Born with a cleft lip and palate and eyes of two different colors (one the color of sapphires, the other golden brown), 7-year-old Madden Humphreys often came home crying after bullies at his school called him “ugly,” or told him that he “looked like the devil.”
“It broke my heart,” his mother, Christina Humphreys of Tulsa, Oklahoma, tells PEOPLE. “At the end of last year, he made a book about how he had no friends and had to play by himself. It was gut-wrenching.”
Two weeks ago, though, all of that changed when Madden, a second-grader, met Moon, a rescue cat from Minnesota that also has one brown eye and one blue eye (a condition known as complete heterochromia) and a cleft lip.
“They instantly bonded — it was their destiny to be best friends,” says Christina, 33. “We were meant to have this kitty join the family.”
In mid-March, Christina was looking through pictures and stories posted at a private site for moms of children with cleft palates when she came across a photo of Moon, who was up for adoption at Mending Spirits Animal Rescue in Mankoto, Minnesota.
“I thought immediately that this cat would be a great thing for Madden — that he’d be able to relate to him,” she tells PEOPLE. “Minnesota was a long drive, but I knew that I had to figure out a way to bring this particular cat into our lives.”
With help from friends who raised funds to send the entire family on a road trip to adopt Moon (besides Madden, Christina and her husband, Brad, have two other sons, Mylor, 11, and Mayson, 9), the Humphreys drove for 11 hours to the shelter in Mankoto.
“Madden and Moon warmed up to each other immediately,” says Christina, “and now, at home, Moon won’t cuddle with anyone except Madden. His is the only lap he’ll jump into.”
Madden, of course, is literally over the moon about his new companion.
“I love Moon! He’s my friend and he’s so loving,” he tells PEOPLE. “He always wants me to pet him and he’s very calm and cute.”
Christina says she’s noticed a positive change in her son’s demeanor since they brought Moon home.
“Initially, I thought the cat would just be a cool companion, but now, I honestly do think that Moon has helped Madden to realize that being born unique is an incredible thing,” she says. “What are the odds of finding a cat like this one? It was really meant to be.”
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Hoping to share her son’s story with others, Christina recently started an Instagram page that is already up to more than 16k followers.
“Moon and Madden are magical together,” she tells PEOPLE, “and if they can help raise awareness about kids with cleft lips, wouldn’t that be wonderful? Perhaps they’ll help some other kid from getting bullied just because of what he looks like.”