While our General Fund is at the heart of Winn’s goal to “benefit every cat, every day,” each of our Stipulated Funds focuses on specific, often critical feline health issues. Most were established in memory of a beloved pet to fund much-needed research into a particular condition or breed trait.
The Bria Fund for Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) Research
In November 2005, Winn Feline Foundation announced the creation of The Bria Fund
to accept donations for feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) research. FIP is a fatal disease
seen primarily in kittens and young adult cats, with no cure and no effective treatment.
The fund was named after Bria, a nine-month old Birman kitten who died from FIP in
April 2005. Bria had the good fortune to live with Susan Gingrich and her husband,
James Shurskis, in Harrisburg, PA. Susan is a sister of Newt Gingrich, former
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and founder of the Center for Health
Transformation. The Center provided a generous contribution to establish The Bria
In 2008, the first Bria Fund projects were announced. You can help fight Feline Infectious Peritonitis today by
donating to The Bria Fund.
To find out more, read Bria’s Story.
© Susan Gingrich 2005
Bria was born on July 12, 2004. She was a Blue Lynx Point Birman, and she was gorgeous. Her registered name was Brieanna Jamie, Bria for short. Bria means "strong one" in Celtic. My husband Jim and I brought our little furry bundle of joy home the Friday before Thanksgiving. She fit in right away, as if she had always lived with the Gingrich-Shurskis household.
The first veterinary examination went well, and Bria was deemed very healthy. She was seen a few weeks later, along with her sisters, Angel and Sinta, because they all had upper respiratory infections. When Bria was six months old, she returned to the veterinarian to be spayed. Upon coming home, she resumed playing and eating as enthusiastically as ever.
About a month after the surgery, I noticed that Bria appeared to be breathing from her abdomen. Her energy level was greatly diminished, and she wasn't playing. Her appetite was still excellent. I mentioned my observations concerning Bria to the vet. She was concerned that the symptoms might be related to a diaphragmatic hernia. Bria was scheduled for x-rays and a barium study.
Following the tests, the call from my vet expressed great concern. Bria definitely didn't have a hernia. But, the studies detected a great deal of fluid in one side of Bria's chest cavity. With my permission, a fluid sample was extracted and sent to a lab for analysis. At that time, my vet relayed that she suspected that Bria may have Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). It would take several days for the lab report. Somewhat in a daze, I brought Bria home that evening. How could this be happening to my healthy dear little baby? I knew nothing about FIP. For several days, Jim and I researched FIP, and the possibility of FIP was especially horrifying.
Early the next week, our vet called with the lab results. The fluid contained a great deal of protein. There is no totally accurate test for FIP, but the results were in line with a diagnosis of FIP. Our vet relayed that the prognosis for FIP was poor. There was no cure; cats with the wet form of FIP succumb to the illness quickly. Because Bria was still eating so well, I asked the doctor what we could do to give Bria quality of life for as long as possible. She suggested a consultation with a specialist in Internal Medicine.
During the consultation, the specialist suggested an additional test on the chest fluid, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. He said the test would probably be positive, but he advised testing her. A sample of the fluid was sent for a PCR analysis. Again we waited, anticipating the worse. To our utter amazement and delight, the PCR test came back negative for coronavirus!
Bria remained fairly inactive and continued breathing abnormally. Her appetite was decreasing, although she would eat with encouragement. Because of the conflicting findings concerning FIP, our vet suggested we take Bria to the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine for additional testing. We drove to Philadelphia and admitted her. During the next several days, Bria was the subject of many tests to determine the cause of her illness. After all the tests, enlarged kidneys, renal failure, anemia and fluid in the chest were confirmed. Feline infectious peritonitis was the tentative diagnosis causing the other problems. The veterinary resident assigned to Bria advised us to come pick up Bria as soon as possible, because she didn't have long to live. She knew Bria would be happier at home. We made the difficult decision to end Bria's suffering the following evening.
We spent the next day with Bria. We talked to her, and I sang to her and brushed her. Jim took a nap with her lying on his chest, and he took her outside in his arms to hear the birds and feel the breeze one more time. When it was time, we took her to the veterinary office, where our darling nine-month old kitten died a quiet and peaceful death. After a brief ceremony, we buried her in a place of honor in our yard. The stone marking her grave says "Beloved Bria So Small So Sweet So Soon". We didn't have her in our lives very long, but we treasured every minute with Bria. Close
The Ricky Fund for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) Research
In June 2002, Winn Feline Foundation announced the creation of The Ricky Fund.
This fund was established to accept donations specifically for feline hypertrophiccardiomyopathy (HCM) research.
Steve Dale, nationally syndicated pet columnist and radio show host, worked with Winn
to create this fund in memory of his Devon Rex cat, Ricky.
Learn more about Ricky’s story.
Ricky’s Story: Helping to fight HCM
Ricky was a musical prodigy. The piano-playing cat was featured on National Geographic Explorer, CNBC’s Pets: Part of the Family, on a Canadian TV show called The Pet Project, and on virtually every local TV station in Chicago. Ricky also jumped through hoops (literally), offered a high five (or four), and over a dozen more behaviors.
Owner Steve Dale says, “I taught Ricky these and other tricks to prove you can train a cat. And, in the process, Ricky taught me everything cats could be. Our bond was inseparable.”
During a routine physical examination, Ricky's veterinarian heard a heart murmur, and Ricky was eventually diagnosed with HCM. "The good news is that Ricky never realized he was sick,” says Steve. “We routinely returned to the cardiac veterinarian for ultrasound checks, and while the disease was progressing, it was a slow progression."
Sadly, Ricky died at age four. In one of his columns, Steve wrote, "Ricky was a very small cat, but the hole he left in our hearts is enormous. Our house seems empty without him. And at least for now, our lives seem empty, too." Close
Please help Steve fight HCM through your donation to The Ricky Fund.
Persian HCM Research Fund
Established in 2013 by Jeanne O'Donnell to honor her cat Ronan, this fund will be used
for research to find genetic markers for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) in Persian
cats. Persian and Persian-derived breeds are believed predisposed to HCM, but no
genetic causation has been determined as it has in the Maine Coon and Ragdoll breeds.
Knowing if a mutation is present can lead to a genetic test. Determining which cats are
carriers leads to better breeding programs and elimination of that trait in the breed,
similar to what is being accomplished with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) in Persians
and related breeds.
Norwegian Forest Cat HCM Research Fund
Norwegian Forest Cat breeders have banded together to raise funds to study HCM in
their breed. Genetic mutations for HCM have been identified in both the Maine Coon and
Ragdoll breeds, and researchers hope to soon identify a genetic basis for HCM in the
Norwegian Forest Cat.
In 2012, Winn renewed a separate fund to support research into Norwegian Forest
Cat HCM. By February 2013, due to the energetic fundraising support by Norwegian
Forest Cat Fanciers, a research project lead by Dr. Virginia Luis Fuentes of the Royal
Veterinary College of London was funded for $23,577. For more information, visit
Norwegian Forest Cat HCM DNA Research Project.
Birman Heart Disease Research Fund
Evidence indicates some Birman cats are known to have heart problems, particularly in
the form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, restrictive cardiomyopathy and arrhythmogenic
right ventricular cardiomyopathy.
The Birman Heart Disease Research Fund was established in 2013 by the Birman Heart Foundation to fund research into the genetics of heart disease in Birman cats. Led by
Alwyn Hill and other volunteers in Europe, the fund hopes to create a DNA test designed
for breeders to manage the situation.
Lung Cancer Research Fund
In 2013, Dorothy Chao established a fund in memory of her cat, Kitty Dots, for research
into feline lung cancer. Many practicing veterinarians believe lung cancer in cats may
be more prevalent than currently diagnosed. Critical research is needed to improve
early detection, understand causes and seek out new treatments and possibly cures. In
addition to results found through research efforts for cats, Ms. Chao hopes a treatment
for human lung cancer will follow.
More information about lung cancer in cats can be found in our cat health library.