Something Is Off
She looked at the patch of fur and pulled it aside with her fingers to reveal even more of the skin underneath.
She could have sworn the unusual patch of fur hadn't always been there; perhaps it was just in her mind. She couldn't believe her eyes when her husband had the ludicrous idea to shine a UV light on the spot.
Special Connection To Animals
Nicole Böhm, a citizen of Germany, has always had a special connection to animals, especially cats. Because of this, she didn't hesitate when she stumbled upon two helpless kittens in a rundown barn needing care.
She carried the unfortunate creatures home with her, believing that it had been fate that she was in the right location at the right time. However, she was unaware of what else she was bringing into her house.
Naming Them Elli And Rosie
Elli and Rosie are Nicole's names for the kittens. Considering they had spent weeks in the barn alone without proper care, they weren't too bad off.
They had ear mites and were a bit underweight, but neither of these conditions was unexpected by Nicole. All they required was some tender loving care. Or so Nicole believed.
The veterinarian suggested a high-calorie diet, immunized, dewormed, and gave the kittens treatment for their ear mites when Nicole took them in for a checkup.
They almost made a full recovery just a few weeks later. They appeared to be thriving as their stomachs rounded. Nicole was oblivious that the vet had overlooked something.
They Were Thriving
Rosie and Elli quickly grew in size, turned into tiny monsters, and ravaged Nicole's home. But she kept the bathroom door closed and ensured that anything possibly harmful was out of range of their eager little paws.
Nicole was prepared, but Ellie was going through something that she was completely unaware of.
Over the course of those first few months, Elli and Rosie underwent significant change. Their silky-soft fur and sparkling grey-green eyes were the product of the premium feed she had been giving them.
Nicole believed she was offering the kittens the best care possible, but Elli had a defect that Nicole had overlooked.
Nicole was delighted with how the kittens were doing and became fond of them every day. Their personalities were also blossoming every day. Elli was the wild one; she ran around the room, stole socks, and ripped up anything in her path.
Rosie was more reserved and frequently content to nap all day. Nicole had no idea Elli was going through a transformation that would make her unidentifiable.
She Noticed Something
It took place on a typical day at the Böhm home. Elli and Rosie were acting out as usual.
Elli retired to Nicole's lap for a snooze after playing with a catnip-stuffed mouse. Nicole admired her exquisite tuxedo marks while running her fingers through her fur.
What A Strange Mark
On Elli's face, there was a tiny white rim surrounding one of her eyes. If you weren't looking for it, you hardly noticed it. " That's peculiar," Nicole thought to herself. She could be mistaken, but she thought the bright white spot hadn't been there the previous week.
She tried to dismiss her concern, but she couldn't shake the sense that something wasn't right. She called out to her husband and added, "Would you mind coming to look at this?"
Getting A Closer Look
While Nicole's husband inspected the fur patch, she pushed the hair out of the way with her fingertips so he could see the skin underneath more clearly. Maybe it was all in her head.
"What am I trying to find?" Hans questioned. He didn't notice anything. He said, "Hold on, I'll be right back." Nicole was more perplexed when he returned with the UV flashlight he had used to check for scorpions while hiking. Nicole was stunned when he turned it on and shone the light on the kitten.
The UV light picked up all kinds of strange, swirling patterns on Elli’s skin, including the half-moon around her left eye.
Hans shone the UV light on Rosie, but it didn’t have the same effect on her fur. But what would cause these kinds of markings? And why could they only be detected by a UV light? “I’m taking her to the vet... first thing tomorrow,” Nicole murmured.
A Sleepless Night
All night she lay and worried about the swirling patterns on Elli’. It could be normal, she reassured herself. But there was something about it… she couldn’t let it go. It could just be her imagination, but what if it wasn’t?
She had read about a cat’s fur discoloring due to a health issue or a deficiency, and she knew that she wouldn’t be able to rest until she got it checked out. There was only one thing for it.
To The Vet
She woke early and managed to round Elli up into her travel crate. Elli wasn’t pleased with this development; she knew that the cat carrier only meant one thing: a trip to the vet.
Nicole had gone through all her photos of Elli to date and she was right, the white patch of fur hadn’t been there before. The vet examined Elli but didn’t seem too concerned, at first.
The vet ran some more tests just to be sure. He took a skin scraping and examined it under a microscope and muttered to himself.
He told Nicole that Elli was riddled with ringworm -- a kind of common fungal infection, but not a major issue and not one that would normally cause fur discoloration… that’s what the UV light had detected.
A Type Of Fungus
Ringworm affects many cats – especially rescued cats – that have been exposed to the fungus. It causes inflamed rings on the skin, but some cats never develop any obvious symptoms.
Ringworm is usually detected with UV light -- its swirling patterns glow under this light source. But, even though Elli had been diagnosed with a fungal infection, this didn’t explain why her fur was changing color.
The vet prescribed anti-fungal medication, and then he ordered a skin biopsy to determine why Elli’s fur was turning white in patches. He was beginning to suspect that there was more to Elli than met the eye.
Nicole suspected that perhaps the loss of her cat’s coloration was due to stress, but she was so very wrong. It was by pure chance that they all went on to discover that Elli had a rare condition.
When the test results came back, the vet called Nicole immediately with the news. Elli had a rare condition, and this was just the beginning.
In the week that she had waited for the test results to come back, Elli was beginning to sprout white tufts of fur all over her body. Soon, she would be unrecognizable. Nicole had never heard of vitiligo, until now.
A Rare Condition
Vitiligo is an extremely rare condition that causes loss of pigmentation in the skin. It manifests itself as patches or tufts of white hair that soon spread to other areas of the body.
It can occur in both humans and animals and can come with other serious health issues, such as an autoimmune disease. So naturally, Nicole was concerned.
Changing Before Her Eyes
Thankfully, Elli appeared to be in excellent health despite having a pigmentation disorder. Her strange transformation progressed throughout the next two years until she became completely unrecognizable, but Elli is blissfully unaware that she is any different from her sister, Rosie.
Her black fur slowly turned white, and Nicole was amazed at the beautiful markings that began to appear.
Snowflake-shaped white patches started to emerge as the white fur started to spread. The stark black and white tuxedo coat that Elli was born with soon became flecks of white and grey, and netizens can’t get enough of the cat’s breathtakingly beautiful metamorphosis.
“I was surprised,” Nicole said. “I’m still surprised.” Elli has become a celebration of the unique and the different.
“Her personality is the same as ever,” Nicole added. “She is as cute and lovely and as playful as the first day.” And Elli quickly became a cat celebrity, with her own Instagram and Facebook pages with thousands of followers.
She’s become a silent spokesperson and a celebration for humans struggling with vitiligo, too. She shows us that unique is beautiful.
One follower wrote: “You are adorable! My mom has vitiligo, we didn’t know that cats can have it. Big hug from Sientje and her mom!”
And another: “She makes me feel so good about my vitiligo, I’m so glad someone introduced Elli to me, every day [sic] struggle with my spots.” But a few years down the line, and Elli’s transformation is still not complete.
“Her changing still goes on every day,” Nicole explained, “and I love her more and more.” She keeps a detailed record of her transformation in photographs and shares them with the world on Elli’s Instagram page.
And people can’t help but marvel at Elli’s beauty. Who could ever have guessed that an ordinary tuxedo cat would touch so many hearts?
Little ‘Snow Owl’
Some may say that these unique features look like snowflakes, but Nicole confirms that it makes her look like a little cute owl.
“She looks like a little snow owl,” Nicole said. “She is so cute and her fur continues to change every day.” "She's a pretty cat, no matter what color her fur is," one reader wrote. "I hope she stays healthy and lives a long life!"
Different Is Beautiful
That fateful day that Nicole opened her heart and home to two kittens in need, she never expected Elli had such a unique condition. And through Elli, she’s teaching the world that it’s okay to be different and that being unique is beautiful!
Millions of people are insecure about their differences, but Elli’s story shows us that these differences should be celebrated!
A Cat Influencer
Elli is now six years old, has hundreds of photos on her page, and has managed to amass one hundred thousand followers on Instagram.
“We didn’t think the account would grow so fast,” said Nicole, who was surprised to see how much love her cat has received on the internet. “Becoming ‘famous’ wasn’t our intention.” But social media accounts like Elli’s are so much more than that – they literally change people’s lives.
Cat Spedding, a 24-year-old woman from Harrogate, New Yorkshire, hid herself under long socks and heavy makeup for years.
When she was growing up, she was bullied relentlessly for her unique appearance – cruel kids taunted her and said she looked like a ‘burns victim.’ When she was 13, Cat’s vitiligo only presented itself as tiny white dots around her eyes and on her claves.
As Cat got older, however, the white patches on her skin grew. When she was diagnosed with vitiligo, she – like many others – had never heard of the condition before.
Despite going for LED treatment and using steroid creams, she now has large patches of white skin around her eyes and across the lower halves of her legs.
An Autoimmune Disorder
Vitiligo is a progressive and rare skin condition that causes the body’s immune system to attack the pigmentation on the skin, leaving large white patches on the face, legs, arms, and torso.
50 percent of people with the condition develop it before they reach the age of 20, but it can happen at any time.
Recently, the condition made headlines when America’s Next Top Model awarded the winning title to Winnie Harlow – a vitiligo sufferer who went on to star in Beyonce’s Lemonade video.
“The doctors gave me this cover cream which is like a really thick concealer so I would wear that all the time and knee-high socks,” Cat said. But, one day that all changed.
“If I went out without them I would get people staring and saying horrible things to me in the street,” Cat said. “My self-confidence really suffered but it also made me really angry. I don't understand why you would do that to someone.”
“It wouldn't have bothered me if people had come over to ask me about my condition but some people are just really ignorant. It used to get me down.”
For 10 years, Cat covered her patches – which now also appeared on her chest, hands, back, torso, and scalp.
When a vitiligo patch appears on Cat’s scalp, the hair growing from that section of skin also grows out white – meaning she had to constantly dye hair so it would all be one color. Then, something incredible happened.
A Spotlight On The Condition
Cat happened to come across Instagram accounts – including Elli’s – that showcased vitiligo. One of her biggest inspirations is the vitiligo model Winnie Harlow.
More and more fellow sufferers of this once-unheard-of condition cropped up on social media, and Cat suddenly didn’t feel so isolated and alone anymore. After seeing Instagram accounts raising awareness of her condition, she had a life-changing revelation.
“I had never heard of vitiligo when I was diagnosed, but over the years I've noticed more and more people with it like the model Winnie Harlow,” Cat explained.
“And there are so many people on social media who share photos and support each other. It is so important because people need that encouragement to believe in themselves.” Cat finally realized that she didn’t have to hide her skin anymore.
Not Hiding Anymore
“It has made me realize that I shouldn't have to change who I am to stop people shouting stuff at me. My vitiligo is a part of me so I'm not going to hide it,” she said triumphantly. After finding so much support, Cat even decided to bravely wear a bikini for the first time.
“When I went on holiday this year I knew people would stare at my patches while I was in a bikini, but I was determined just to ignore them.,” she told The Daily Mail. “It hasn't been easy to get to this point - it's taken me 10 years - but it's likely it will spread and the patches I have will get bigger so I need to accept it. And I'm even learning to love it.”
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.