“Countess has a broken heart,” says this calico’s rescuer and adopter. “…and she’s only 6 months old. This adorable little girl was born with her four littermates to a mother who is a feral cat. I rescued them, cared for them and fostered them…..but Countess always stood out from the rest.”
Countess’s mom Sissie is one of the ferals cared for by Deana. Skilled and trapwise, Sissie eluded capture and spay and gave birth to a litter of kittens on Deana’s rural property. She found the litter in August 2014 when they were about two weeks old and took them all in, had Sissie spayed and released her because it’s very hard for a feral cat to live in a cage indoors, feeding her kittens. Deana bottle fed and weaned and trained the five kittens on her own.
The kittens were enrolled in the Animal Rescue League’s Foster Finder program through which kittens are surrendered to the shelter but fostered by the person who surrenders them, while the shelter provides all veterinary care and ultimately spay and neuter, then takes them in and puts them up for adoption in the shelter. One of the kittens was adopted through Pittsburgh CAT and three were adopted through Foster Finder.
Little Countess always had trouble breathing, wheezing most of the time, and didn’t grow as fast as her littermates. She was given different medications from the beginning and initially allergies or lung issues were thought to be the cause, but when nothing had any effect her veterinarian began a different track in diagnosis.
“When it came time to move her to Animal Rescue League for potential adoption, she was deemed unadoptable because of her health, so I adopted her,” Deana said. “Countess has quickly fit in as a lovable, playful addition to our family, but her health still remained more fragile than the rest.”
Finally at the end of January, after all the medications and treatments for breathing issues had no effect, the veterinarian gave Deana another diagnosis.
“Countess has a Stage 3 heart murmur and a moderately enlarged heart caused by a ventricular septal defect (VSD), essentially, a hole in her heart. This is not the news I expected, or wanted to hear…”
After the initial diagnosis of a heart murmur and then a chest X-ray and bloodwork, she was referred to a specialist for feline heart conditions, and will have an echocardiogram on March 9.
Because the extra veterinary care for Countess has already been costly, and the exam with the specialist and echocardiogram are also expensive, Deana began looking for ways to raise money to help cover her costs. People donated for Countess at an adoption event and she began collecting items for an online auction which is open for bidding through March 1.
She also set up a GoFundMe page. “I set a goal of $1,000 because that is the approximate cost of the first and second round of tests (chest X-ray, bloodwork, echocardiogram and office exam). Countess has officially been referred to Pittsburgh Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center for an echocardiogram and more specialized treatment, the cost of that appointment alone is estimated at $500-$800. ANY small donation just to get her through this first round of tests would be appreciated more than you know.” Of the amount raised so far, $350 has been paid to her veterinarian to cover Countess’s costs to date.
Deana is a professional EMT and volunteer firefighter and understands what this condition means for Countess. “She can live a long and full life, but she’ll have a lot of vet visits ahead, a lot of diagnostic tests to start with,” Deana said.
“Countess does very well in every day life, she eats plays and acts just like a normal cat. The only thing that is different is that she wheezes very loudly constantly, she gets winded very easily with a lot of activity but she knows her limits,” Deana said. “If she is playing too hard and starts to have difficulty breathing she will actually sit herself out and take a break. My cat Ziggy takes very good care of her as well.”
Deana is a full-time EMT and a volunteer firefighter, lives with a family of six felines and cares for a family of five ferals outdoors, and last year fostered 19 kittens for Pittsburgh CAT as well as volunteering for offsite adoption days. “My life pretty much revolves around my kids and my cats,” she laughed. “I have six ‘permanent resident’ cats: Taffy (14), Laya (5), Ziggy (7), Kitten (2), Chance (almost 1), and Countess (8 months). I also have my fosters Oreo, Butters and Violet (6 months). ALL of my permanent resident cats were rescues, former ferals or adopted from shelters.”
She and her partner Chad live in a house on an acre or so with her son Zack (15), and their son Anthony (18 months), and Deana also has a daughter Angie (13). The teenagers are busy with school activities and the toddler with toddler things, which includes a lot of running around. And she literally runs too—a lot, a minimum of 50 miles per week, and participates in large and small races and marathons all the time.
Help Deana with Countess’s expenses
I always seem to be asking for donations for a cat in need, and I feel better asking if those who donate have something tangible in return when they do donate. In the past I’ve auctioned or sold artwork to benefit one of these cats, as I did with Kennedy and with Odette. Seeing the hundreds or thousands of photos of foster cats we share on Facebook each day I’ve always wanted to to a sketch from those photos. I’ve put them both together—I created a sketch of Countess from one of Deana’s photos and I’m offering to send it to someone who makes a donation to Countess’s care through GoFundMe.
Art for Assistance
So here I’m launching a new program to help cats in our rescue: “Art for Assistance”. It’s easy.
This Art for Assistance opportunity is completed, but I’m leaving the details here for you to read about. See an archive of Art for Assistance posts, and if you’d like to contribute one may still be active!
Donate at least $100 to Countess’s care through GoFundMe and I’ll send you this original sketch.
“Countess Napping” is done in conté and pastel on acid-free Canson pastel paper. Normally I sell an original sketch of this type for $100.00. Instead you’ll donate that amount to Countess, I’ll confirm the donation with Deana and get your address, and ship it out to you. It’s that easy!
I’ll send out digital prints for each donation of $25.00 or more (sorry, that was unclear before—it sounded as if no one got a print until the original was sold, but anyone who donates $25.00 or more after this date is eligible for a print).
Separately from this offer, you can also visit the online auction to bid on donated items.
Thanks so much to everyone who donates to Countess’s care. I understand the costs of a cat with a serious congenital heart condition. My cat Namir had a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM, and the cost of his care over the years could have purchased a new compact car, so I know how expensive this is and will be for Deana until all the diagnoses and medications are configured. Even after that, regular tests and ongoing medication will be a monthly expense for all of Countess’s life. It’s generous of Deana to undertake this expense and trouble for a kitten born to a feral cat, and to care for her for the rest of her life.
Read more stories in my weekly Rescue Stories series
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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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