On Facebook, she’s known as Chase No Face. This affectionate nickname might seem odd — until you see a picture of the fluffy, black-and-white cat, who is missing her nose, eyelids, and most of the fur on her face. Chase’s unique look is the result of being hit by a car when she was only a few weeks old. A young man found the stray kitten on the side of the road and brought her to Chevy Chase Animal Clinic in Lexington, Kentucky, where Chase’s human, Melissa Smith, was working as a veterinary assistant. The man donated some money toward Chase’s care and told clinic staff to do what they could to help her.
Chase’s left back leg had to be amputated because of her injuries, and veterinary staff struggled to save her face, which had taken the brunt of the impact. Several months and two failed skin grafts later, Chase’s caretakers had to accept that she was never going to look like other cats ÔÇô- and that was okay with Smith. During Chase’s early recovery, Smith took the then-homeless kitten to her place at night and on weekends, a living arrangement that eventually became permanent.
"She didn’t have an owner, and I said I would take her home … to get the extra attention," Smith says. "And it’s been seven years. She’s my cat now."
Smith has been with Chase from the beginning and witnessed her journey from injured kitten to faceless Facebook superstar, where nearly 20,000 people watch for updates, track her progress, and occasionally send homemade gifts and portraits. Smith and her family — including her two children, now aged 2 and 3 — are not shocked or overwhelmed by Chase’s appearance the way others often are when they meet her for the first time.
"It wasn’t like we were introduced to her as she is now, without a face," Smith says. "When it happened, it was gradual, so it wasn’t as shocking for me."
Because Chase No Face looks drastically different than the average cat ÔÇô- the consensus on Facebook seems to be that she resembles a Furby — Smith has experienced "the full spectrum" of reactions to her cat’s unique appearance. Before her children were born, Smith took Chase to visit children with disabilities in an effort to encourage acceptance and appreciation of uniqueness, and she began sharing Chase’s story via her blog, Daily Tails of Chase. She found that many people were inspired by Chase’s story and the fact that she has overcome so much to have a relatively normal life.
Many people also worry that Chase must be in pain, but multiple vets have confirmed that despite the pink skin on her face and her cloudy-looking eyes, she is pain-free and can see quite well. She still produces tears but has no eyelids, which has proven the most challenging part of her recovery; the only ongoing care she requires is occasional antibiotics and daily eye drops to keep her eyes moist.
Chase’s story “of not necessarily looking like a normal cat but doing everything a normal cat can do seemed to make an impact on people,” Smith says. “Other than her looking different, she is 100 percent just like any other cat. She chases flies, she uses a litter box, she eats normal cat food, she meows in the middle of the night, runs up and down the stairs … she does everything a normal cat would do."
On the other hand, Smith knows Chase No Face can be alarming, so she warns people about her cat the first time they visit her home. And the initial shock isn’t limited to humans — when Smith’s late cat, Zooey, first met Chase, it took him four years before he would groom his feline companion. Like Zooey, though, most people warm up to Chase, who is chatty and friendly, while others still struggle to accept her. Smith has noticed that the harshest reactions come from those who first encounter Chase online, where negative comments on photos and videos range from skepticism that Chase is a real cat to snap judgments that can be downright mean.
“People on the Internet usually … do not hold back," Smith says. "Generally I give everyone who comes into my home a warning, and a lot of them are still a little taken back, because she is very different than your typical cat, and it takes some getting used to. I get the whole spectrum of, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t think I can look at her,’ to ‘What an amazing cat; she’s overcome so much.’"
But online is also where Chase No Face has found a good deal of support, via Facebook and her blog, where Smith continues to chronicle Chase’s journey and accept donations for ongoing specialty and veterinary care. Most importantly, Chase always has an unlimited supply of unconditional love and support from Smith and her family, who lovingly spoil her at their Las Vegas home.
"The kids adore Chase," Smith says. "Chase is a small member of the family. They will lay on her, roll on her, pet her, kiss her, hug her, carry her around, and Chase loves it. It touches my heart that people can take something nice out of something that was so tragic."