Guest Post: The Community Cats at LAA’s Pet Food Bank by Blake Gilmore

When Lincoln Animal Ambassadors moved into its Pet Food Bank location on Knox Street in 2016, we were sad to see the neighborhood was also home to at least one colony of feral cats with some very young kittens. Mama was not tame, but was willing to accept some food. Over the last few months, the kittens
have grown up and have learned to trust people. Ron, our resolute warehouse manager, has worked with a resident of the surrounding complex to keep the local cats from starving.

Fast forward a few months and we finally felt like one of the kittens was now somewhat tame and would let us catch her and get her spayed. We finally caught Callie in late spring and estimated her at
approximately nine months old. Keep in mind that Lincoln Animal Ambassadors is not a rescue organization and does not typically rescue any animals directly. However, we thought it important to help in the neighborhood we called home. It also helped that we knew she had a home after she was
spayed; a Lincoln Animal Ambassadors volunteer had agreed to take her in.

The first order of business with Callie was getting her in to see Dr. Otto for a checkup. She was in good health after some basic preventative care. Unfortunately, we were also too late as she was also already pregnant! This unfortunate turn of events meant delaying her spay procedure and having a few extra kittens to care for. Ron and Donna, our volunteer coordinator, stepped in to care for her while
she was pregnant, and gave her kittens a good start on life. Callie must have sensed the excitement of Wine & Howl because she gave birth the day after to three adorable kittens. These three were fostered through Revolution Rescue by Lincoln Animal Ambassadors volunteers until old enough to be spayed/ neutered. Homes were also quickly found!

Callie’s story has a happy ending. Unfortunately, there are a few cats left in the neighborhood who can’t be tamed. Because Lincoln Animal Ambassadors is not a direct rescue organization and do not have the proper licenses, we are working with animal control and local rescue groups to insure the well-being
of the cats we have left behind in the neighborhood. These colonies can be very successful when all of the cats have been spayed or neutered—Trapped, Neutered, and Returned—but can also be expensive! That is where we need your help! Make a donation to “Callie’s Colony” to help us leave a lasting legacy in the community and save these cats from a terrible fate too.

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


Rescue Starts With Just One Animal

At the age of twenty, Megan rescued one cat. Now eleven years later, she has rescued or rehomed more than 200 cats. That’s a lot of lives saved! I recently sat down with her to find out how she got her start, what challenges and successes she’s had, and how others can follow her lead.

I wouldn’t say I really had a reason for “starting” in rescue. It seems that the cats in need have always found their way to me. My friends joke that I can go just about anywhere and find a homeless cat and my heart breaks for them every time.

When Megan started in animal rescue, she was a college student working a few jobs. One of those jobs was a restaurant and it’s where, while taking out the trash, she spotted a little cream-colored kitten standing by the dumpster. “When I saw this little guy, I knew I had to help him. I ran back in the restaurant to find him something to eat, but almost everything was closed and put away for the night so the only thing I could find was some milk. I offered him some and ended up taking him home with me.” Because Megan couldn’t keep cats where she lived at the time, she found a home for him. She’s stayed in contact with his new owner and occasionally pet-sits him.

Megan’s love of animals inspired her as a child to dream of becoming a veterinarian. Ironically, that same love for animals also led her to eventually give up that dream, because she couldn’t face the daunting task of having to euthanize them. Instead, she decided to pursue a marketing degree. As part of her studies, she had to complete a thesis, and Megan chose the topic of affordable cat health care. This led to volunteer at The Cat House, Lincoln’s only no-kill shelter, to pursue what she intended as only a two-to-three-month project. Megan still helps at The Cat House, along with her husband.

Volunteering has become a normal part of my life just the same as when it started as a requirement for school.

As a cat-rescuer, Megan appreciates the support of The Cat House. “While they can’t take every cat, they do help a lot.” Many of the cats that have come in to Megan’s life have ended up going to The Cat House. In addition, Megan has learned the policies and procedures of The Cat House, and follows them when she and her husband personally rehome cat.

Megan also feels grateful for the support of her husband, Matt, who shares a huge part of the rescue responsibilities. She shared that, “The Cat House will call upon him for some very interesting ‘rescue adventures,’ and told of one time when a mother cat had her litter hidden in a pillar of an old house. No one knew how to get them out. Megan and Matt reached a few, but couldn’t get to the rest. Matt came up with the creative idea of using tongs to scruff the rest of the kittens and pull them out to safety. “Another odd rescue Matt did on his own was when the Cat House called him and told him one of the cats got loose in the studio of a local TV station when interviewing some volunteers. They had been there for hours trying to catch that cat but Matt wrangled the cat up within 30 minutes.”

Like Megan and her husband, I feel a special tug at my heart for homeless animals, and so this is where I particularly wanted to pick Megan’s brain. If I were to continue in the world of cat rescue, what might lay ahead for me?

My fosters are considered my pets until they have a new home and we don’t cut any corners when it comes to my cats or my foster cats.

Cat rescue is not for the faint-of-heart. There’s a lot of responsibility involved. When Megan and her husband take in a cat, they accept that it’s now their duty to feed, pay for veterinarian care, and find a home for the cat.

One of the major challenges, Megan acknowledges, is rehoming. “Because I’m not a registered rescue organization, I must utilize my own resources for finding a home. Sometimes we have had foster cats for up to a year or more. Obviously, veterinarian costs are a challenge too. We’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars on vet bills for foster cats.”

How does Megan find homes for all the cats who come her way? Through networking. She’s used her contacts through Facebook, friends, family, and work. “I’ve some great friends in my life that are like-minded when it comes to animals.” As for bills, Megan draws on her marketing skills to do fundraisers for some of the cost.

One last challenge is letting them go. It’s wonderful when a once homeless cat finds a forever home, but I’ll be the first to say it isn’t easy to watch them leave. Just because they’re a foster, doesn’t mean we don’t fall in love.

“I’ve often thought life would be easier without rescue,” Megan admits. She gets exhausted and drained from seeing the endless number of homeless cats. On the other hand, being a cat rescuer has given Megan amazing experiences. She gets to see the change in the lives of cats who otherwise may have never had a home. “What keeps me going is when we’ve rescued a cat that has been injured or very sick or starving, and the transformation we could make with them. It is rewarding to be able to help one that cannot help themselves.”

Megan has grown since her earliest days of rescue. She’s learned a lot about cat behavior and health, and she’s passed that knowledge onto other cat owners. She’s also become an advocate of spay/neuter. “There are many people who spend endless hours trying to find homeless animals homes just to turn around and see another 10 that need homes. There are many organizations such as Lincoln Animal Ambassadors that can assist with costs of spay/neuter or offer a pet food bank.” Megan believes that if more people were educated on animal welfare, it might make a difference.

Start out by helping one cat at a time. –Stacey LeBaron, Community Cats

One of my favorite podcasts, Community Cats, emphasizes that animal rescue starts with a series of tiny steps. In its introductory segment, hostess Stacey LeBaron says that she rescued one cat when she was a child, then adopted several cats with her husband, eventually volunteered as a secretary for a local rescue, which led to her work with the highly successful Merrimack River Feline Rescue.  It’s easy to feel intimidated by all that animal rescuers achieve, but Megan is one local example that shows rescue can truly start with just one cat.


Pet Podcast Roundup

Would you like to know more about animal welfare, but have no time to read a book? Podcasts are the answer! You can listen to them while driving, exercising, or doing chores. Over the past year, I listened to a few episodes of six animal welfare podcasts. The first four are dedicated to cats and the final two are about animals or pets in general. Read on for my reactions!

Cat Lady / available on iTunes / 22 episodes, 2014-2015 / 40-60 minutes

catlady_podcastWebsite Blurb: “Hosted by Official Cat Ladies Liz and Rah, the Cat Lady Podcast features interviews with cat-loving public figures (and not so public figures).”

“Listen to see if we get better at it.”

Cat Lady is an excellent example of how a product can improve. I didn’t like the first episode, but began to warm up to the podcast with the second episode.

The first episode felt amateurish. The two hosts openly admitted that they had no idea how to run a podcast and spent a lot of time talking about how they should’ve learned prior to air how to seque to a new topic. The ladies also admitted that they had not done any research into their topics. Consequently, they referenced a book but couldn’t remember the title. In addition, they could only talk generalities about the Grumpy Cat movie because they hadn’t watched it.

The content of the first episode didn’t impress me either. The hosts inaccurately stated that milk chocolate is toxic to cats because it has milk in it, when the real culprit is the ingredient theobromine. I also found it illogical that the hosts had previously given milk to their cats with no ill effects but now, upon the advice of a guest, planned to stop because drinking milk can make some cats sick. Finally, Liz and Rah talked for half the episode with an animal communicator, even though many view psychics as cons.

The second episode was far more polished. Although the hosts still at times ended up filling dead air with “um” and “ah,” they were well-prepared with lots of amusing cat anecdotes. Besides being entertained by this episode, I learned useful information. The two ladies talked at length with regular guest, Meredith Adkins of the Cat Protection Society, about owners can provide the best care for their cats during the holidays.

Cattitude / available on iTunes / 24 episodes, 2008-2010 / 35-40 minutes

cattitude_podcastWebsite Blurb: “In this cat podcast, you’ll hear about many different breeds of cats–from the hairless Sphynx and the fluffy Persian to the silvery spotted Egyptian mau. But the most popular felines of all are non-pedigree—that includes brown tabbies, black-and-orange tortoiseshells, all-black cats with long hair, striped cats with white socks and everything in between. Learn everything there is to know about cats on Cattitude with your host Tom Dock. Each week in our cat podcast, we’ll spotlight a cool cat breed, give up-to-date advice on cat health, and check out new cat products! So curl up on the couch every week for a purrr-fectly enjoyable time on Cattitude… the cat podcast for cat lovers!”

Cattitude is the most intellectual of the six podcasts in this round-up. Connoisseur Tom Dock each week treats listeners to detailed information about everything there is to know about the featured breed. For example, the first episode covered why the Siamese are so famous, along with their origins, their varied looks, their dominant personality, and the changing standards for the breed. As an extra, he also talked about zoonotic diseases—their types, causes, and preventative measures. Anyone who regularly reads my articles at LAA Pet Talk know that I am a student and journalist at heart. As such, I appreciated that Tom Dock has done a lot of prep work for each episode. In addition, rather than taking a side about the changing standards, he presented the reasons for and against the changes. By the time I’ve finished listening to all of Cattitude, I expect to be fully-versed in all the cat breeds!

Community Cats / available on iTunes / 121 episodes, 2016 / 15-30 minutes

communitycats_podcastWebsite Blurb: “The Community Cats Podcast is the brainchild of Stacy LeBaron.  Stacy has over 20 years of experience working with Community Cats in Massachusetts.  She was the President of the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society for 14 years and since 2011 she has run the MRFRS Mentoring program assisting over 80 organizations with setting up TNR programs and getting funding to support those programs. The mission of the podcast is to provide education, information and dialogue that will create a supportive environment empowering people to help cats in their community.”

The Community Cats Podcast has a special appeal to me, because of my volunteer work with Husker Cats, a local organization that provides sterilization, food, and shelter to homeless campus cats. In addition, I’ve had the privilege of exchanging emails with podcast host, Stacy LeBaron, and will one day write an article about Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society.

Stacey LeBaron spent the first episode introducing herself to listeners. Her journey to becoming an advocate serves both as a model and an encouragement to me. As a child, Stacey had one cat. This cat lived to be twenty. She immediately got another cat, who sadly died at the age of ten. She didn’t realize cats could die so young and this got her interested in studying cats. Next her husband rescued a kitten and she eventually ended up with multiple cats. As part of wanting to help cats, she joined Merricack’s adoption team. Stacey’s advice to those who want to help cats? Start with one cat and go from there. Stacey wraps up the first episode by saying that the purpose of her podcasts is to help animal advocates of every level.

Subsequent podcasts feature other leaders in the cat welfare world. The typical format is for the guest to share a little of their roots in animal welfare and then to share information about a topic in which they have expertise. With each episode often running about twenty minutes, I can easily listen to one while driving about town. I’m often sad for the episodes to end, because each guest is a wealth of info. Given that mid-year subscribers received an email requesting sponsorship donations, I wonder if the podcast will remain financially viable in the months and years to come. For as long as it lasts, I’ll be an avid listener!

Purrfect World / available on iTunes / 21 episodes, 2013-2015 / 25-30 minutes

purrfectworld_podcastWebsite Blurb: “Figure out what your cat is thinking from author and blogger Pamela Merritt, from the Way of Cats. Learn how to build their Perfect World, because understanding their nature is the key to both affection and training. Discover that ‘a happy cat is an obedient cat’ and learn how to make the right gestures, like Cat Kisses, the Fist of Friendship, the Drape, and the Shift. Each show discusses a cat challenge, shares pertinent Human Tricks for better communication, and explores ways we can advance the cat/human relationship. After thirty years of cat rescue experience, there’s plenty of stories to tell.”

The instant I heard Pamela Merritt speak, I was hooked on her Purrfect World podcast. Her voice is so soothing and calm. Through the first two episodes, I’ve also learned a little about her. For example, Pam grew up without cats but has learned to love them and respect them. She likes dogs and other animals too but focuses on promoting cats. Pam isn’t afraid to learn by trial-and-error nor to share what she’s learned from her mistakes.

I also like the content of Purrfect World. Her knowledge and confidence shows in every episode. In the first episode, Pam began by pondering the stereotypes about cats and their owners. Then she moved on to her belief that there no bad cats, just owners who treat cats like dogs. Finally, she there concludes by talking about how kittens start out playful but grow up into cats who want to build a relationship before they trust their owners. In the second episode, Pam discusses how to teach one’s cat not to scratch. She refers to the obvious solution of using a scratching post so that cats won’t claw the furniture, but also details how to foster a relationship with one’s cat that will encourage it not to scratch people either. Cats are complex and Pam shows respect for this fact!

Ontario SPCA / available on iTunes / 101 episodes, 2010-2016 / 10-30 minutes

ontariospca_podcastWebsite Blurb: “For over a century, the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society has provided province-wide leadership on matters relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals and the promotion of Animal Welfare. Need something a little more interesting to listen to than the same old songs on the radio? Why not check out one of our most recent pawdcasts?”

Despite being regional, The Ontario SPCA podcast interests me because it helps me understand the great depth of animal welfare programs. For the first year, each episode is hosted by Alison Cross, who interviews people from across the province who are involved with animal welfare. Each episode is snappy and engaging. Alison’s style is friendly and brisk. Her questions come quickly, showing how prepared she is. Her guests are calm, talkative, and passionate about their work. They’re also comfortable giving short or long answers as appropriate. What I like about the Ontario SPCA podcast is that it lets me eavesdrop on casual conversations between animal welfare experts.

The episode I listened to features Kevin MacKenzie, Development Manager of the Ontario SPCA. Kevin MacKenzie shares his experience traveling on the road with an Animal Cruelty Agent, volunteering at the Ontario SPCA Orangeville & District Branch, and spending a day at the Provincial Education & Animal Centre in Newmarket. I enjoyed hearing him talk about the building of community support. Starting with the second year, he became the host for Ontario SPCA podcast.

Speaking of Pets / available on iTunes / 300 episodes, 2006-2016 / 2 minutes

speakingpets_podcastWebsite Blurb: “Speaking of Pets with Mindy Norton is for people who care about pets and about humane treatment for animals in general, and who want to celebrate that special relationship between us and our animal companions. On Alabama Public Radio Saturdays at 8:59 a.m.”

Not only is Speaking of Pets the longest running podcast of the six featured in this article, but it’s also the shortest at only two minutes per episode. Yes, you read that right! In just one drive, I listened to half a dozen episodes and learned about diverse topics such as pets after hurricanes, legislation that allows owners to bring their pets with them to restaurants that have an outdoor seating area, cat shows, puppy mills, obese pets, and the efforts to help pets in Haiti after an earthquake. Wow!

Given their brevity, the episodes are surprisingly very informative. In the one about Haiti, I learned that organizations moved in to rescue people, control the spread of diseases, AND save animals. The latter is important. Many are livestock and are essential to the agricultural economy. Others are pets integral to family life. Finally, there was a story about a couple who rescued a dog only to lose it during a natural disaster but then were blessed to be reunited again.


If I had to pick just one podcast, I’m not sure that I could. Most of those I’ve reviewed are unique in their presentation and in their focus. Cat Lady and Purrfect World are the only two that kind of resemble each other. While I’d lean towards Purrfect World and its host Pamela Merritt because of its more professional quality, I suspect that Cat Lady with its banter between two hosts will continue to grow on me. It could also be fun to see them grow in their podcasting skills. The bottom line is that all six podcasts are worth checking out.

Now it’s your turn! I’m eager to hear more animal welfare podcasts. If you know of any good ones, please tell me about them in comments