When Amy Bender learned about an adorable Siamese kitten who was desperately in need of a foster family, she eagerly agreed to help the young cat.
By January 2014, Amy had fostered many cats and kittens for Central Oklahoma Humane Society, so she was the organization’s obvious choice when they were tasked with finding a caregiver for the approximately two-month-old feline they’d dubbed Sour Puss. “I was one of the more experienced kitten foster parents, so when this tiny kitten with failure to thrive was surrendered to the shelter, they called me first!” explains Amy.
While the name Sour Puss suited the little kitten with the adorably grumpy face, Amy worried that it might prevent the fragile Siamese cat from finding a forever home, so she began calling her Sauerkraut. Even though Sauerkraut’s unique expression made her appear as though she was annoyed and irritated, it didn’t take long for Amy and her family to realize that she was actually incredibly happy and sweet.
When Amy agreed to foster Sauerkraut, she knew that the little kitten was struggling to grow and gain weight, but it wasn’t until later that she discovered the Siamese cat’s other health problems. “She had a heart murmur and she wouldn’t react to loud noises,” says Amy. “We thought she was deaf for a while, but no, she’s just really good at ignoring.”
Over time, Amy and her family developed a strong bond with Sauerkraut, and after approximately two months of fostering her, they decided to officially adopt her at the end of February 2014. Sauerkraut appeared to be thriving in her forever home, but just a few months later, she began exhibiting some unusual behavior.
“When Sauerkraut was about nine months old, she started scratching herself until she caused large wounds on her skin,” remembers Amy. “Our vet did skin scrapings and tests of all kinds but all the results were negative.”
Amy was understandably very concerned about the injuries Sauerkraut was inflicting upon herself, and like any worried pet parent, she turned to the internet for answers, searching “Why won’t my cat stop scratching?” via Google. “Three pages into the Google search results I found an article about feline hyperesthesia,” explains Amy.
The more Amy read about feline hyperesthesia syndrome (FHS), the more convinced she was that Sauerkraut was suffering from the rare condition that causes cats to experience episodes of self-mutilation, agitation, and rippling skin.
“I forwarded everything I could find to our vet and after she studied it a bit, we decided to try her on transdermal gabapentin,” says Amy. In addition to giving Sauerkraut gabapentin, an anti-convulsant medication that is used to treat seizures and nerve damage, Amy began using clothing to help protect the young cat’s skin, a common tactic employed by the parents of kitties with feline hyperesthesia.
Fortunately, this combination worked wonders for Sauerkraut, and four years later, this stunning Siamese is doing extremely well. “She is the perfect lap cat and always ready to lend some cuddle support at nap time!” says Amy. Saukerkraut — who will turn five this November — adores her dad, and when she’s not spending time with her father, she can be found hanging out on her catio or playing with her favorite toy, a little green puff ball.
“She isn’t a bit slowed down by her condition or her clothes,” says Amy. While Sauerkraut looks incredibly cute in her clothing, Amy often has to explain to this Siamese girl’s many social media followers that they are a way of coping with feline hyperesthesia syndrome, not a fashion statement.
“Some people don’t realize that her outfits are actually a medical device we use to keep her from harming herself,” explains Amy. Thanks to her medication and many ensembles, Sauerkraut is doing better than ever, no longer the fragile cat who was failing to thrive when she met Amy more than four years age.
Today, Sauerkraut and her family live in Middleville, Michigan, having moved from Oklahoma City a year and a half ago, and while this little cat may not be the Bender family’s biggest kitty, she has a huge personality. “Sauerkraut is the second in command in our clowder hierarchy, even though she’s the smallest!” says Amy.
Not surprisingly, Amy — who has fostered more than 500 cats and kittens, many of them with health issues — is an advocate for special needs felines, and she hopes more people will consider opening their homes to these animals who are often overlooked. “I wish more people would adopt medically complicated cats and kittens,” says Amy. “Actually I just wish more people would adopt, period.”
For Amy, Sauerkraut and her other rescue cats are far more than just pets, and she hopes other people will get to experience the same joy and happiness she has received from fostering and adopting over the years. “All of our cats are members of the family,” says Amy. “We are very fortunate to be able to share our home and love with all of them.”
To learn more about this beautiful cat, you can follow Sauerkraut on Instagram.