I am certain that no organization has contributed to the health and welfare of cats for 50 years as the Winn Feline Foundation has. This is the only organization on the planet that exists solely for funding cat health studies. And, Winn is equal opportunity: All cats benefit, from domestic shorthair to pedigreed cats to community cats.
In 1968, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) created what would soon become Winn Feline Foundation, establishing a source of funding for medical studies to improve cat health and welfare. Celebrating 50 years, my fifth of the 12 Pet Books of Christmas is the Winn Feline Foundation’s 50th anniversary book, which I am proud to say I co-edited. A PDF of the book is FREE, and a hardcopy can be mailed for $5 (to cover the cost of postage).
The New Jersey-based foundation was named in honor of CFA’s longtime attorney and advisor, Robert H. Winn.
To date, Winn has funded more than $6 million in health research for cats at over 30 partner institutions worldwide.
Winn has provided the seed funding to help understand diseases, which we take understanding for granted today, like feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leukemia (FeLV), and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).
FIP, a disease historically considered fatal, may no longer be fatal, greatly due to funding from the Winn Feline Foundation’s Bria Fund.
In 2002, I began the Ricky Fund to support funding for understanding and ultimately treating feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), by far the most common heart disease in cats. Today, an inexpensive genetic test (using a cheek swab) can determine if Ragdoll or Maine Coon cats are carrying a gene defect for HCM.
Going back in time to the 1970’s, a different heart disease, dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM,) was commonly causing blindness and even death among many cats.
Veterinary cardiologists were working on a treatment. But, Dr. Paul Pion, then a veterinary cardiology resident at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, put some puzzle pieces together in his head. He had a hunch, which at that time was considered thinking outside the box.
To prove his idea, he required money. The Winn Feline Foundation decided to take a chance on Pion’s hunch that there simply wasn’t enough taurine in cat food. And, Pion proved to be right. Taurine is an essential amino acid that dogs and people can produce on their own but cats cannot. Today, all pet food companies, industry wide, understand how much taurine is required for cats. The result is that since Pion’s discovery, veterinarians hardly ever diagnose DCM, which was once all too common.
It was Winn-funded studies that first demonstrated that diabetes in cats is best treated with a high protein/low carbohydrate diet (which was against the common knowledge of the time). Combine that with insulin and simultaneous gradual weight loss, and a significant number of diabetic cats go into remission.
It was Winn-funded studies that proved why measuring blood pressure in cats is important and how to do it. Winn supported studies that have provided specific treatments to support cats with several types of cancer. Winn is funding several studies on how stem cell therapy may benefit to treat several conditions, and one study to look at whether cats can play a role to help autistic children. The list of studies that have made a difference for cats goes on and on.
Celebrating Winn’s 50th, a free PDF of their anniversary book is available here, or a copy can be mailed for $5 (to cover the nonprofit’s cost of postage).