What no Valentine? Did you forget to buy a card or a gift for the big day? If your Valentine happens to be a cat lover, I have a gift idea from the heart, for the heart. Give to the Ricky Fund.
A surprisingly common cause of death among adult cats is called feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).
In 2002, my Devon Rex cat Ricky succumbed to HCM. At least he was diagnosed, (many cats have undetected HCM until they go into heart failure or suddenly die). Still, the treatment likely did not prolong his life. Because HCM is so common among cats, I thought we need to do better – and created a fund with the Winn Feline Foundation to raise funds to learn more about the disease and hopefully come up with an effective treatment or prevention. Learning about HCM in cats might also even help people.
Ricky was one of those once in a lifetime cats. Ricky was so incredibly smart and perceptive, and social. So what do you do with a cat with these attributes?
You teach him to play the piano. Of course! Ricky and I took our show on the road, as he played improvisational jazz. If YouTube had been around then, Ricky (who also could “sit” when asked, and offer a high five, jump through a Hoola Hoop and more) would have likely gone viral. He was seen on several Animal Planet shows, National Geographic Explorer, and lots of other national TV, as well as local Chicago TV and heard on radio. Ricky loved an audience.
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Most important to me, Ricky was sensitive of my heart….If I was
feeling bad, Ricky was instantly in my lap. He also made me laugh,
daily. He taught me so much of what I know cats can be.
With HCM, it is a primary heart muscle disease in which the muscles in
the left ventricle and the walls of the left ventricle become abnormally
thickened. HCM may be a progressive disease (getting worse over time)
or it may remain stable.
So, while most cats get sick eventually, some
do not. Those cats that progress to having severe HCM often develop
heart failure when the muscle thickening and subsequent scarring of the
heart muscle significantly affects heart function (makes the left
ventricle stiffer than normal). HCM is also the most common cause of
sudden death in cats, as well as the most common heart disease.
While there are treatments which sometimes slow the disease progression;
the treatments often do don’t matter, and don’t typically impact the outcome.
As a result of funds from the Ricky Fund, fewer cats are dying. That’s because as a result of money raised through through the Ricky Fund, a gene detect to determine if HCM will occur has been discovered in Maine Coon cats and Ragdolls.
With a simple cheek swab, breeders of these popular breeds have been able
to begin to reduce HCM by careful breeding. Investigator Dr. Kathryn Meurs at Washington State University is now beginning to look at various other breeds where HCM is over-represented.
Ricky Fund dollars were responsible for supporting a study to confirm success of a drug used to potentially prevent a blood clot, lower blood pressure
and make the heart easier to pump. Also an ongoing study by Dr. Philip Fox at the Animal Medical Center is reviewing long-term medical data on 1,200 cats with HCM to learn more about the disease.
Find a effective treatment for HCM and thousands of cats will be saved because the disease is so common. I hope you can help.