Give A Gift From the Heart

Let’s face it, lots of people don’t need a thing this holiday season. They have plenty of bottles of wine, more pairs of pajamas than they can wear and all the latest electronic gadgets. So what do you do? How about donating to a charity in a friend or relative’s name? As an added bonus, you’ll be giving yourself the gift of a tax deduction.

If you have a cat, I’m certain your kitty has been touched by research funded by the Winn Feline Foundation, which helps every cat, every day, in some way. Winn is the only organization of its kind solely focusing on cat health. From the initial research into feline leukemia many years ago, more recently the foundation has funded studies to help veterinarians better understand diabetes in cats, which might even lead to remission.

–After my cat, Ricky, died in 2002 due to feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (there’s no cure or effective treatment for this often fatal heart disease), I began Winn’s Ricky Fund. So far, we’ve raised over $100,000. With money to support research, there have been medical advancements. For example, in two breeds (Maine Coon and Ragdoll) a genetic defect has been identified, so breeders are now doing their best to avoid breeding cats with the defective gene. However, HCM remains what is likely the most common natural cause of death in middle-aged cats. Sometimes, victims die suddenly (similar to how some athletes suddenly drop dead on the field), while others suffer a prolonged course of illness. This holiday season, consider giving to the Winn Feline Foundation Ricky Fund:; 908-359-1184.

–Dogs experience heart problems of their own. Chronic Valvular Disease is often fatal, killing dogs of all breeds but is especially rampant in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Dachshunds. Journalist Kim Thornton began the Darcy Fund in 2006 after her beloved Cavalier succumbed. For friends, relatives or neighbors with a Cavalier King Charles, Dachshund, or for that matter, any smaller breed – consider a donation from the heart to the American Kennel Club Charitable Trust Darcy Fund. To learn more, check:

–No one ever wants to see baby animals die. Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is always fatal, and according to Dr. Niels Pedersen, director for the Center of Companion Animal Health at the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine-Davis, new data indicates more kitties succumb than previously thought. FIP kills at least one in 300 cats under age 3, and occurs as much as 10 times as often among kitties adopted from shelters or catteries. Pedersen began his own SOCK IT TO FIP site top raise funds for research:

–The Winn Feline Foundation also offers a project specific to funding FIP research called the Bria Fund, begun by Susan Gingrich (yes, that’s Newt’s sister). Check; or call 908-359-1184.

–The Morris Animal Foundation’s Cure Canine Cancer Campaign aims to help both people and pets. The foundation, which funds researchers studying animal health issues, is determined to cure cancer in dogs in the next 10 to 20 years. Foundation president and CEO Dr. Patricia Olson says, “We’re dreaming big, I realize, but that’s how big things happen.”

The need is indisputable, since about one in every four dogs dies of cancer. The Morris Animal Foundation is working in conjunction with other organizations, including the National Cancer Institute. If veterinary researchers succeed, there’s little doubt human medicine will also benefit.

Dr. Richard Gorlick, a pediatric oncologist at Montefiore-Einstein Cancer Center in New York City, says that’s especially true for kids.

“Cancers occurring in kids and dogs are often almost identical,” Gorlick notes. “If the dogs benefit by new therapies, odds are children will, too. For example, osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is common in large dogs, and occurs it acts pretty much the same when it occurs in children.” Make a donation in a dog’s name or a person’s name at, or 800-243-2345.

–Also consider a donation to support the good work of the American Humane Association. This 141-year-old institution rescues animals in disasters, assists children’s shelters and animal shelters, and supports humane farming methods. American Humane is responsible for the tag line at the end of movies, “No Animals Were Harmed.” Learn more at, or call (800) 227-4645.

Of course, you could also help out your local animal shelter either in dollars or time spent volunteering.


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