CHICAGO — A Bridgeport woman who spends every minute and every cent on rescue cats is, for the first time, reaching out for help.
Autumn Ganza, who runs a one-woman cat rescue operation called Castle Blackpaw, has been rescuing cats off Chicago streets for four years so they can be neutered or spayed, receive medical attention and food and find permanent homes. An animal lover since she was born, Ganza has never asked for money to help her work.
But when Ganza rescued a cat who needed to have a leg amputated, she finally asked for help covering the cost to save the kitten by starting a GoFundMe. Chicagoans have raised more than $1,000 to help so far.
Earlier this week, Ganza learned there was a kitten at a Chicago animal shelter who would soon be put down because his fractured leg would cost too much to fix. She saw a photo of the kitten, Pumpkin, online and knew she had to help.
“I just basically screwed up my whole day and went and pulled him and figured it out,” Ganza said. “He was really adorable, obviously. Very fluffy. He was wearing this very sad little cast. He could barely stand up but was still trying to.
“He was kind of like, ‘Hey, get me out of here.'”
The kitten, who is 8-10 months old, purred as soon as he was in Ganza’s arms and started “making biscuits” — or kneading — on her chest. Ganza instantly knew she had to help him.
Ganza took Pumpkin to a vet, who amputated Pumpkin’s bad leg and neutered him, and got him back on Thursday after an overnight stay.
Pumpkin is recovering and eating well, and he’s learning how to balance on his three legs.
But the kitten’s medical care came with a high price tag. Since Ganza is on social security because she has a chronic illness — and because she uses so much of her money to help cats — she launched a GoFundMe for $1,500 to help pay the vet bills.
“I don’t really talk about myself a whole lot … but I’m on social security because I have Crohn’s disease and that makes me pretty poor, to put it very bluntly,” Ganza said. “So I don’t have a lot of money to throw around on cats and I throw all of my money and all of my time on cats, happily.”
The fundraiser had raised $1,300 as of Friday morning. Donors left comments thanking Ganza for the work she’s done for cats, with some noting she’d helped them find their own pets.
“Thank you for letting us adopt Eggs almost a year ago on Thanksgiving!” one person wrote after donating $20. “We appreciate everything you do!”
The response was shocking to Ganza.
“I think it’s amazing because I’ve never put my hand out and asked for money straight out for a cat before, y’know?” Ganza said. “I never wanted to make a GoFundMe for rescue … . My mind is just blown.”
Ganza vowed any money left over after paying for Pumpkin’s bills would be used to help cats in the future. You can donate here.
And those interested in adopting Pumpkin once he’s ready can meet the cat at a “kitten party” Ganza is hosting.
Ganza will bring about 20 adoptable cats (including Pumpkin) to Pinwheel Records, 1722 W. 18th St., for would-be adopters to meet them. There will be a raffle and attendees can meet cats to adopt and watch the felines run around and destroy dioramas built by volunteers.
The kitten party is 4-8 p.m. Oct. 19 at Pinwheel Records. It costs $5 to hang out with kittens for 15 minutes and get one raffle ticket. Additional raffle tickets are $2. The money helps with Ganza’s rescue work.
Reservations for kitten time at the party can be made online.
Those who wish to adopt from Castle Blackpaw but can’t make the event can also email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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