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Pretzel The Cat’s Incredible Story


How an online community rallied around one very special cat, covering her $10,000 surgery so she could go on to brighten days and help others

A baby opossum in the middle of the road?! Not a far-fetched hypothesis when driving a country lane in Jacksonville, Florida, and certainly what Carmen Bernard thought she’d find when she pulled over to get a better look. To her surprise, the small creature turned out to be a kitten, “it’s poor little back legs and tail all twisted up,” Carmen recounts. “I was sure it must have been in pain so I scooped it up in a shoe box and took it home with me so I could get it to a vet.”

The vet promptly determined the kitten’s injuries weren’t due to road trauma as Carmen had thought, but rather a genetic birth defect, and gave Carmen two options—euthanize the little kitten or take her home and care for her herself.

Pretzel the cat and CarmenSo Carmen came home with the pitiful kitten and decided to make a Facebook page for her. “I thought I was being original and had no idea that everyone and their cousin makes pages for their pets!” she says. When she woke up the next morning to close to 400 likes, she couldn’t believe it. Carmen decided to ask the fledging online community to give the kitten a name. Pretzel, as she was christened, now has 47,000 thousand fans around the world.

It was Pretzel’s fans that suggested that Carmen take her to a specialist, so Carmen carted the kitten off to the University of Florida for an evaluation, where it was not only determined that she would require a series of reconstructive surgeries to fix her legs and prevent a lifetime of skin irritations and UTIs due to the way her legs were twisted back and around, but also that she was completely blind. The doctors gave Carmen an estimate of $10,000 for the necessary surgeries to fix Pretzel’s legs. “I thanked the doctors and laughed and cried all the way home,” Carmen says. “Who has that kind of money?”

pretzel the catApparently Pretzel’s fans did. Carmen posted an update on Pretzel’s page and immediately offers of help started pouring in. “I never in a million years expected so many people to come to the aid of a cat like that. She was even on our local news broadcast one night!” Carmen says. Within no time at all, the hospital received enough donations to cover the cost and the surgeries were scheduled. Pretzel’s fans even donated gas cards to help Carmen make the two-and-a-half hour trip each way, two to three times a week. (Pretzel’s deformities were so severe that the surgeries took place in stages over the course of a few months.) Unfortunately, Pretzel had to have one leg amputated during the process but the other leg was successfully fixed and today she is happy and healthy and spoiled rotten.

Now, Carmen is focused on giving back and doing good via Pretzel’s Facebook page, spreading positivity and raising money for all kinds of different charities by having raffles and auctions or entering contests. She has raised money for all sorts of animal-related causes, as well as to help people, sending mosquito nets to tropical areas to prevent the spread of malaria and helping install wells so people in developing countries have access to clean water.

“I’ll never be able to thank all of the people enough that have helped her to get her to where she is today,” Carmen says—but she’s certainly intent on trying.

Pretzel the catQ: Pretzel has a lot of fans (Pretzel Nation!). What is it about Pretzel that people love? 

I think that they enjoy a rags-to-riches story and the positive feel of the page. I keep everything fun and uplifting.

Q: You and Pretzel are tremendous advocates for what you charmingly call “scratch-n-dent” pets (love that!). Why should people consider adopting a pet that faces a few challenges?

So many potential furry best friends will sit in a shelter and get overlooked because they are less than perfect. I think the imperfections add to their charm. The love and gratitude that they will give to you is equal or greater than what the typical pet will give and the feeling of knowing that you have saved a life of an animal gives you a special warm fuzzy feeling.

Q: What should people know before they adopt a three-legged cat? What about a blind cat?

Basically a cat is a cat. They are independent when they want to be and all up in your business at the most inconvenient times. The 4 a.m. wake up calls for food are the same. Being blind or mobility challenged doesn’t change a thing! A blind cat will still knock your glass of water off the table and a three-legged cat will still climb up the back of the furniture to sleep in their favourite window sill. When people come to my house they never know that Pretzel is blind unless I tell them and usually don’t notice the missing leg either because she gets around, up and down everything so well.

Q: What do you think people can learn from cats with disabilities? 

To not take life so seriously. Whatever happens, happens, and you just make the best out of what you have to work with. The sun will still come up tomorrow and the litter box will be cleaned at the end of the day.

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11 Comments

  • Darlene Pifalo

    What a beautiful love story!!! I’m a cat lover and you did the right thing I also live in Gainesville and the Vet hospital does a great job!!! In fact I’m know as “Your Purrrfect Realtor” fo all my babies and what I do for local organizations here too…God Bless you both Meow!!!

  • Cheryl

    I get this magazine and was so excited to see your gorgeous face on the cover and so happy you are being spoiled beyond belief.

  • Eleanor Skibo

    Pretzel is a winner in every way. She received medical attention, has a fan club, but most of all has a loving mom who adores her. G d Bless Pretzel an her mom.

  • DEBI SHOCKLEY`

    I HAD 6 KITTENS BORN TO 2 MAMA’S IN MAY 2006. GOT ALL OF THEM FIXED AN IN FOR THE WINTER. THEIR MOMS WERE OUTSIDE SO LET THEM ALL OUTSIDE. ONE, SUGAR, A HANDSOME WHITE FLAME POINT BOY, GOT HIT ONE WEEK AFTER BEING OUT. HIS PELVIS AND LEG WERE CRUSH BUT LUCKILY HE SURVIVED. HE HAD HIS BACK LEG TAKE OFF BUT HE WENT ON TO LIVE 16 MORE HAPPY…OR SHALL I SAY “HOPPY” YEARS BEING AN INDOOR KITTY WITH HIS FUR SIBS. HE HAD NO IDEA HE WAS MISSING A LEG AND COULD JUMP UP ON THE HIGHEST OF PLACES. PROOF OF HOW ADAPTABLE KITTIES ARE. SADLY HE PASSED IN THE FALL OF 2018 AT 12 YRS OLD. HIS MOM HAS FIV AND SHE’S STILL WITH US. SO IS HER MOM…GRAMMA KITTY. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE KITTIES!

  • Skizzy Smith

    This is so uplifting, what might have been a tragedy was turned around by the efforts of Carmen and then the many donations from the community. Pretzel and Carmen – well done!

  • W Wright

    Wonderful story of committment to and love of an animal and the enduring strength of an animals desire to live no matter what . Most of us as Carmen says can learn a lot from the resilience of animals even when confronted with what seems overwhelming odds.Kudos to Carmen and all those who supported her and Pretzel.

  • Janeese Davidson

    We have taken in a 3 pawed semi feral cat. She is around 10 years old & living In the yard of the warehouse my partner owned. She was being bullied by a big Tom cat, so we started feeding her & letting her into warehouse at night. After several years we finally took her into our home, & she’s doing pretty good, except she hides alot, but really wants to be loved. Which we do!!😍🐱

  • Ron Binkley

    What an Absolutely Awesome story ❤️ I’m already in Love with Pretzel and Love what you said about adopting a cat with disability’s. I Absolutely Love All Cat’s and it doesn’t matter to me what they are like just as long as they Love being Loved and Spoiled. Thank you for the passion you show for all cat’s. I’m going to find Pretzels fan page and follow her. May God Bless You both 🙏🙏 🙏🙏🙏 🙏🙏 🙏🙏🙏 🙏

  • Julie gemme

    I am happy pretzel is doing great. Pretzel your so adorable.

  • Angie Mason

    I remember when all of that first happened years ago! Very glad to see Carmen and Pretzel are still doing well!!!

  • Leanne Hare

    I’ve been on board since the start and it has inspired me to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home 14 feral cats/kittens.
    Pretzel? Just what a cat needs – another 50,000 worshippers 🙂
    Here’s a poem from Pretzel –
    Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    You need to feed me
    And scoop out my poo!!!!!

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