Let's End Heart Disease in Cats: I Need Your Help


If ever a journalist was right, About.com blogger Franny Syufy wrote “I deeply loved my cat Ricky.’ Of course, we all love our pets, but every once in a while, there’s that pet who has a special connection with you, who touches your heart as few do.


Ricky was that cat for me – and even for perfect strangers. Ricky touched people as few pets do.

Our dog, Lucy, did animal assisted therapy and I was just starting to clicker train her to play a child’s piano so Lucy could entertain kids. Well, what do know – Ricky walked into the room, lifted a paw, and went ‘ping’ on the toy keyboard. I thought, “What am I fooling around with this dog for?’

You think Nora (piano playing cat) is a sensation, well Ricky played recitals at pet superstores and benefits. He was well socialized, and he actually loved being outdoors. He was leash and harness trained. And he knew lots of little ‘tricks’ too…from jumping over dogs to jumping through a Hoola Hoop.

When Ricky was diagnosed with heart disease (feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), and I was told – it’s VERY common in adult cats, and there’s no cure or treatment – of course, I was devastated. Some cats do manage to outlive the heart disease and never know they are sick. But many die far too early, as the disease progresses. Sadly, that was Ricky, dying suddenly and far too soon. In June, 2002, I began the Ricky Fund with the Winn Feline Foundation.

So far, we’ve raised just over $100,000. That may not seem like a lot of dollars, but for cat health – that’s significant. While raising money for dog health is  challenging; raising dollars for cat health is far tougher – for some reason – it just is. And the money we’ve raised has mattered. As a result in two breeds (Ragdoll’s and Main Coon’s) a gene with the defect carrying hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can now be identified with a simple cheek swab. But we need to do better for all cats!

HCM may well be the number of one cause of death in indoor adult cats (before they hit their senior years). Please help, through the Winn Feline Foundation. And thank you, Franny for your story.  Other pets have come and gone, but every day, I remember Ricky – not only for who he was, but for the difference he continues to make.