Nicole Böhm, from Germany, adopted a pair of black-and-white kitten siblings from a dilapidated farm, assuming that they were normal, adorable kittens. And they were. But one of the pair, named “Elli,” began to exhibit a curious trait at the age of 1 year: she started changing color in front of Nicole’s eyes.
Ditching the classic black-and-white “tuxedo” coat she was born with, Elli started to sprout small flecks of white amid the dense black fur of her coat. Speaking to The Dodo, Nicole explained the phenomenon: “The changing began about one year after birth,” she said. “It was just a little white spot on her back … I didn’t know why, so I took her to the vet.”
Naturally, concerned pet owner Nicole was curious as to whether her beloved cat was exhibiting a health problem. It is a fabled belief that hair (or fur) can turn white at times of acute stress, but Elli was a happy cat. Nicole had never seen anything like it.
With the vet’s expertise, Nicole soon learned that while Elli’s health was just fine, she did, in fact, have a condition: vitiligo, a rare skin condition that causes a loss of pigmentation in the skin. It manifests as patches of white skin or hair, or in the case of a feline patient, white fur.
In people, the discoloration predominantly appears on sun-exposed areas such as the hands, feet, arms, face, and lips. It might also affect hair color, and even the inside of the mouth. Vitiligo can occasionally indicate a deeper health problem, but in Elli’s case, both the symptoms and the prognosis were inconsequential. Except, of course, for the unexpected beauty!
The small flecks of white that Nicole first spotted spread, gradually, first falling like delicate raindrops across Elli’s fur before joining to form vast patches of beautiful, snowy white. Nicole celebrates Elli’s metamorphosis on an Instagram page dedicated to the cat’s extraordinary journey across the grayscale palette!
Most followers are surprised by Elli’s condition.
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!”
While another concerned user commented: “I find this so interesting! Has the vet said if this perhaps would lead to any health problems? Just curious. Although I certainly hope not!”
“She makes me feel so good about my vitiligo i’m so glad someone introduced Ellie to me, every day [sic] stuggle with my spots..,” a third one wrote.
“I was surprised,” Nicole admitted. “I’m still surprised.” The one aspect of Elli’s transformation that has not surprised Nicole, but has instead delighted her, is that Elli’s friendly nature remains intact. “Her personality is the same as ever,” Nicole said, relieved. “She is as cute and lovely and as playful as the first day.”
In a world where difference is often shied away from, and millions of people suffer insecurity because of physical “abnormalities,” we could all do with taking a leaf out of Elli’s book and learning to embrace difference, embrace abnormality, and embrace beauty!
Elli’s sister’s coat is unaffected by the bizarrely beautiful condition. And she doesn’t seem to notice Elli’s transformation any more than Elli does: the sisters continue to interact in the same way they always did. Elli is healthy and happy, no doubt she smells the same, behaves in the same way, and loves her sister just the same. That’s really all that matters.
Far from reaching stasis, Elli is still changing color. Nicole records Elli’s progress with regular photo updates, and says that while the white is still spreading, she expects that some black markings will always remain.
Since learning that Elli’s condition is not negatively affecting her health, Nicole couldn’t be happier about the experience of transformation she is sharing with her sweet feline friend. “Her changing still goes on every day,” Nicole shared, “and I love her more and more.”
Watch the amazing chronicle of Elli’s journey across the grayscale spectrum below!
What do you think about Elli the cat’s extraordinary transformation? Share this story with all the cat lovers you know, and help reinforce the message that difference is beautiful!