I’m sure plenty of kitties will be receiving heart-shaped treats and toys on Sunday, and of course they will be grateful for our enthusiastic generosity for their welfare.
But you might benefit your kitty, and many others, with another type of heart-shaped gift—a donation to the Winn Feline Foundation’s Ricky Fund which funds research into Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), the most common heart ailment among cats, and a very common disease among cats in general. This research will potentially save thousands of feline lives by studying the genetics of the disease and prolong thousands more lives while providing realistic treatment for cats who have been diagnosed with this disease.
Many of you have read my articles about Namir and his four-year struggle with, and ultimate death from, HCM in July 2009. Cats deal with illness and discomfort so well we might never know there was a health issue, and Namir had no time for any suffering, but behind our everyday activities was a lot of pain and discomfort on his part, and worry and watching on mine, not to mention four different medications twice a day, occasional trips to the emergency room when he developed congestive heart failure, watching him lose weight and muscle mass and ultimately know that he had no time left, and that I had to choose euthanasia rather than watch him suffer his last hours or days.
I was lucky to have Namir for years before the symptoms showed, and he lived to be 15. Others are not so lucky because it is not unusual for a cat to be diagnosed with HCM as a kitten and only live to the tender age of four or five. So it was with Steve Dale, nationally known and syndicated pet writer, radio show host and owner of Ricky, for whom the fund is named.
As Steve writes in one of his blog posts: “In 2002, I lost my best friend – a cat named Ricky. He was a unique dude. Long before Nora, he also played the piano (improvisations jazz). Being a social guy who didn’t relegate his musical skill to his own home – he performed ‘in concert’ at places like Petco and PETsMart. Ricky knew how to do as much as most dogs, the list included jumping through a Hoola Hoop, sitting on command, giving ‘high-fives’ and more. He helped to demonstrate cats can learn just as much as their canine cousins.”
Steve commented after a recent meeting of the Winn Feline Foundation’s board,
“I am gratified that in Ricky’s memory, we’ve actually raised over six figures for the Winn Feline Foundation Ricky Fund, and scientists have been able to prevent some cats from ever getting his horrible disease. But we still have a long ways to go to prevent all cats from ever being diagnosed. Or to find an effective drug to treat feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Right now, HCM is among the most common causes of death in middle aged indoor cats, perhaps the most common. That has to change.”
Read the rest of the above post, including more about Steve Dale and the Ricky Fund on Steve’s blog in Celebrate Valentine’s Day from Your Heart to Your Cat’s Heart and Ricky Fund for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Research, and on the Winn Feline Foundation website where you can also make a donation.
Ricky sounds as if he was a really unforgettable character, playing the piano and doing tricks and more. Read about Ricky on Steve’s website at Ricky Showed Us What A Cat Can Be (careful, it’s a real tear-jerker, but well worth the read!).
Visit the Winn Feline Foundation for thorough and reliable information on feline health and health studies, and sign up to receive regular updates on their research.
More cats are kept as pets, but cats get less veterinary care and fewer studies are done on behalf of feline health (Catalyst Council). Research needs funding, some of which comes from foundations and government sources, but some of which needs to come from individuals like you. Cat owners need to show support for research and treatment in order to change this.
Anyone who has put cats or kittens up for adoption has been warned to NEVER give cats away for free.
But the Winn Feline Foundation funded a study to see what would be the outcome if shelters and rescue organizations–not individuals–tried offering cats for adoption at no charge while still following their usual adoption procedures, and the results were quite different from what was expected.
Why would they plan this study, even though the logic would say that a person who can’t afford to adopt a cat probably can’t afford to keep a cat considering food and veterinary care? Because there are so many cats in shelters who would otherwise be euthanized for overcrowding in open-door shelters, and no-kill shelters have a finite number of cages and other resources and they end up turning away cats, but a person who can’t afford the adoption fee can still provide a loving home for that cat, and save a life, directly or indirectly.
As background on the “free cat” issue, it’s not just guesswork, but follow-ups have shown that these adopters are not always interested in the cat as a pet. Often the adopter just wants a “mouser”, for instance, and the cat gets no care and no real home. Other times the cats are not even intended to be adopted as pets, but are used for horrible purposes like hunting bait, or, as might be suspected, taken to a lab to be used for experimentation.
But if a shelter or adoption agency would go through its full adoption procedure–interview, application, background checks, follow-up visit–with the exception of collecting money, then they’ve done what they would do for any cat to help find it a good home.
You may be researching a specific topic or you may simply be curious and reading general feline topics. In either case finding complete and accurate information can seem to be elusive. If you are searching on the internet you’ll find plenty of sites with anecdotal information from cat owners who have experienced and dealt with certain conditions and give very helpful advice, especially if you find yourself in a similar predicament, and you’ll find sites that offer a variety of topics, but the information under the topic just doesn’t go deep enough. I’m always careful to research my information further and find it supported in a variety of sources, both on the internet and off.
Whether I’m writing about cats or I’m researching something on behalf of my own cats’ health, I have a list of sites I use for research that have always provided a good starting point, a few which cover all animals and a few which specialize in feline issues. I usually head to the library after that so that I can look in publications that aren’t entirely available on the internet.
Here are a few of my favorite all-animal sites because of the depth of their information.
“Good News for Pets”, found at www.goodnewsforpets.com , is a great all-around link to health, welfare and entertainment news for dogs and cats that is constantly updated. Read Steve Dale’s column and visit his “Pet World” site, and from Mordecai Segal—if you’ve purchased health or training books featuring dogs or cats, you’ve probably got one by him.
You may also recognize another author included in several “Chicken Soup” books and also if you own various popular books on natural pet health care, Amy Shojai, whose site can be found at www.shojai.com. Read through her wealth of articles and sign up to receive her “Pet Peeves” e-newsletter.
Both the ASPCA, www.aspca.org and the HSUS, www.hsus.org have huge sites packed with practical information about dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and more for diet, training, and general health as well as newsworthy updates on what each organization is doing to make both companion animals’ and wild animals’ lives better.
For cat-specific information, you’ll find a link on the “Good News for Pets” site to “Cat Wellness News” at www.catwellness.org where you can read current releases and click to even more information on research and health at (AAFP) American Association of Feline Practitioners, (CWA) Cat Writers’ Association, Inc., The Cat Fanciers Association, Cornell Feline Health Center, KNOW Heartworms, and Winn Feline Foundation.
Speaking of the Winn Feline Foundation at www.winnfelinehealth.org , you can nominate your favorite veterinarian to the “Veterinary Honor Roll” and sign up for frequent brief releases of research results for all the research they are funding and tracking.
You’ll find the answers to lots of questions at FelineExpress.com, www.felinexpress.com from people who have been caring for cats for years.
So curl up with a kitty on your lap and maybe a few on your desk and read all about what’s new with felines!
The Winn Feline Foundation “is a non-profit organization established in 1968 that supports studies about cat health. Projects funded by Winn have provided information that is used every day in veterinary medicine to treat cat diseases.”
This year’s grant-funded studies include feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or feline HCM, and feline infectious peritonitis, or FIP, as well as ten other health issues. Visit the Winn Feline Health website for more information about these studies and other past studies whose findings are used in veterinary medicine today at http://www.winnfelinehealth.org, or go straight to the press release about this year’s grants at http://www.winnfelinehealth.org/Pages/HEALTH_STUDY_GRANTS_2009_Media_Final.pdf.
And while you are there, along with a donation to Winn, you can nominate your veterianarian to the Veterinary Honor Roll at http://www.winnfelinehealth.org/Pages/VetHonorRoll.html.