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Posts Tagged ‘Lincoln Animal Ambassadors

Her weight had started to climb, but something still seemed amiss. Whenever Andy or I entered the guest room, the little black kitten was lying down? Shouldn’t a kitten do more than lie down? Shouldn’t she be playing? One evening, Andy tossed a fluffy yellow ball her way. Onyx sat upright but otherwise didn’t move, not even when Andy and I tried to play ‘keep away’ with her. Another evening, I dangled a pink plush mouse near her. Again, despite her green eyes sparking with curiosity, Onyx made no attempt to play. Even though she snuggled into us and purred whenever we picked her up, worry tugged at me. Andy was still having to syringe feed her, which didn’t seem normal for a growing kitten. Then there were the regular soft stools in her litter box. I tried to push the phrase “failure to thrive” out my head, but it got harder with each passing day to maintain hope.

Failure to thrive in kittens can occur from birth to nine weeks of age. Affected kittens often decline quickly and die. Immediate detection and treatment are key to survival. The problem is that fading kitten syndrome, like its name implies, is a condition and not a disease. There are many causes. Worse, many of those underlying causes are difficult to prevent. It can be the fault of the mother, who might have a difficult birth, inadequate milk production, or even an incompatible blood type with her offspring. The fault can lie with the kitten, who as the runt might have congenital abnormalities, immature lung development, or decreased nursing ability. Infections, toxins, and other environmental causes such as temperatures that are too high or low can be at fault. Finally, nutrition can be at fault, if the mother h didn’t eat enough while pregnant or nursing or the kitten received inadequate milk replacement formula. Especially when a kitten is discovered homeless, many of these causes can already have taken a toll, in which case recovery will be an uphill and sometimes impossible battle.

scheduled a vet appointment for Onyx, but also collected a stool sample to bring to the Capital Humane Society for which we were fostering Onyx. At the vet, Onyx meowed plaintively when touched, showing that she wasn’t feeling well. But she also insisted on exploring the exam table, showing that she still had some fight left in her. The vet left to run some tests and we let Onyx roam the floor. She discovered some hanging leashes and began to play with them. Andy and I exchanged glances, surprised and delighted with Onyx’s energy level. Moments like these are what calmed my worry that Onyx had fading kitten syndrome. The vet echoed feeling that Onyx had too much spunk to die. The call we received later that day from CHS gave us even further reason to hope. Onyx was diagnosed with Giardia. That would certainly explain her poor appetite, runny stools, and lethargy. The good news was that, although Giardia was contagious and potentially life-threatening, it was treatable.

Giardia is a common intestinal parasite in people and animals. It’s excreted in the feces of an infected cat, then picked up when ingested by other cats sharing litter boxes. Giardia can also be found on contaminated surfaces, in soil, or in food or water that has been contaminated with feces from infected creatures. The most common symptom is diarrhea. Other symptoms are weight loss, poor grooming, and lethargy. Unfortunately, these symptoms can also be indicative of many other medical conditions, and so Giardia isn’t always readily recognized by its symptoms alone. The incidence is relatively low in North America, but can spread quickly wherever several cats share space, such as in shelters and multi-cat households. For treatment, Onyx received a week’s worth of metronidazole. We already had Onyx confined to the guest room, so we didn’t need to quarantine her, and had already been thoroughly washing our hands well after each contact. I consulted Lancaster County (Nebraska) Ask-A-Vet and learned that I should bathe Onyx and then clean her after every bowel movement. In addition, I followed the advice to change clothes after cleaning her litter box.

The crate was a mess. Diarrhea soaked the litter box and the blankets. There was even diarrhea splattered on the floor around the crate. This was the worst incident, but the next day the tide turned. Onyx had a solid stool. She began eating both her wet and dry food. Syringe-feeding had suddenly become a thing of the past. One night she turned escape artist and found her way out of her crate. Having realized that adventure can be fun, Onyx started to explore the guest room with earnest. She soon discovered the delights of closets, curtains, corners…. and of playing hide-and-seek with her guardians.

At the time of this article, Onyx continues to thrive. In the three weeks that we’ve had her, she’s gone from 1.2 pounds to over 2.5 pounds. Her litter box, scratching post, and toys get put to full use. She’s showing even more curiosity, wanting to play with Andy’s beard and my glasses. She’s also learned to jump, and a few times she’s managed to climb into the guest bed. Friends of ours have nicknamed her Black Beauty and Blackjack, as her personality develops. More adventures lie ahead for Onyx, when we introduce her to our other pets. In addition, soon she will be spayed, and then we can begin our search for an adopter. Thank you Capital Humane Society and Joining Forces Saving Lives for letting us foster this beautiful little girl.

In December 2013, my husband and I adopted a one-year-old tortoiseshell from Hearts United for Animals. Cinder has taught us so much about cats that it seemed proper for her to have her own advice column.

QUESTION: What can I do to help my cat recover from surgery?

Recap of my previous two columns: A few days after I got adopted, I stopped feeling so good. The vet told my owners that I might have an allergy to dental plaque. Because plaque is full of bacteria, and because my immune system was overreacting to those bacteria, the vet prescribed yucky-tasting antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Unfortunately, the medication didn’t work, and the next step was surgery by a dental specialist.

On with the story: Waking up from surgery was not a pleasant experience. I was still in pain. Worse, I discovered that all my teeth except the two lower canines had been removed. The specialist told my owners that the rest of my teeth had been too damaged to save. Just as bad, my head was now trapped in a hard-plastic cone-shaped prison! The specialist advised my owners that I needed the cone to keep me from pawing at the stitches in my gums. I disagreed with him; if they would just remove the cone I knew that I’d be the perfect patient.

When my owners got me home, they brought me to a closed room and tucked me into my bed but didn’t remove the cone. I made clear how upset I felt by yowling at them. They left the room and closed the door, which made my spirits sink further. What if my owners didn’t like me without teeth? What if they didn’t want to take care of me anymore?

I tried to walk to the door, so I could scratch at it and get them to return. But my cone made it impossible to see or move far, and I kept stumbling over my paws. Finally, I gave up and whimpered. That’s when Allison came back. She picked me up and held me in her lap. I wanted to just lay there and fall asleep, but I hurt too much to sleep. The only thing that felt good was her staying with me, stroking me, and loving me.

Eventually I must have fallen asleep despite the pain, because when I opened my eyes again the sun had gone down. Andy was in the room now too. He put some food and water in front of me. I tried to reach the bowls, but the carpet kept catching on the cone, and so I yowled again. This time they listened to me. They removed the cone. Oh, the relief! Instantly I opened my mouth to eat. Oh, the pain! I pawed at my mouth. I couldn’t help myself.

My owners put the cone back. I felt ashamed to have let them down, and crawled off my pet mom’s lap. But there was nowhere to hide. Every time I took a step, I stumbled over my paws. I trembled. My pet mom reached for me, but I retreated. I wanted to be left alone. She lay next to me, but my pet dad left. I waited and waited for her to leave too. When I woke up the next time, the sun was up again, and my pet dad had a package in his hand. He had brought a softer recovery collar to make me feel more comfortable.

Some cats are masters at hiding pain; that night I was not. Here’s a checklist for helping cats recover from surgery.


  • Confine them to a small area on the floor where they will be safe.
  • Limit their activity so that they can more quickly recuperate.
  • Provide them with undisturbed time for a few days so they can recover in peace.
  • Give them soft blankets to help them feel comfortable and reassured.
  • Ensure they have easy access to a litter box, food, and water.
  • Think about switching from traditional litter to shredded paper to avoid an infection.
  • Check for signs that something is wrong: smell around the stitches and look for discoloring that doesn’t disappear in twenty-four hours, behavior changes, and ongoing pain


  • Allow them outside until they have fully recovered.
  • Let them lick or otherwise touch the stitches.
  • Give too much water or water. Overdoing it may cause nausea.

My recovery took almost two weeks but, thanks to my dad buying me a better recovery collar, I could more easily walk about and eat during those two weeks. I’ll have a new adventure to share in my next advice column!

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Pet Talk. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2017.

In December 2013, my husband and I adopted a one-year-old tortoiseshell cat from Hearts United for Animals. Cinder has taught us so much about cats that it seemed proper for her to have her own advice column.

QUESTION: How does one get a cat to take medication?

Recap of part one: A few days after I got adopted, I stopped feeling so good. Every time I bit into a treat, my mouth filled with pain. What the vet discovered shocked my owners and me. I’ll just say that I was very fortunate to have been adopted by people who loved me enough to take such diligent care of me, even though I had only been with them a few days.

Now part two: The vet told my owners that I had something called stomatitis. The vet thought I might have an allergy to plaque. Without treatment, I’d continue to have plaque and eventually the plaque would lead to much worse stuff like failure of my kidneys. Because plaque is full of bacteria, and because my immune system was overreacting to those bacteria, the vet prescribed yucky tasting antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Everyone hoped this would reduce the inflammation in my mouth.

A week later, my owners took me to the vet again. The news wasn’t any better. The vet reported that my gums still looked bad. But she didn’t give up. She prescribed steroids, which my owners hid in my food. They thought I didn’t know, but we cats have a very strong sense of smell. I decided to stick to my resolution to let them do whatever it took to get my health back and ate the food with the pill.

Not all cats are as cooperative. If cats turn up their nose at pills (whether whole or crushed) in their food, try some of these suggestions:

  • Buy a package of yummy Pill Pockets and encase the pill in the pill pocket. Your cat will taste the pill pocket but not the pill.
  • Ask for your vet if the pill is available in paste form. The paste will cost more than a pill but can be rubbed on our ears to avoid the risk that we’ll go on a life-threatening hunger strike.
  • Pop the pill into our mouth. You’ll need to restrain us, which won’t be easy. Here are some tips Hold the top of our head by placing your thumb on one side of our upper jaw and our fingers on the other side. Tilt our head back gently until our nose points toward the ceiling, which should cause our jaw to open just enough for you to pop in the pill.
  • Place your hand under our chin with your thumb against one cheek and your fingers against the other cheek, and push in gently until we open their mouth.
  • For those cats who prefer to be held on their back, cradle them like a baby, but with their head and neck in an upright position. Then just use your hand to open their mouth and pop in the pill.
  • Use a pill-popper. It looks a like a syringe, but instead of a needle there are plastic “jaws” that hold a pill, which will “pop” into our mouths when you depress the plunger. One you have us restrained, take the pill popper with the pill already placed in it, and use it to open our mouth by pushing it into the side of our mouth. Next, push the pill popper to the back of our mouth, depress the plunger. There’s less chance of being bitten since it’s the pill popper that will go into your cat’s mouth, not your fingers.

I wish I could tell you that the medication worked and that the vet visits were over. Unfortunately, the next step was a trip to a specialist. More about that in my next column!

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Pet Talk. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2017.

In December 2013, my husband and I adopted a one-year-old tortoiseshell from Hearts United for Animals. Cinder has taught us so much about cats that it seemed proper for her to have her own advice column.

QUESTION: How should one introduce a new cat to their home?

Ah, I remember my first day with my new owners. Even in that one room to which they initially restricted me, there was so much to see. There were so many objects to sniff! There were so many places to climb! I needed to bound here and there, everywhere.

When my owners left me alone and closed the door behind them, I felt kind of weird. It was so quiet. At the shelter, I had been in a room with 20 other cats. I loved my new place. I hated my new place. I didn’t know what I think.

My owners returned with food. I gobbled it up. I had to finish before another cat tried to take it. Then I remembered there were no other cats.

I felt grateful for my new owners giving me a place of my own. I head-butted my owners and sniffed them. But I also missed having cats around to play with. It was so quiet! I could hear my own purr.

The way I felt is the same as any cat will feel in a new home. Here are some things you can do to help us adjust:

  • Put us initially in a small confined area by ourselves.
  • Furnish the area with necessities: food dish, water dish, and litter box.
  • Initially, continue feeding us the same brand of food that we were given at the shelter/rescue we came from. Gradually, shift to a new brand of food, if desired.
  • Let us approach you. We’ll be nervous for a while. Let us adjust to you at our own pace. Give us alone time. We need time to adjust to our new situation.

In my next column, I’ll tell you about my next adventure. Please keep watch for it!

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Pet Talk. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2017.

If you walk into our local Petco on a Saturday, chances are you might run into Jeanie Imler. One of her volunteer duties with Lincoln Animal Ambassadors is to inform the public about what the group does and how one can make use of or donate to the group’s services. Earlier this year, I visited Jeanie at Petco to interview her and to watch her in action.

Jeanie has always had a soft spot in her heart for stray and homeless animals. She told me, “When I was five, my parents and I adopted a stray neighborhood cat. Fluffy was with us until I was a sophomore at the University of Nebraska.” To this day, Jeanie still adopts homeless animals, considering them to be the “best and most grateful”!

Her love of animals led Jeanie to Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. When she and her husband moved back to Lincoln in 2007 after living in Cozad for 33 years, Jeanie wanted to find a volunteer organization with which she’d feel truly be comfortable. Her mother gave her an article from the Lincoln Journal Star that featured a lady who had been walking her dog on a clothes line because she couldn’t afford a leash. The article featured LAA’s president, who had donated a leash and (probably other items) to the lady, and tugged at Jeanie’s heart. Not long after reading it, she made contact with LAA.

I have always enjoyed talking and interacting with people–being a French teacher at Pius with 130 students of course reinforces that belief!

Since 2009, Jeanie has been volunteering at an information table at the South Petco monthly for two hours on most weekends. Her table is regularly stocked with brochures about LAA and its affiliates, The Cat House and Cause for Paws.

Whenever customers walk by, Jeanie will smile and try to catch their eye. If she does, she’ll extend her hand and start to chat with them. Conversation will naturally revolve around LAA’s services, the low-cost neuter-spay program and the Pet Food Bank, but Jeanie will also talk about pets, jobs, and any other topic that might make a connection with customer. At all times, making the customer feel comfortable is of prime importance.

It is delightful and unbelievable the stories that I’ve heard over the years, too many to even mention.

Jeanie told me that over the years, many people have shared with her not only stories of their own pets, but also have talked about their experiences with homeless pets that they’ve fostered for various organizations in Lancaster county and beyond. “These stories are heartwarming and rewarding; anything I can (and have done) to help these selfless people is truly the best.“

Jeannie with customer. Permission granted for photo to be taken.
Jeannie with customer.
Permission granted for photo to be taken.

After I had observed Jeanie for about an hour, she then encouraged me to try my own hand at sharing information. Unlike Jeanie, I’m an introvert. Whereas she’ll naturally jump into a conversation about the cute dog tugging on its leash, I tend to immediately launch into a memorized speech about LAA’s services. And whereas she’ll easily fill in moments of silence, I’ll awkwardly ramble about the weather or some other mundane topic. Yet with some practice and lots of encouragement from Jeanie, I did find myself relaxing as the time passed. I became comfortable enough to share some interesting tidbits about myself, such as: I am from Canada, I teach with Lincoln Public Schools, and my pets have included guinea pigs, cats, and dogs. Before the two hours were over, I had also even begun to promote LAA Pet Talk, and to think that maybe I could add this to my volunteer repertoire.

Indeed, thanks to my two hours with Jeanie, I’ve since found the courage to make myself a more visible presence at LAA at fund-raisers such as I Love My Dog Expo and Tails and Trails. In doing so, I discovered the truth of Jeanie’s advice that “with just an introductory sentence or two, you’d be amazed at how many people ‘open up’ and really want to share their beloved animal stories.”

The more I volunteer for LAA, the more I realize what a difference just one person can make in the lives of not only pets, but pet owners as well … Many times the people I’ve talked to have friends or know of someone who needs our neuter/spay assistance or food from the Pet Food Bank. When I give them our information to give to their friends, they’re so grateful. This is truly a “win win” situation for everyone!

Have a passion for animals? Like to talk? Maybe you would be the perfect person to volunteer to help at information tables. And if the idea of talking to strangers makes you shake, that’s okay too. Animal welfare groups can use volunteers in kinds of areas. As long as you’re interested in helping those who have no voice in their lives, Jeanie advises, “just pick your strength and LAA will go from there!”



Jeanie’s love for homeless animals extends beyond her volunteer work. She’s also an influence on her family and friends. For a recent birthday, her five-year-old grandson asked those invited to bring donations for LAA’s Pet Food Bank. Avery agreed to answer a few questions of mine about this generous act:

Q: What pets do you have?

A. We have Harley, our English bulldog, and Sammy and Sophie, 2 cats from the Humane Society. (The family pets were adopted from the Omaha Humane Society five years before Avery came along, and are still happy and healthy companions.)

Q. Why did you donate your birthday money to Lincoln Animal Ambassadors?

A. Because I know my grandma volunteers for LAA and gives them food.

Q. What do you like most about your pets?

A. I love my pets because they are so much fun to pet and play with. Both of my cats snuggle in bed with me at night and keep me warm.

Q. Why should others help pets?

A. Other people should help pets because they are so much fun to be with and they are such good friends. We don’t want any animals to be lonely, sick or hungry

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Pet Talk. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2016.

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I am focusing this year on other commitments. Once a month, I’ll post reviews of Advanced Reader Copies. Titles will include: Freddy Frogcaster and the Flash Flood by Janice Dean, One Two by Igor Eliseev, Incredible Magic of Being by Kathyrn Erskine, Dragon Grammar Book by Diane Robinson, and Wide as the Wind by Edward Stanton.



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