One day, in June 2013, three newborn kittens were dumped at a Los Angeles animal shelter. All three, two girls and a boy, were born with twisted and deformed limbs and tails. The original owners expected the shelter to simply put the kittens to sleep, but the workers decided to give the kittens a chance instead. They called Laura Hawthorne, a volunteer with Kitten Rescue, and she decided to foster all three kittens.
The male, Oliver Twist, died the night Hawthorne took him, but the two girls, Curly Sue and Pretzel appeared to thrive under her care. Pretzel was the larger and stronger kitten. Her back legs were twisted and pressed against her body. There was no question of her ever walking normally; she had to drag herself around with her forelimbs.
In “Twisty Kitten Syndrome,” the kittens are born with contracted tendons that pull their limbs into contorted positions. It is generally caused by crowding or positioning in the uterus, and it can be treated through stretching exercises and other types of physical therapy. Sometimes, the kittens get better on their own without therapy.
Pretzel and Curly Sue didn’t have that condition. X-rays showed the kittens were born with skeletal deformities. Curly Sue was missing bones in her front legs and also had a congenital heart defect. Pretzel was born with missing leg bones and missing knee caps.
Hawthorne cleaned the kittens and gave them fluids and antibiotics, for they were dehydrated. Since they needed to be fed every two hours, Hawthorne took them to work with her. She hoped Curly Sue would eventually become strong enough to undergo heart surgery, but it was not to be. Curly Sue eventually died from a heart attack at not quite 12 weeks old, and Hawthorne that Pretzel might join her, for the sisters had been closely bonded.
In March, 2014, Hawthorne participated in the LA Marathon to raise funds for Kitten Rescue and Pretzel. A month later, the eight-month kitten found a new home when a young woman adopted her. By now, she seemed strong and healthy, aside from her inability to walk. She had grown in to a lovely short-haired white cat with striking odd eyes, one blue and one green. Pretzel’s new owner was keenly aware of the responsibility of caring for a pet that was completely dependent on her. She also enjoyed the cat’s nuzzling against her in the morning.