When we saw Gretta on Instagram for the first time, the first thing we noticed were adorable crossed eyes, which we soon discovered were the result of her having detached retinas, a condition that occurs when the tissue at the back of the eye starts to separate from the layer of blood vessels that provide nourishment and oxygen. We quickly discovered that in addition to having detached retinas, Gretta also has cerebellar hypoplasia, the same neurological condition both of our special needs cats were born with.
Wanting to learn more about Gretta, we contacted her mom, Lindsay, and she shared the story of how she and her husband ended up adopting this extraordinary girl, including how this cute tabby and white cat’s crossed eyes actually helped her find her forever home! We also learned about the particularly close bond Gretta shares with her dad, her favorite activities, and her special needs.
It was a pleasure getting to know more about Gretta, and we hope you’ll enjoy learning about her just as much as we did!
Meow As Fluff: How did you end up meeting Gretta?
Lindsay: Growing up, I had a sweet cross-eyed cat who lived to be almost 17 years old. About a year after I lost her, I began to feel like I was ready for another kitty. I had just married my husband, and we began scrolling endless pages of the Petfinder website in search of another cross-eyed kitty.
I scrolled to find a cat named Googly Gretta one day; she was at a fantastic local shelter, the Richmond Animal Care & Control, and she looked cross-eyed. She was listed as having special needs. My husband and I both worked in-office every day, so I wasn’t sure if a special needs cat would be the best fit for us. Even though I scrolled past her photo at first, I kept coming back to her.
I called the shelter to learn more about her needs. “You’re interested…in Gretta?” was the exuberant reply. They were overjoyed that someone wanted to learn more. Gretta was their longest-tenured pet; she had lived there for almost nine months. She had come to the shelter as a special kitten with multiple needs. She was born with a wobbly gait that indicated that she had cerebellar hypoplasia (CH); she also had detached retinas in her eyes, which made her almond-shaped eyes look a little off-balance sometimes. With a need for eye drops twice a day and her mobility concern from CH, folks had looked right past her. We almost did, too.
Meeting her in person is what sealed the deal. She was very cute and playful, but holding her and talking to her – I was sold. The first time we got her home, she sat in the living room and purred, I will always remember that.
MAF: What made you decide to adopt a special needs cat?
L: We love animals, and we felt a pull specifically toward her. She needed room to run and grow strong; she needed a chance. While we had a little hesitation in the beginning about whether we were the right fit for a special needs girl, we never once regretted adopting her.
She has continued to develop additional needs as she has aged. She’s now eight years old and needs to be expressed a couple times a day to use the bathroom. We’ve just evolved right along with her and adapted to whatever needs she has. So many people saw the news and told us how kind we were to adopt her. We were the lucky ones.
MAF: Can you tell me a bit about cerebellar hypoplasia and how it affects Gretta specifically?
L: Cerebellar hypoplasia (CH) is a neurological disorder that occurs when the cerebellum, the part of the brain that helps coordinate movement, does not fully form. Gretta has moderate CH, which means that she can move fairly independently, but she does wobble and fall over quite a bit. She doesn’t really know that she’s different – she has a normal, wonderful life and gets everywhere she wants to go.
Gretta is not a jumper. When she was younger, she could semi-pounce, but a real jump was out of the question. To adapt, she is an incredible climber. She scared us on her first night home by climbing up the side of a rather tall bed so she could be with us. We were worried that she would fall out of the bed and hurt herself, had no idea she was capable of climbing into it!
MAF: What are some of the biggest misconceptions you think people have about cats with cerebellar hypoplasia?
L: Cats are known for their incredible balance and grace. It can be concerning to watch a CH cat move if you don’t know what they have – you might assume that the cat is severely injured or sick. I’ve been heartbroken to read stories about CH cats that become euthanized, all because of a simple misunderstanding. People assume that CH cats are in pain or that they won’t have a decent quality of life. CH cats are very resilient and persistent. Gretta has taught us not to give up when things get tough. If she can persevere through her limitations, so can we.
MAF: What are some of the challenges — if any — you and Gretta have faced as a result of her special needs?
L: Gretta stayed at the shelter much longer before she was adopted because of her special needs. The shelter provided her with incredible care, overseeing multiple surgeries and making sure she had a fighting chance at a loving family and home. We sometimes have trouble finding care for her when we travel; she stopped using a litter box several years ago and now needs to be expressed to go to the bathroom. Many assume that that is harder than scooping a litter box. It’s actually much easier, and we don’t have to contend with dusty litter everywhere! While she’s had some challenges over time, Gretta has been worth it all.
One of the silliest challenges with Gretta is finding a place to feed her. Since she cannot jump, feeding her up and out of the way of the dogs can be an issue. We have to hide her food from her puppy “sisters” so they don’t bump her over and eat it.
MAF: What do you wish more people knew about special needs cats?
L: While I always advocate for people to find the right pet and make the best decision for themselves, I definitely encourage giving special needs cats a chance. Definitely do research and make the best decision for your family, but please don’t discount a special needs pet because of the label. Gretta has given us way more than we could ever repay her, and we are so grateful to be able to care for her. She is full of love and entertainment; we wouldn’t trade a second of our time with her!
MAF: What are some of Gretta’s favorite activities?
L: Gretta’s all-time favorite activity is laying in front of a warm fire. She will press her little face against the fireplace screen and just sprawl out.
She also loves chasing crinkle balls, going out for walks in her stroller, and snuggling with her people. She’s like a mini weighted blanket. If she’s snuggled in your lap, you will probably fall right asleep in about 10 minutes!
MAF: Can you tell me the story behind her name?
L: When we adopted her, the shelter had named her Googly Gretta because of her sweet googly-looking eyes. We actually attempted to rename her, but nothing stuck. We kept coming back to her real name, simply calling her Gretta. Everyone always gets a kick out of her name – you can’t say it and see her without smiling!
MAF: What does she mean to you?
L: Gretta is such an important presence in our lives. She is sweet, funny, and calming. She reminds us to be persistent when things get tough, and she always has time to snuggle. Shortly after we adopted her, my husband needed surgery and was home with her for about six weeks. They formed an unbreakable bond, and she is 100% a daddy’s girl to this day.
She has helped us through ups and downs and always seems to do something hilarious at just the right time. We love her so very much and will never forget her.
To learn more about this adorable cat, you can follow Gretta on Instagram.