Cats with a Legacy, Including One Cat Who Left Millions to Vet School


Funny, yesterday I bumped into the one time publisher of Dog World magazine. His first questions, “How’s Ricky?”

I didn’t have time to explain that Ricky passed back in 2002 of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

Ricky was a pretty famous cat at that time…appearing on Animal Planet, National Geographic and in all, dozens of TV appearances and many more print stories. You see Ricky played the piano, and offered about a dozen other behaviors. He was so social, and relished the attention. Ricky enjoyed the TV crews, and didn’t mind going wherever it was I happened to be. If YouTube was around, Ricky likely would have gone viral lots of times.

When Ricky passed away from HCM, Robin and I created the Ricky Fund with the Winn Feline Foundation to support research into HCM. At this point, well over $100,000 has been raised (which for cat health is a reasonable amount). And as a result two tests have been created to determine if a gene defect occurs in Ragdoll and Maine Coons. While the tests are not perfect, still breeders using these have saved lives. I hope this is only a start, since HCM is such a common killer of adult cats. And there is – to date – no effective treatment.

I began the Ricky Fund with a contribution . . . I don’t recall how much but not exactly the $7.6 million Maxine Adler left when she died in her cat, Du Bee’s memory to the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

The hope is that these dollars with lure scientists to learn more about cancer in cats. According to the bequest, any major breakthroughs will be named in her pet’s memory.

No surprise, Adler’s gift is the single largest donation in the veterinary school’s history.

It all began with Du Bee about 10 years ago, when Adler brought him to the vet school for treatment of his cancer. Adler had a special bond with the multicolored cat, who she said was a stray that had wandered onto her boat.

Though De Bee’ cancer ultimately proved fatal, Adler was appreciative of the care he received. In 2004, she donated $1 million to support cancer research at the school’s Center for Companion Animal Health. The fund provides annual research awards to the faculty and residents whose work advances cancer prevention and diagnosis.

In late July of 2009 Alder was reportedly was crossing a busy street near her home one afternoon when a driver struck her, then fled. The driver was caught and charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Adler was 70 years old.

Months passed before U.C. Davis learned she had left more than $7.6 million to the veterinary school. The five funds Adler established are being disbursed, and will go on in perpetuity.