The CATalyst: Meet Some Cat Life Savers

Steve Dale, CAT FANCY writer and syndicated newspaper pet columnist, provides a weekly cat news roundup.

Every pet cat alive today has benefited from research funded by the Winn Feline Foundation. Since 1968, the Winn Feline Foundation has helped every cat, every day. From recent advances for potentially treating the dry form of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) to the discovery decades ago that most cat foods didn’t possess enough of an amino acid called taurine – Winn’s funding has been at the forefront of nearly everything we now know about cats.

Of course, there is far more to learn. Most older cats ultimately suffer from some level of kidney disease and no one knows why or can solve this; despite recent gains, FIP remains a disease considered fatal; a type of heart disease (feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) remains a significant cause of death; and cancers kill cats just as cancers kill dogs and people. And that’s only a partial list. There’s plenty to do.
Unfortunately, it takes money to fund studies. While funding for anything these days is hard to come by, it seems for every $10 spent on canine studies, only a buck or two is spent for cats.

Winn is the only organization that solely funds cat health. In full disclosure, I’m on the Winn Board of Directors, but it seems imperative that Winn remains well funded. Our cats depend on it.

Knowing that we need more aggressive fundraising, the Winn Feline Foundation has announced a new CEO, Maureen Walsh, former chief marketing officer at the Institute of Management Accountants.

“Cat lovers everywhere need to know about the important feline medical research that Winn supports every day,” she says. “And the difference those dollars make in the health and well-being of our feline friends.” (Walsh will be directed in her efforts by her cat, Molly.)
Dr. Vicki Thayer has been named the new president of the board of directors of Winn.

Thayer first joined the Winn Board in 2008. Her focus is on establishing collaboration with other foundations and organizations. Such efforts have led to the development of both the Winn/American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) Veterinary Student Scholarship and Excellence in Feline Research Award. Her most recent collaborative effort on behalf of Winn brings together AVMF, American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the Morris Animal Foundation to create and fund feline-focused health studies under the umbrella of the Cat Health Network.

Thayer, a feline specialist, provides significant input, among the prestigious panel of scientific reviewers who approve funding for specific cat health studies. 

Thayer was an AAFP director for 20 years, and president of the association from 1996 to 1998.

“We’re intent on elevating the status and funding for cat health research,” Thayer says. “Even after 40 years, the Winn Feline Foundation continues to be a significant contributor to everything we know about cats.”

Thayer succeeds Betty White (cat breeder, not comedienne) as president.

Winnie Winner
Dr. Jody Gookin is the winner of the 2011 Excellence in Feline Research Award from Winn and AVMF. Gookin is nationally recognized for her contributions to the field of gastroenterology, particularly infectious causes of feline diarrhea. She and her colleagues are credited with the identification of Tritrichomonas foetus as a cause of diarrhea in domestic cats, and have worked for more than 12 years to establish its pathogenesis, develop diagnostic tools, discover its worldwide significance and find an effective treatment for this common infection. The award consists of $2500 and a crystal cat called “Winnie.”

In 2011, Gookin was awarded two Winn grants to study important intestinal infections of kittens caused by E. coli and Enterococcus. Gookin was a featured speaker at the 2008 Winn Feline Foundation Symposium.

Winnie of the Future
The Winn Feline Foundation and AVMA Scholarship Award went to Dr. Jessica Balter, a newly minted DVM from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Balter was president of the student chapter of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and coordinated numerous events to educate veterinary students and the community, and has been active in trap-neuter-return programs. Her interest in cats dates back to high school, when she fostered kittens and worked for her local shelter.

“I hope to build a strong foundation of medical knowledge to guide me through the unique aspects of shelter medicine while simultaneously advancing the treatment of shelter animals,” Balter says.

Article Categories:
Cats · Lifestyle