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Woman's love for felines inspires gift to study the benefits of human-animal bonds

Kay Quam and a feline friend

Kay Quam has been a “cat person” for as long as she can remember.

She grew up on a farm and was used to dogs and barn cats running all over. In one photograph of her at 18 months old, she’s holding a stuffed animal—a cat, naturally. But it wasn’t until adulthood that she knew what it was like to have an indoor cat.

Quam’s owned them, loved them, and cared for them ever since. Currently, she has two young cats, Randi and Keise, whom she adopted from a local Humane Society last year.

When Quam decided to make an estate plan, she made sure to include her philanthropic interests in animal welfare and rescue groups, but she also wanted her bequest to address a more fundamental problem: Why are shelters filled with so many unwanted animals, especially cats?

“I tend to be a strategic person, so I was looking for approaches that could have what I call an ‘upstream effect,’” says Quam.

Through an online search, Quam found the University of Minnesota’s Center to Study Human Animal Relationships and Environments (CENSHARE), housed in the School of Public Health (SPH). CENSHARE’s members gather, share, and apply knowledge about the relationship between humans and animals to improve quality of life for all.

Established in 1981, CENSHARE has become a national leader in promoting health and quality of life for people and animals by conducting behavioral research, providing educational opportunities, and creating a forum for developing public policy.

After Quam learned more about the center, she spoke with CENSHARE cofounder and director R. K. Anderson, D.V.M., M.P.H., about what could be done through research to strengthen the human-feline bond.

She liked what she heard and made a $150,000 bequest to the center. Quam has also made annual gifts to the center for a number of years.

“We are grateful for gifts such as Ms. Quam’s that help support CENSHARE’s mission to acquire new knowledge to improve human-animal relationships and strengthen the human-animal bond,” says Anderson, an SPH professor emeritus.

Quam, who resides in Virginia, lived in the Twin Cities area for 21 years, spending part of that time as a graduate student in microbial genetics at the University of Minnesota. But even without that connection, Quam says she would have chosen to support CENSHARE.

“It just simply was the best fit for what I was looking to do,” she says.

You can help! Make a gift online to support CENSHARE.

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