The first time we saw Pretzel on Instagram, we were incredibly impressed that despite being born with twisted, malformed back legs, he was extremely agile. He was so determined we knew we had to feature him, so we reached out to his mom Dani, who agreed to share Pretzel’s story with us.
We discovered that while Pretzel looks great today, he was in pretty rough shape when Dani adopted him in March 2020, when he was just a few weeks old. We also learned that Pretzel couldn’t have found a better home, not only because his mom is a vet tech but also because Dani provides him with the support and independence this special boy needs to thrive! Lastly, we were thrilled to find out Pretzel isn’t the only special needs cat in his family, as this adorable ginger and white cat shares his home in Phoenix, Arizona, with Beatrix, an equally cute tabby cat who was born with Manx syndrome.
We really enjoyed learning about Pretzel and all of his furry friends, and we hope you enjoy hearing his story as much as we did!
Meow As Fluff: How did you end up meeting Pretzel?
Dani: Pretzel came to me from someone who didn’t believe that he would have a good quality of life, and another person saved him and got him to me.
I don’t know much about his history since I got him at five and a half weeks old, but he was a mess with urine scald, so I can’t imagine that it was a great few weeks. When I first met him, he was 11.8 ounces and the absolute sweetest kitten.
MAF: Can you tell us a bit about his condition?
D: I don’t think that there’s an actual term for it, but his doctor and I (along with the orthopedic surgeon he saw) just refer(red) to it as twisted leg syndrome or a Pretzel Special.
Originally we thought that it might have been a positional thing from his time in the womb, but he’s missing bones, so that’s unlikely.
His left hind leg has bones that are twisted in a circle, leading his foot to be positioned out to the side. His right leg is missing most of the tibia, his fibula is very bowed, and his foot is completely upside down (that leg is tucked up under him due to the deformities). Neither leg has a normal ankle or knee.
MAF: What made you decide to adopt a special cat?
D: Honestly, I didn’t want another cat, but special needs animals have my heart, and I am a “give them a chance” type, so I wanted to help him. Since I am a vet tech, medical needs are not an issue for me, and actually draw me more to an animal.
MAF: Can you tell me the story behind his name?
D: Pretzel was just his nickname at first. His genitals were very swollen when I first got him, so I couldn’t tell if he was a boy or a girl.
Even once I knew that he was a boy, I was taking forever to decide, and his vet (and one of my favorite people ever) heard his nickname and quickly convinced me that he just needed to be Pretzel.
MAF: What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about special cats like Pretzel?
D: The biggest thing that I have encountered is that he can’t do normal cat things and be happy. While he can’t jump or scratch himself, he is the fastest cat here, can zoom up cat trees and furniture, and is very happy.
He is determined and figures things out. His ability to use his front legs and paws is amazing, and he can catch a treat mid-air using them.
MAF: What are some of the challenges — if any — you and he have faced as a result of his condition?
D: The only issues that we have faced were when he was young. The urine scald that he came with caused an abscess, but having clean living conditions eliminated future issues.
He also battled diarrhea/soft stools for the first six months of his life, and it would end up all over his legs due to their positioning. After ruling medical causes out, I switched him to GI Biome prescription food, and he’s been great since! We’re both thrilled about not having to bathe him.
MAF: What do you wish more people knew about cats with special needs, particularly cats with legs like Pretzel’s?
D: I wish that people knew to let them be cats. Make necessary accommodations to keep them safe, but let them do things! Pretzel has always been allowed to try to do whatever he wants, and he has always figured out how to do things his own way. It may make me nervous, but he has to figure it out.
That’s not to say that I don’t help him with things that he absolutely cannot do, because I do. I scratch his itchy spots on his head, and I often pick him up to sit on the windowsill and look out, or pick him up and put him in other places that he would have to be able to jump on to get to, but everything else is done by him.
MAF: What are some of Pretzel’s favorite activities?
D: Pretzel loves to play with his Manx Syndrome kitty sister, Beatrix, eat delicious snacks (cheese is his favorite), suckle on his special blanket, and get belly rubs.
MAF: What does he mean to you?
D: He means the world to me. Whenever I feel like giving up because something is hard, I just have to look at him and remind myself that he does much harder things and never gives up. He brightens my days, and he always knows when I need some Pretzel Kisses.
To learn more about this adorable cat, you can follow Pretzel on Instagram.