"Ugly." "Gross." "What the hell is that?" These are the first things people tend to say when they meet Possum, an unusual-looking cat with gray fur, bald patches and a rat-like tail. Either that, or they ask if Possum has mange, or if she's a burn victim.
But to Stephanie (who preferred not to give her last name), Possum is perfect. In fact, Stephanie thinks she's the most beautiful cat in the world.
Possum was one of several kittens born in Stephanie's co-worker's backyard in central North Carolina. The mother cat was feral, and Stephanie's co-worker did her best to care for her and the newborns. All of the kittens were "normal" looking, just like the mother - shorthair domestic cats with white and calico fur. Possum, on the other hand, was gray and almost entirely bald when she was born. She was also the runt.
Everyone figured that Possum had the recessive genes of a lykoi or werewolf cat, but they weren't entirely sure.
Possum's brothers and sisters were adopted into loving homes, but no one wanted Possum. Stephanie's co-worker planned to take her to the local shelter, which was known for its high kill rate.
"I felt and still feel like she would have been euthanized if she went there," Stephanie told The Dodo. "I live in the South and a lot of people in this area don't view cats as pets. I've heard a lot of stories about people using them as target practice. I've known some pretty horrible people who will speed up if they see a cat in the street. A lot of people in this area won't or can't afford to spay or neuter so we have a huge feral problem. With her looking the way she does, I just didn't feel like her chance of getting adopted was good."
At the time, Stephanie already had two cats, and she couldn't really afford another. But Stephanie fell madly in love with Possum's thin gray fur and wrinkly, potato-scented skin. She knew she had to save her.
Stephanie's other cats weren't too sure about Possum - they bullied her a bit. But Stephanie showered Possum with love ...
... and she thrived.
"Possum's so incredibly friendly," said Stephanie. "The first time I took her to her vet to get her vaccinations she purred through the shots. Purred through the temperature probe and all the tests. She kept trying to climb onto the tech's shoulder instead of trying to get away. I love her sweet personality. I've only heard her hiss once and that was after a bull mastiff stuck his head right in front of her carrier. She's never swiped at me, no matter how much I annoy her with embarrassing sweaters."
Like most cats, Possum loves to sleep and lounge around. She enjoys chasing shadows and watching insects outside her window. Possum is also a great spider hunter ... much to Stephanie's horror!
When she's not snoozing or hunting, Possum will nestle up against Stephanie. "She loves to cuddle," Stephanie said. "I recently hurt my leg and she's spent a lot of time sleeping against the injury, like she knows I need a hot pack."
Stephanie still can't help but feel hurt when she hears the horrible things people say about Possum. "Thankfully she's just happy to cuddle and doesn't know what most people say about her," said Stephanie. "The cable man came to fix something a few weeks ago, and he said she was 'stunning.' I almost fell on the floor because it was the opposite of what I usually hear."
Stunning. Feisty. Loving. Warm. These are the words Stephanie thinks people should use to call Possum.
And perfect. Absolutely perfect.
To see more photos of this very beautiful cat, check out her Instagram page.