Center for Companion Animal Health

Photo: Ann Haas, Claudia Sanchez, and Niels Pedersen

Dr. Niels Pedersen (at right) presents certificates of appreciation to donor Dr. Ann Haas and artist Claudia Sanchez.

The Adventures of Simba and Sabrina

New tile collage graces CCAH waiting area, thanks to two generous donors

by Jeff March, EditPros

A charming, newly completed ceramic tile collage titled “The Adventures of Simba and Sabrina” now greets visitors in the CCAH lobby. The 28-tile collage mounted on the western wall of the lobby depicts colorful cats, along with images of a couple of puppy pals and several paw prints. Installed in February, the collage came about through the generosity and vision of artist Claudia Sanchez of Santa Rosa, and Sacramento Sutter dermatologist Dr. Ann Haas of Davis, who both share a heartfelt interest in the welfare of cats.

While Sanchez’s cats Simba and Sabrina have starring roles in the collage, several tiles portray the pets of her friends, family members and clients. Sanchez, a professional artist, primarily uses cats as her models for art objects she designs and sells, including decorative ceramic tiles, screen-printed and embroidered shirts, tote bags, wall clocks, jewelry, and other items shown on her website (www.claudiasanchez.com).

Being a breast cancer survivor and having lost Sabrina to cancer, Sanchez created a special “ribbon” series called “Cats for the Cure TM,” revenues from which Sanchez donates to causes to find cures for human breast cancer and diseases that afflict cats.

One of the cat diseases about which Sanchez is especially passionate is feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), from which her 6-month-old Scottish Fold kitten Lucy died in November 2007. FIP, which is caused by a virus and attacks the intestinal tract, is nearly always fatal and afflicts cats of all ages — although most commonly kittens and elderly cats. Sanchez is a founding member of the not-for-profit group SOCK FIP, which helps support FIP research at UC Davis.

“Lucy was the sweetest kitten I have ever known, with the best disposition you could ever ask for in a cat,” Sanchez said. “And everyone thought she was just adorable.” Sanchez’s portrait of Lucy has been the mascot for SOCK FIP since the group was founded, and recently became its official logo image.

Greatly impressed with the care that several pets of hers have received at UC Davis over the years, Sanchez gave a few of her cat tiles to CCAH. Dr. Niels C. Pedersen found the tiles so appealing that he asked Sanchez if she could create a decorative collage that would tell a story. Coincidentally, Sanchez already had started writing a story about her cats. She agreed to create and donate enough tiles to compose a collage and tell her story – but lacked the resources to create a mounting structure. A stainless steel mounting was suggested, but funds for that expensive portion of the project were lacking.

Then at the Santa Rosa CFA (Cat Fanciers’ Association) Cat Show in 2010, Sanchez met fellow cat fancier Dr.Ann Haas, who also had a link to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Hass’ Ragdoll cat, Erik, had died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) at UC Davis. HCM, an inherited and often fatal condition, causes heart enlargement that leads to heart failure. Dr. Haas had expressed her appreciation for UC Davis veterinary scientists in early 2010 by establishing Erik’s Fund for HCM Research at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (http://web.me.com/drewdad1/ERIK_FUND/Welcome.html). The fund was started to support research that feline cardiologist Dr. Mark Kittleson and feline geneticist Dr. Leslie Lyons were conducting to discover the mutations that cause HCM; the fund recently has been expanded to underwrite research into all aspects of HCM.

While at the Santa Rosa cat show, Sanchez began talking with Dr. Haas about the collage. “Ann asked how she could help, and I asked her if she could look into ways for us to complete the installation for less money.” Ann replied, “what if I help fund the installation, and in exchange you would paint an image of my cat Erik, and add him and HCM into the story?”

As a result of Dr. Haas’ collaboration, CCAH was able to hire a stainless steel sculptor to design and fabricate an attractive supporting structure, on which the tiles were mounted. The “Adventures of Simba and Sabrina” collage now includes a tile image of Erik, who is integrated into the “UC Davis” segment of the fanciful story.

Dr. Haas describes herself as a lifelong cat fancier who has been showing her pets at cat shows since she was in elementary school.

“I have three cats, two of whom are Ragdolls and my grand champion is an Exotic shorthair. My mom, who shows Persians, goes with me to cat shows, and my daughter shows one of our cats competitively, so our family consists of three generations of cat enthusiasts,” Dr. Haas said.

Sanchez favors the American Curl, and has two cats of that breed. “However, because I have several breeder friends, I can appreciate many different cat breeds. Lucy, whom I lost to FIP, was a Scottish Fold. During the time I had her, I really fell in love with that breed,” Sanchez said. “I am about to get a new cat, a Ragdoll – another breed I have been interested in for quite some time. I am fond of Brits and Siberians as well.”

Both Sanchez and Dr. Haas say they intend the collage to raise awareness about FIP and HCM and encourage donations to support research into those and other diseases. They also hope it engenders support for further expansion of CCAH clinical, teaching and public service programs.