When they rescued the tiny kitten, they never would have guessed that this would happen. Over the past few weeks, his fur had become patchy and dark. Now, as they watched him growing, there was no mistaking it: their cat’s color was magically changing before their eyes.
Bruce the cat has become quite the popular kitty, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, on November 3, 2015, he was found bedraggled and nearly dead in his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand. Thankfully, though, Bruce was saved when a woman called Kathryn van Beek found and rescued the tiny kitten.
As a matter of fact, Bruce was lucky that Van Beek managed to see him. There had been torrential rainfall on the day he was discovered, and the kitten was easy to miss. At first, Van Beek thought that the tiny gray creature was a mouse or a rat.
When she got closer, though, she realized that what she took for a rodent was actually a newborn kitten. “He wasn’t meowing when I found him,” Van Beek told Love Meow on January 4, 2016. “But he was crawling slowly along on his tummy.”
“[It was] as though he was trying to find his mother, poor little mite,” she recounted. Furthermore, the kitten couldn’t have been very old, as Van Beek informed News Now. “His eyes were still closed, and he still had his umbilical cord attached.”
No one seemed to know anything about the baby cat or how he had come to be orphaned. The big-hearted Van Beek couldn’t just leave the kitten there, though, so she did what any animal lover would do and took the feline home. Van Beek subsequently adopted the kitten and called him Bruce, after Batman’s orphaned alter ego, Bruce Wayne.
With Bruce now inside in the warm and dry, Van Beek began nursing him back to health. Becoming parent to a newborn of any species isn’t an easy task, but both Van Beek and her husband rose to the challenge and stuck by the kitten during his recovery.
During the first few months of Bruce’s life, he was incredibly vulnerable, and the Van Beeks had to bottle-feed their new furbaby. They were on 24-hour kitten watch, and it wasn’t long before Bruce found his voice. He wasn’t shy about letting them know when he was hungry, either.
But even under the attentive care of his new humans, Bruce’s poor health led to turbulent times. Living up to his namesake, the fragile feline survived several brushes with death. As a result of these scares, however, even Van Beek’s work colleagues became concerned for the little kitten.
On December 24, 2016, Van Beek told the NZ Herald, “I was working for Auckland Council at the time… They were really interested, so I started a Facebook page to keep everyone updated.” Despite all the challenges, though, Bruce was a survivor.
And while everyone loves an underdog (or undercat, in Bruce’s case), Van Beek didn’t expect Bruce’s popularity to soar. “At first it was a real life-and-death battle, and then I thought interest might fade,” she said. But with Bruce rapidly becoming an online star, something unusual started happening to the cute kitten.
Yes, Bruce’s light gray fur was darkening and becoming patchy. At first, the dark splashes were limited to his paws and face, but soon they started to spread. Before long, his entire body had become black, completing his transformation from Bruce Wayne to Dark Knight.
The spectacular change stunned Van Beek, and at first, the cause of the palette swap was a mystery. Regardless of the reason, though, Bruce’s magic act caused a further swell in his fan base. Suddenly, he was more popular than anyone could have predicted.
“He started turning black, so that interested people,” Van Beek informed the NZ Herald. And from there, Bruce gave the world what it wanted; soon, he had social media platforms on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. However, he didn’t stop there.
Bruce even set his sights on the literary world with a book about his life, written and illustrated by Van Beek. But the question still remains: what caused Bruce’s color change? The explanation lies with a condition called fever coat.
The unusual condition is triggered when mother cats experience upheaval during pregnancy. The disturbance might be caused by stress, or if the expectant mommy catches an infection. It can even occur if she’s accidentally given medication without prior knowledge of her pregnancy.
The resulting effect – the aforementioned fever coat – temporarily displaces the color pigment of a kitten’s fur. Essentially, the fur doesn’t know what color it is yet and takes on a light hue. It can, in fact, take up to eight months for the pigments to reassert themselves.
Anyhow, Bruce and the Van Beeks moved to Dunedin, where his exploits continue to be chronicled. Moreover, a second book, inspired by Bruce’s adventures in his new hometown, is in the works. “It’s a bit of fun really, for me,” Van Beek told News Now.
“It’s just an interesting hobby,” Van Beek added. “I think he brings his fans a bit of light relief.” All trace of fever coat has now gone from Bruce, and these days he is a beautiful black cat with sparkling green eyes. Bruce’s color-changing trick may not have been magic, but how he’s using it certainly is.
“I’d like to help other little kitties and the people who look after them,” Bruce’s website states on his behalf. “With [the public’s] help I’ve raised funds for the SPCA, and now I’m working with the Animal Rescue Network.” Bruce, then, truly is a hero.
So, while Bruce’s color-changing ability made him a sort of celebrity in the feline world, other kittens aren’t so lucky. Take Romeo, for instance, who was born with facial deformities that some believed made him “too ugly” to love. But when someone finally took a chance on the little animal, he repaid them in the most adorable way.
One kitten was so deformed that people thought that he was “too ugly” to adopt. As a result, the poor little cat sat unwanted in the street with no one to love. However, his fortunes would eventually turn around – and now, happily, he’s had the last laugh.
That kitten is named Romeo, and it’s fair to say that he had a rough start in life. That’s because the little ginger cat was heartlessly abandoned and left for dead on the streets of Spain. And perhaps most cruelly of all, it’s believed that Romeo was ignored in favor of his littermates when the other animals were adopted.
Indeed, it appeared as if no one wanted Romeo. So, the plucky feline ended up having to fend for himself while struggling to stay alive in the street. And the likely reason that nobody had given him a forever home is heartbreaking.
Specifically, Romeo had been born with a severe facial deformity – something which it’s suggested had led to him being abandoned in the first place. Because of his deformity, moreover, the little cat’s nose is slightly flattened and his eyes are further apart than normal. However, these atypical features make Romeo no less adorable.
It’s not known what caused the kitten’s unusual looks; indeed, feline facial deformities can occur for several different reasons, just as they do in humans. But however they had first developed, one question still urgently needed to be answered: could anyone see past Romeo’s face and see a tiny kitten in need of some love?
Well, it turns out that staff at the Santuario Compasión Animal in Valencia, Spain, did just that. And that’s despite the fact that the facility doesn’t usually rescue cats; instead, it focuses on saving animals from the meat industry. In fact, the sanctuary’s employees ended up smitten with Romeo.
And Laura Llácer, the co-founder of Santuario Compasión Animal, explained as much on Facebook. She wrote, “They told us that no one wanted him because he was ugly.” She added, “But for us, Romeo is not ugly. He’s a lovely little kitten who likes to play like the rest of the cats. And their differences make them special.”
Indeed, Llácer and her team would commit themselves to looking after Romeo. “While we were headed to a rescue, we dealt with the case of this kitten whose appearance was different from the other cats, and that’s why the whole world rejected him,” the animal shelter said in a statement.
So Llácer gave Romeo a new home at the sanctuary, and the staff welcomed him with open arms. Finally, the kitten had somewhere he belonged with people who actually cared about him. And, fortunately, it didn’t take long for him to settle in.
While at the facility, moreover, Romeo soaked up the pets and cuddles given to him. And, before long, the kitten’s carers had fallen head over heels in love with him. They had been able to overlook his out-of-the-ordinary appearance and had been duly rewarded with the most adorable companion.
After getting to know Romeo’s personality, meanwhile, Llácer was even more shocked that the kitten had gone unwanted for so long. “We were surprised that people did not see that this was someone special,” she explained in an interview with The Dodo in October 2016.
In contrast to his time on the street, though, Romeo was now never alone. He even made friends with the cows, ducks and turkeys at the sanctuary. However, some attention was also reserved for Llácer herself, who has gone on to describe Romeo as her “best friend.”
“Romeo is very, very affectionate and behaves differently than other cats,” Llácer explained while talking to The Dodo. “He remains a cat, but there’s something adorable in his behavior that reflects that lovely abnormality in appearance.” She continued, “Of course, he suffers a deformity, but that makes him different. That makes him unique.”
And as staff at Santuario Compasión Animal were keen to share Romeo’s cuteness with the world, the sanctuary posted a video introducing the kitten on its Facebook page. In it, he can be seen playing with his toys and cuddling up to his favorite bunny toy – just like any other cat might do.
What’s more, the clip proved to be quite a hit with the shelter’s 213,000 followers. Since going live in October 2016, in fact, 13,000 people have reacted to the footage, while more than 10,000 have shared it. The post’s comment box also soon began filling up with gushing comments for Romeo.
“This kitty is beautiful,” one Facebook user wrote. “I would love him forever. Thank God he has a loving place to call his forever home.” Meanwhile, another fan said, “I do not see anything wrong with him. [He] is a beautiful little animal.”
“I do not understand anyone that would reject a little kitten in need because it does not look right,” another person added. “These are not the kind of people I would like to be friends with. Thank you, Santuario Compasión Animal, I will be sending [a] PayPal donation.”
Now, the shelter hopes that Romeo’s popularity will help other unique animals get another chance. “He spends his days playing and calling the attention of the volunteers to listen to him. It seems Romeo was a kitten to which no one wanted to give a home because they said he was ugly,” a spokesperson for Santuario Compasión Animal told the Daily Mail in 2016.
“Now people from all over the world have written us to ask for him,” they added. “We hope that the story of Romeo will help to end up with a lot of prejudices and teach us that what is important, what unites us, is the desire to live.”
Indeed, Romeo’s story reminds us that beauty is only skin deep: to really find the worth of an individual, then, we must look beyond their physical appearance and into their heart. That’s what Llácer and her colleagues did, and they’ve since been rewarded with the most endearing friend.