“It looked like someone shook up kitten parts in a can.”
Those are the words Laura Hawthorne used to describe her first impressions of seeing Pretzel the newborn kitten and her two siblings when they were dumped at the Kitten Rescue shelter in Los Angeles.
On a first glance, the three kittens’ genetic abnormalities were immediately apparent: Their arms and legs were twisted into awkward positions, which meant they’d be unlikely to be able to walk as they grew up.
Worse was to come, with one of the as-yet-unnamed kittens dying during her first night in the shelter, while another, Curly Sue, passed away after just three months due to a heart attack.
Things were looking bleak for the remaining kitten, but plucky Pretzel wasn’t ready to give up the fight yet. With some human help from Laura, who fostered her, and Michelle Harrison, who adopted and agreed to provide the medical care and love she needed, Pretzel got on track to beat the odds and thrive at life.
After chancing across an online video documenting Pretzel’s tumultuous start in life, Michelle contacted Laura at Kitten Rescue and set up a meeting with the kitten.
“My first encounter with Pretzel was actually a little odd,” Michelle recalls. “Her mobility issues make her very cautious and shy in new situations, so she was very shy at first. It took about an hour with Laura present to get her to feel comfortable enough to cuddle and play, but that somehow made it more rewarding.”
“By the end of the afternoon,” she continues, “Pretzel was lounging asleep in my lap. I felt like I had earned her trust, and it has been so cool to see her fear and anxiety diminish more and more every day.”
While meeting up with Pretzel in person, Michelle found out more about her medical condition. Some vets speculate that Pretzel was born with radial hypoplasia — a failure of the bones to grow properly, which often makes them twist — although others are still flummoxed as to the specific cause of her physical issues.
Michelle explains, “Pretzel’s front legs have straightened out and function nearly perfectly, but her back legs are completely inverted — her paw pads face her stomach — and are undersized.”
On a day-to-day basis, this means that Pretzel has issues simply getting around and getting on with her all-important daily cat business. Michelle says that she copes by “just scooting on her butt” and allowing her front paws to “just kind of pull the back half of her body along.”
To that end, rugs have been placed around Pretzel’s forever home, as she finds it easier to pull herself along on carpet rather than wood floors.
“But I also must admit she is very spoiled and is carried quite a bit,” says Michelle, who has also set up a fall-proof cocoon for Pretzel to sleep in at night.
With Pretzel being fully grown now, surgery on her back legs has been ruled out as a long-term solution to her mobility issues. Instead, Michelle has set up a GoFundMe campaign so that she can raise money for a custom wheelchair and physical therapy for Pretzel.
“After the first time we met, I knew she was mine,” says Michelle, summing up her journey with Pretzel so far. “I knew I wanted to adopt her because I instantly felt a bond with her and wanted to give her the loving home she deserved after having such a rough start to her life.”
Head over to Pretzel’s GoFundMe page to help her purchase a slick new set of wheels.