just a few hours, and neither of them wanted to leave the calico cat home alone with Boomerang, their rescue cat. After a brief discussion, the couple decided to bring the one-eyed feline with them on their journey to the airport, so they scooped her up and brought her into their home.
“We started thinking about names,” says Abby, ultimately settling on Grace, in honor of Grace O’Malley, an Irish pirate. “O’Malley didn’t have a missing eye, but she was a real fighter, incredibly adventurous, and had an abundance of courage to be a female pirate in the late 1500s.”
While Abby had to leave Grace shortly after meeting her for the first time, Mike took the one-eyed cat to the vet the following day for a thorough examination. To his surprise, the doctor determined Grace was approximately four years old, making her much older than either of them had realized.
They also discovered her teeth were rotten, she was full of parasites, she weighed just four pounds, and she had feline leukemia (FeLV). “Our vet told us that she was very close to dying and that may have been why she took the risk to approach us,” explains Abby. “She couldnʻt eat much because her teeth were in such bad shape that it was painful for her to chew and what she did eat was being absorbed by the parasites in her digestive system.”
After learning about all of the cute calico’s health issues, Abby and Mike got Grace the treatment she needed, including having almost all of her teeth removed. “Finding out just how many things she was fighting all at once only made me more determined to provide care and a loving home for her,” says Abby. Following her medical treatments, Grace settled into her new home, and more than a year later, she’s doing great.
While the prognosis for a kitten with feline leukemia isn’t very good, it’s much better for older cats, causing Grace’s vet to suspect she contracted the virus when she was an adult. In order to keep Grace as healthy as possible, Abby and Mike closely monitor her health, and they feed her prescription food to keep her immune system as strong as possible. They’ve also vaccinated Boomerang, their other rescue cat, against feline leukemia.
“FeLV does not have to be a death sentence,” says Abby. “Hopefully, with proper care and nutrition, Gracie will live a long, full life.” Even though she and Boomerang are indoor-only cats, Grace goes on lots of adventures with her family, wearing a harness and a leash to allow her to safely explore the outdoors. This one-eyed beauty also enjoys spending supervised time in her family’s yard, especially in the garden where they grow fresh catnip, and she loves eat Ahi tuna poke, a traditional Hawaiian dish.
“She is a playful and happy kitty who seems to perpetually be a curious kitten” says Abby. “She loves kicker toys and crinkle toys and hanging out next to us when we relax after work.”
While no one knows exactly how Grace lost one of her eyes — “Our vet said that it could have been anything from genetics to disease or infection to trauma – even possibly a run-in with one of Hawaiʻi’s notorious jungle chickens,” explains Abby — it doesn’t prevent her from enjoying life, although she has occasional issues with depth perception and she avoids jumping on counters and tall furniture.
“Gracie has no idea that she has only one eye and no idea that she doesn’t have any teeth or is FeLV-positive,” says Abby. When Grace showed up in Abby and Mike’s yard in October 2017, the couple wasn’t planning to adopt another pet, but they both felt compelled to help the shy feline who was desperate for food and medical care. If Abby and Mike hadn’t rescued Grace — and she hadn’t allowed them to help her — it’s likely she wouldn’t have survived much longer.
Fortunately, this five-year-old feline is thriving today, and Abby is determined to share Grace’s story to encourage other people to consider adopting cats with special needs, especially those with feline leukemia. “It seems to me that people think a FeLV-positive cat will have a short and unhappy life of illness,” says Abby, “and that they are always a danger to other cats and so can’t live in multi-cat households.”
Not only is Grace proving this misconception wrong, she’s inspiring her family with her fun-loving and adventurous spirit, and she has even prompted Abby to get back into photography. “I wanted to tell her story and capture her spirit, curiosity, and mischievousness to share with the world,” explains Abby. “She helps us remember that we need to get out and play and that something as seemingly unimportant as a blade of grass can be a world of excitement. Gracie is just so much fun.”
To learn more about this gorgeous cat, you can follow Grace on Instagram.