Cinder’s Advice: The Right Cat Toy

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: My cat doesn’t play with toys. Is something wrong?

“Cinder, have you lost your mouse again?” Allison asked.

I was sitting beside the front closet door, waiting for my pet parents to fetch my mouse for me. I’ve more than a dozen toys to choose from, but will only play with my leopard-spotted gray mouse. It’s my favorite mouse of all time.

When Allison found it, she didn’t just hand it back to me. She walked over to a round wooden puzzle toy and dropped my mouse into it.

I hid behind our recliner. When Allison left the living room, I ran and pounced on the puzzle. Then I started digging into puzzle’s holes. I pushed plastic balls and other mice to the side until I found my mouse. I hooked it with my claws and pulled it out. Victory!

One of my sisters peered into the room. I gripped the mouse in my jaws and, with my head low, I growled at her and scared her away. This is my mouse!

Back and forth, I batted my mouse. It slid under a woven basket in the living room and I pulled it out by its nose. Back and forth, I batted my mouse again. It slipped underneath the recliner and I dragged it back out by its tail.

When Allison returned to the living room, she laughed at me rolling around on the floor with my mouse I was rolling around on the floor with my mouse. I stopped in mid-roll to look at Allison, and she laughed at me. Harumph. I went back to playing. I tossed the mouse in the air. I shoved it under a pillow. And then I lost it again under the front closet door. “It’s nice to see you enjoying toys again,” Allison said.

You might think your cat doesn’t like to play, but you just might need to find the right toy.

  • Some of us like plush toys that we can sink our teeth into, instead of hard plastic toys; others prefer balls that roll and can be chased.
  • Some of us like small toys because remind us of smaller prey like mice; others prefer larger toys that remind us of larger prey or other cats
  • Some of us like toys that sound or feel like real animals; there are some that making a rustling sound like a squirrel, whereas others might be made with feathers or fur.
  • Finally, while some of us don’t care what type of toy you offer as long as it’s in motion, others might be pickier because of being less mobile due to older age.

Cat toys can be divided into two broad categories: self-play and interactive.

  • Self-play toys are good if you need to leave us alone. The cheapest ones are plastic rings from milk jugs and empty toilet paper rolls. Other low-cost toys are furry mice and crinkle balls. These can be made more challenging by placing them in objects such as empty tissue boxes or by hiding them around the house.
  • Interactive toys are great for strengthening the bond between you and your cats, because they require your involvement. When using a dangler or wand with your cat, be sure to try different kinds of actions to keep your cat from getting bored. Hide the lure, make it quiver, slide it across the floor, and whip it through the air. Be creative. Your cat will appreciate the chance to practice its hunting skills. And you may find that your cat prefers some actions to others.

The year that my parents adopted me, they bought me all kinds of toys. A wand toy shaped like a snake quickly became my favorite. My parents bought three more like it and put them in storage as backups, because danglers can break.

The problem with that toy is that I can only play with it when my parents have time to play with me. They don’t leave it out because if I play with it on my own the string could become wrapped around my neck and strangle me.

I love my puzzle toy, because I don’t need my pet parents around when I’m in the mood to play. I just dig through the puzzle toy or throw around my polka-dotted play mouse.

My mouse is now so worn that the eyes are gone, the nose is faded, and the fabric is worn. But it won’t last forever. I hope my parents can get me some more.


Dear Miss Behavior: How Can I Teach My Dog to Retrieve?

Dear Miss Behavior, We adopted a Labrador Retriever from rescue. He’s three-years-old and has great house manners. The only problem is he doesn’t retrieve! We toss a toy but he grabs it and runs off. Someone said try two toys and trade one toy for another, but he just hides the first toy and then runs and gets the second. We really love the idea of playing fetch in the back yard. How do we teach him how to retrieve?


Some dogs never learn the idea of playing fetch when they’re a puppy. They don’t realize the game lasts
much longer if you bring the toy back to the human.

It’s not difficult to train dogs to retrieve. They have the instinct to chase and pick up; They just need to be taught that giving the toy back is more important that hiding it.

Start with him on leash in the house and have handy a toy that doesn’t roll away too easily and a small dish of tasty treats. Offer him the toy and let him grab it out of your hand and then present him with a treat. Most likely he’ll drop the toy for the treat.

Pick up the toy and repeat several times. Then hand him the toy and say “Give” or “Drop”. If he drops the toy, tell him what a good dog he is and give him a treat. If he doesn’t drop it, put the food on his nose so he does drop it and go back to step one for a few more repetitions.

Once he’s giving up the toy on command, gently toss the toy away from you. Remember he’s on a leash so only toss it a foot or so.

Allow him to run out and get the toy, and call him back. Use the leash to gently guide him back to you if he won’t come willingly.

Again have him give you the toy and reward him. Keep practicing this way throwing the toy a little farther and eventually dropping the leash.

If at any time he starts to run away with the toy, grab the leash and gently guide him back to you. Make sure the treats are really tasty!

Once he’s doing very well inside. Move outside. Keep him on leash until he understands he needs to
bring the toy back and get a reward. Once he’s reliably bringing the toy back for a treat, begin only
rewarding every other toss, or every third toss.

Eventually you won’t have to reward him with a treat because the game will be his reward.

marcygraybillAfter Marcy adopted her first dog in 1988, she began to research about dog care. Research took the form of checking out books and videos to learn how to train Lady. Eventually, Marcy and her sister began taking their dogs to the dog run and taking formal dog classes. For about six years, Marcy volunteered for the Capital Humane Society, where she performed a variety of jobs, and took time to watch the dogs and learn about their behaviors. Currently, she’s an obedience instructor at GLOC. “I think the most important is to keep up to date on what’s going on in the field.  I try to read articles, blogs and  new books that come out, and watch any DVDs that are available.”

UNL’s New Canine Cognition and Human Interaction Lab

Dog lovers take note. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln now has a Canine Cognition and Human Interaction Lab.

The lab is part of the Department of Psychology and Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, and will focus on understanding both dog psychology and how interaction with dogs influences human behavior and psychology. Researchers will study dog psychology by playing games with dogs, and will study dog-human interactions by having human participants take cognitive tests before and after interacting with dogs, and comparing their results to participants who are given a different “intervention” between tests. Studies are expected to start in the fall.

Anyone interested in learning more is encouraged to attend UNL DogFest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 11th on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. The event is free to attend. Attendees and their well-behaved leashed dogs will be able to tour the new Canine Cognition and Human Interaction Lab, participate in and watch demonstrations of dog activities, and learn about dog-related products and services.

Jeff Stevens is the director of the Canine Cognition and Human Interaction Lab. In this role, Jeff’s duties include designing the research ideas, recruiting students to help conduct the research, writing grant proposals, soliciting private donations to help fund the lab, and reporting the lab’s research to both the scientific community and the general public. I recently talked to Jeff about his dog cognition research.

ALLISON: What interests you about psychology?

JEFF: I’m interested in understanding why humans and other animal behave the way they do. Understanding the psychology of behavior can help us improve the lives of people and animals.

ALLISON: Tell me about your background in psychology.

JEFF: My background is in animal behavior, and I began getting interested in animal cognition (understanding how animals ‘think’). I’ve studied this in birds, primates, fish, humans, and now dogs. I received my PhD at the University of Minnesota, completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, and was a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany before joining the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

ALLISON: Why did you start studying decision-making in humans and other animals?

JEFF: I started studying decision-making in other animals by applying what we know about human decision-making to them. There has been a surge recently in testing the ideas about human decision-making in other animals. Surprisingly to some (but not me!), many of the same principles of decision-making apply across humans and other animals. I started studying humans when a student I was working with completed a study on chimpanzee patience. She didn’t think that people would be as patient as the chimpanzees, so we designed a study to test people. She was right!

ALLISON: How did the Canine Cognition and Human Interaction Lab come about?

JEFF: I have a number of colleagues who study cognition in dogs. On my sabbatical this last fall, I visited one of them (Friederike Range) who co-directs the Clever Dog Lab in Vienna, Austria. This convinced me that I wanted to open a dog cognition lab. In developing ideas for this lab, it became clear that I could combine the study of dog psychology with human psychology by studying how interacting with dogs influences human cognition. This lab brings together my interest in both human and animal cognition.

ALLISON: Why study dog psychology?

JEFF: Dogs are fascinating for several reasons. First, they evolved to interact with humans, which makes their cognition super interesting. Second, they live in millions of households, so understanding them can have direct impacts on millions of people. Third, they are used extensively as working animals, so understanding their psychology can help police officers, military personnel, farmers, cancer doctors (they can detect cancer!), and hotels/dorms (they can detect bedbugs!).

ALLISON: Why study dog-human interactions?

JEFF: Dogs can have a calming effect on people, where they decrease our stress levels. Stress is a key part of human life that can influence our emotions, cognition, and decision-making. So if interacting with dogs can reduce stress, that might improve our decision-making. Surprisingly, there is not a lot of strong evidence regarding the positive effect of dogs on human cognition.

ALLISON: How will those studies be conducted?

JEFF: For the dog cognition studies, owners will bring their dogs into the lab for an hour or so. We’ll take them in to the testing room and basically play games with them for treats. We’ll design the games in a way to ask questions about their cognition and decision-making. Owners will be able to watch the testing on a video monitor in an adjacent room.

For the dog-human interaction studies, we will have human participants experience standard cognitive tests, and, for some of the participants, we will bring in a dog for them to pet and interact with. Other participants will receive other ‘interventions’ that don’t involve interacting with a dog. Then everyone will experience the cognitive tests again. We will compare the dog interaction groups to the other groups.

ALLISON: How will results be reported to the public?

JEFF: First of all, I want to make clear that science is a slow process. It often takes 2 or more years from when data are first collected to when the final scientific article is published (I had one project that took almost 10 years!). Also, sometimes the studies just don’t work out and never get published. So don’t expect quick answers!

The primary way scientists make their work ‘public’ is by publishing scientific articles. But I will also report my work to the non-academic world by posting short summaries of the scientific articles on the CCHIL website: Also, I will present our results at future DogFests, so the public can see what we’re finding out in the lab.

ALLISON: What are the long-term goals for the Canine Cognition and Human Interaction Lab?

JEFF: The long-term goals of CCHIL are to better understand the psychology of dogs and how dogs influence human psychology to improve their lives and their experience with and usefulness for humans.

ALLISON: What preparations are being/have been made for DogFest?

JEFF: I must say that I was not expecting the preparation for DogFest to take up as much time as it has. I have been in contact with probably 6-8 different groups within the university to get permission and organize this event. But the university has been absolutely fantastic and fully supportive of DogFest! I’ve organized sponsors, demonstrations, dog-related vendors, food vendors, volunteers, and advertising. Arnie’s Pet Food Store is our primary sponsor, and they have been fantastic in funding DogFest and getting the word out. With most of the logistics in place, I can now focus on the fun stuff for the visitors.

ALLISON: What can attendees expect to see and do?

JEFF: I think that we’re going to have a great set of events and activities. When everyone arrives, if they have a dog with them, they’ll need to sign a waiver of liability and they will receive a dog waste bag compliments of Adamz K9 Waste Removal. One of the key aims of DogFest is to recruit dog subjects, so visitors can enroll their dogs in our database, so we can contact them about being in our dog psychology studies.

Also, we’ll have a demonstration area featuring dog/handler pairs from Prairie Skies demonstrating obedience training, the Kansas City DiscDogs showing off frisbee tricks, and the UNL and Nebraska State Patrol canine units demonstrating their police dogs. We’ll have tours of the new lab, the Norland Pure watering station, dog activities (TBA), and a raffle for a gift basket generously donated by Raising Cane’s. We’ll have vendors with different pet-related products, services, and information, along with food vendors. Check out the details at and hope to see you at Husker DogFest!

The Many Places You’ll Find Lincoln Animal Ambassadors This Fall!

Lincoln Animal Ambassadors is gearing up for a slew of tabling events and fundraisers between August and October.

Tabling events will include Dog Bowl, Streets Alive, Christ United Methodist Church Blessing of the Animals, and Project Homeless Connect. Fundraiser events will include Ivanna Cone Community Cones Care and Meow and Chow.

DOG BOWL: Sunday, Sept. 2, 5-9:00 p.m., Pinewood Bowl in Pioneers Park
Dog Bowl will offer food trucks, craft beer, dog activities, live music, and vendors. Proceeds benefit Lincoln’s three new public dog runs and improvements at the popular Rickman’s Run.

STREETS ALIVE: Sunday, Sept. 23, 1-4:30 p.m., Belmont Neighborhood
Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln brought Streets Alive! to Lincoln starting in 2010 as an annual event. The 2018 Streets Alive! Festival route will be a part of the NE150 Challenge. Participants can walk, bike, run, or skate their way through the route as a NE150 Challenge event. Sponsored by the Nebraska Sports Council, the challenge is an event-centric wellness program that tracks and rewards participation in local events.

BLESSING OF THE ANIMALS: Sunday, Sept. 30, 3 p.m. cats and 4 p.m. dogs, Christ United Methodist Church
Blessing of the Animals is a brief worship service that celebrates God’s love for all creation, reminds people to care for the animals in their lives, and offers a special time when pastors will bless the pets. It is traditionally celebrated near the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4), who is the patron saint of animals. Many pet-friendly businesses and non-profits in the Lincoln community will be in attendance, including Lincoln Animal Ambassadors, with informational materials.

PROJECT HOMELESS CONNECT: Tuesday, Oct. 16, Pinnacle Bank Arena
Project Homeless Connect is a one-day, one-stop event that unites local organizations, businesses, and community volunteers who provide health and human services for the homeless. Volunteers from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors will supply vouchers for low-cost spay/neuter, pet treats, Pet Food Bank information, and assist in minor pet care.

COMMUNITY CONE CARES: starts August 3 and runs throughout the month, Ivanna Cone
As part of its community outreach, Ivanna Cone will create a new ice-cream flavor just for Lincoln Animal Ambassadors: Animal Chow, a powdered sugar ice cream with birthday cake puppy chow (Chex cereal coated in white chocolate), white-cake mix, and sprinkles. The first batch was available Friday, August 3rd, and sold out within a day. A new batch will be available again starting August 10. LAA will receive a percentage of the proceeds from all Animal Chow cones sold. On August 28th, Ivanna Cone will donate a percentage of everything sold that day to LAA.

MEOW & CHOW: Saturday, Oct. 27, Center for People in Need
Meow and Chow is a major annual fund-raiser event for Lincoln Animal Ambassadors and The Cat House, featuring bingo, prizes, raffles, and food. Soup is all you can eat. Bread, dessert, and beverages also provided. Food is donated by local restaurants. Doors open at 5 p.m. doors, bingo starts at 6:30 p.m., and the event ends at 10 p.m. Tickets are $25 at the door.
Lincoln Animal Ambassadors is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization funded entirely by donations and fundraisers. It addresses the root causes of animal homelessness in the Lancaster County by helping pets and their people through a voucher-based low-cost spay/neuter program and an income-based pet food bank. The group also offers pet care information through LAA Pet Talk, its quarterly newsletter, and community events.

Guest Post: Ensuring Your Dog is a Good Neighbor

Stock photo, Pexels
Stock photo, Pexels

Dog etiquette is important. As of 2012, 36 percent of U.S. households owned dogs. That’s 43 million households, with a grand total of 69.9 million dogs. So, there’s a strong likelihood that you own a dog or have a neighbor who owns a dog. If that’s the case, here some etiquette tips for all the dog owners who are also trying to be good neighbors.

Installing a Fence

 A good first step is to install a fence around your yard. According to Home Advisor, the average cost of installing a fence runs between $1,643 and $3,857. However, you’ll probably find that it’s worth the money. A good fence ensures that your dog won’t run away or trample through your neighbors’ lawns. Additionally, it gives your dog a sense of order and place, allowing it to roam while also keeping it safe from thieves, or (especially for small dogs) predators like hawks or coyotes. Make sure to install a doggie door to let your pooch access the backyard whenever it wants. Just like us, dogs need exercise to lose weight and not feel cooped up or depressed.

Picking Up After Your Dog

Another etiquette tip is to pick up after your dog. Leaving your dog’s waste on the sidewalk or the grass is unsightly. Of course, this courtesy is more than just cosmetic. Feces can attract rats or drop into the sewer system, contaminating the waterways. Some of the diseases that fester in dog poop include E. coli, giardia, salmonella, and roundworms. Left out in the open, they have a way of getting into the digestive tracts of other animals, or other people’s dogs, and then into their homes. So keep a doggie bag handy whenever you and your dog pop out for a stroll.

Keep It Down!

For centuries, people have kept dogs because they act as our sentries, pricking up their ears and barking if a trespasser approaches. They can also bay at the moon, howl for no reason, or yap at other dogs. Try to keep the decibel level down, especially at night. Maintain a household schedule to minimize the chance that your dog will yowl out of confusion. Then keep that schedule going into the evening hours, which will calm it down because it’s used to your bedtime pattern. Pet it and play with it throughout the day so that it doesn’t feel like it has to raise a ruckus to get your attention–and wake the whole neighborhood in the process.

Public Places

Perhaps the cornerstone of being a good dog-owning neighbor is teaching your dog how to behave in public. A lot of that education starts with you. Be a considerate dog walker. Always keep your dog on a leash, and pay attention to where you’re going so that your dog doesn’t bump into a child or dash across someone’s yard. Also, be mindful of where you let it urinate. (Avoid parked cars or someone’s lawn or mailbox.) Regularly visit the vet, keep your vaccinations current, and make sure your address and phone number are engraved onto your dog’s collar. Finally, introduce it to the dog park, so it can play with other dogs.

Balancing the roles of good neighbor and good dog-owner isn’t impossible. Just make sure your dog is as well-mannered in public as it is in your house. You’ll know you’ve done a good job if your neighbors bend down and ruffle your dog’s ears when they pass you on the sidewalk.

Written by Aurora James for LAA Pet Talk. Aurora believes there are no bad dogs. She created to share her dog training tips and advice to dog owners everywhere. welcomes and encourages anyone to use its infographics in their writing. It simply ask that you please cite and link to them as the source.

If you’re a pet owner with writing skills, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors would love to hear from you! We’re especially looking for content about birds, exotic animals, and horses. Content may take the form of an advice column or how-to articles. You may even simply wish to act as an expert consultant. If you’re interested, please post in the comments and we’ll be in touch.

A Love for Horses

Carol Miller’s passion for horses recently led her to adopt a rescued horse through Hooves and Paws.

Her love began as a young person. At 14 years of age, Carol received her first horse as a gift from her dad. She learned how to ride and show jump on Hurry Sundown, a quarter horse and American Saddlebred mix, and has fond memories of her time with him.

One particular moment stands out to Carol. “My dad would haul our horses up to Chimney Rock to ride. On one ride, we were heading up the ridge and Sundown stopped. He wouldn’t move. My dad rode over to me and said there was a nest of rattlesnakes ahead. Thankfully, Sundown had sensed it and knew better than to walk straight into the snake pit.”

I love the gaited horses. I own a Tennessee Walking Horse and a Missouri Fox Trotter.  Their gaits are super smooth and they’re awesome to ride.

As an adult, Carol now owns three horses, and much of her life is dedicated to them. “Every morning I go to the barn, put my boys in their turnout pasture, clean the stalls, put clean shavings in the stalls, empty and clean the water buckets, refill the water buckets, put alfalfa pellets in the buckets, put hay in their stalls for the evening and hay outside their stalls for the morning.” In the evening, Carol places alfalfa pellets and apples in “the horse’s stalls before retrieving them from the pasture. She then brushes them and cleans their feet. If time allows, she’ll also do some training with her colt. Carol follows this routine every day, seven days a week, year to year.

I love going to the barn and hearing the horses whinny at me when they see me. They’re very loving animals and get attached to their human quickly.

One of her horses is a rescue from Hooves and Paws, a rescue group which works to rehabilitate abused, starved, neglected, or unwanted horses and other animals. It was one of 30 malnourished horses rescued from a Seward County farm in Nebraska. The horses were brought to a foster barn west of Lincoln, which happens to be the facility where Carol boards her horses.

“Six yearlings were part of the group that came in,” Carol shared, “and none of them had ever been handled by humans.” Right then, she decided her heart had room for one of the stud colts, and she chose to adopt one with an infected hole in his neck. According to Carol, “The vet suspected he had run into a pole and it sliced into his neck.”

On September 24, 2017, Carol adopted D’artagna. She reports that he’s been growing and putting on weight since the adoption. “He is beautiful, healthy, smart, sweet, and very loving.  He is my baby and my heart!”

In this article is a photo of what D’artagna looked like the day that Carol adopted him and a second photo that showed what he looks like in 2018. About the photos, she said, “It’s amazing what a little care can do!”

Because of Carol’s love for D’artagna, she now encourages others to support horse rescue organizations with their donations. Many horses would be doomed to slow, unpleasant deaths without these organizations, Carol said, as horses are often abandoned or allowed to starve to death when their owners can no longer afford to care for them.

“Rescues need funds to save horses’ lives,” Carol said.  “D’artagnan is living proof of that. I’m thankful for the Hooves & Paws rescue.  Without them, D’artagnan wouldn’t have survived this winter, and I wouldn’t have had the privilege to become part of his life.”

KCC Adventure Cats

There is a movement afoot, one known as adventure cats, which is composed of cat owners who are exploring the great outdoors with their feline friends. The group KCC Adventure Cats is part of that movement, and Emily Odum Hall is the host of the group.

Emily didn’t start out with adventure cats. When she started blogging, she wanted to share online about life with her cats. As her life changed, so did her blog. At first, it expanded into a means to raise awareness for cats with cerebellar hypoplasia and other special-needs animals. Now although she still writes on those topics, she also focuses on adventure cats as well.

ALLISON: Share a little about your background with pets.

EMILY: I’ve had pets in my family since I was a kid. Growing up, we had three cats and three dogs, so I’ve always lived with a house full of animals. Right now, I have seven cats, one dog, and two sugar gliders.

ALLISON: What sparked your interest in having outdoor adventures with your cats?

EMILY: My cat, Sophie, is my original adventure cat. She has cerebellar hypoplasia, and as a result can’t run very fast. I decided to take her out in the backyard one day because I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about her getting away. She enjoyed it so much that I eventually started taking her out on bigger adventures. Her laid-back personality has made her the perfect candidate for adventuring.

ALLISON: Do all of your cats like to have outdoor adventures? Why or why not?

EMILY: No, only three of my seven cats enjoy outdoor adventures. When we adopted Kylo Ren as a kitten, I knew he would be an adventure cat. We just started taking him out with Sophie right from the beginning and so adventuring has always been normal for him. We started training Caster later. Due to his very rambunctious and wild personality, I thought getting outside would be good for him. For the most part, my other cats have some fear issues and aren’t into going outdoors.

ALLISON: What has been the most fun adventure?

EMILY: That’s a hard one. For me, I enjoy adventures the most when I can see how much fun my cats are having. Kylo Ren loves hiking, while Sophie loves meandering through the park and socializing with everyone she meets. I haven’t figured out Caster’ favorite adventure yet. I will say that our most recent adventure down in Florida was tons of fun. Caster and Kylo Ren went on several boat rides down the St. John’s River, and Kylo even went swimming.

ALLISON: What has been the most scariest adventure?

EMILY: On one of Kylo’s first adventures, he managed to wiggle out of his harness. That was pretty scary. Thankfully my husband was able to catch him.

ALLISON: How about a funny or embarrassing moment?

EMILY: Well, one time Sophie pooped in her carrier on our way to an adventure and made a mess of herself. We had to stop at the first gas station we came to and ask to use their hose and hand soap to give her a bath. They obliged, but it was a rather ridiculous scene–my husband and I bathing a poop-covered cat in a gas station parking lot while people stared at us. It wasn’t very funny at the time, but looking back at it, it’s pretty hilarious. We learned a valuable lesson that day: Always bring cat shampoo and a towel with you on adventures because you never know what kind of messes your cat is going to get into!

ALLISON: For the cats that don’t like to have outdoor adventures, how do you enrich their lives?

EMILY: We have multiple cat trees and tons of toys scattered around the house. We also have a “Cat Wall”–a wall in our living room that has wall-mounted ledges, beds, and scratches for the cats to enjoy. I always make sure to have play time with my cats on a daily basis too, as well as clicker training sessions with a few of them.

ALLISON: What other social media do you use to promote adventure cats and why?

EMILY: I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Vero that are associated with my blog. I share about adventure cats and other cat-related topics on those channels. The only social media thing I have that is strictly for adventure cats is my group on Facebook, KCC Adventure Cats.

ALLISON: For others who aspire to change stereotypes about cats, what advice would you give?

EMILY: Try taking your cat out on adventures. Start small. It seems obvious, but some people try to move too quickly and think their cat will immediately go from house cat to adventure cat. Except in rare cases, your cat will need to slowly acclimate to going outside. Start by having your cat wear a harness inside. Then graduate to taking them out in your yard. Then maybe for a walk down the street. Always pay attention to your cat’s body language too. They will tell you when they are overwhelmed or have had enough. Listen to them and follow their lead.

Guest Post: Guinea Pigs and Other Pets

Fruity & Pudding, Photo by Allison
Fruity & Pudding, Photo by Allison

Every living creature at some point in their lives like to have their own space, but in a world with billions of creatures it’s sometimes a little difficult to achieve it. When introducing a guinea pig to your home, you need to consider if you have space enough for it and also how your other pets will react.

When bringing a guinea pig into your house, I recommend buying a large home for each pet (something in the range of $200,000.00!) with lots of yard space to be free in. In all seriousness, I encourage you that whether you have one or more than one guinea pig that you provide them with a big cage. These little fur balls love to run around and need an area to do their morning yoga. Cage space for one guinea pig alone should have at least seven square feet of space, each additional guinea pig should have two to four additional square feet of space. For more information on guinea pig housing, check out info at Guinea Lynx.

Bumblebee & Lucy, Photo by Allison
Bumblebee & Lucy, Photo by Allison

There are other considerations to make too. For example, do you have a place in your home for your guinea pig to live in safely? Your cat may be curious and check out your guinea pig. If you have a cat, make sure the guinea pig(s) cage is not accessible by any means. Dogs can be quite rambunctious and loud. If you have a dog, make sure the cage is in a place where the barking won’t scare your guinea pig(s). Whether you have a cat or dog, they may want to play with your guinea pig and accidentally hurt it. They might also view your guinea pig as prey to eat. In a nutshell, if you have other pets, keep your guinea pig(s) in a safe place so they can enjoy being a guinea pig.

When you bring your guinea pig(s) home, your other pets are going to either be curious, afraid, or not care about it. Do you have a plan of introducing your new guinea pig(s) to your current pets? I don’t recommend bringing your guinea pig(s) and other pets face to face for a while; it can either go well or be a disaster.

Bumblebee & Barnaby, Photo by Allison
Bumblebee & Barnaby, Photo by Allison

Give all of your pets a while to get used to each other, then introduce them from far away. Perhaps, bring your other pets into the area your guinea pig(s) are residing in, but from a distance! Please don’t put your pet(s) right up to the cage; it’ll frighten the guinea pig(s) and possibly your other pet(s).

If your take your time and properly introduce your pets, chances are the introductions will go well and there will be nothing to worry about. The important part is, to make sure that you stay calm and the animals may stay calm as well! For more info on guinea pig introductions, check out Pawsperous Pets.

Finally, when thinking of incorporating guinea pigs into your home with multiple pets, check to see if you have the space. If you live in an apartment, you may only be able to keep two pets at a time or your lease may include no “exotic animals.”

Multiple pets in a home can be a wonderful experience! Guinea pigs love to be social and can get along with all kinds of animals. Just make sure you do your research before thinking of adopting a guinea pig or two. Guinea pigs deserve a safe and loving home too.


Written by Nikki Harbeston, Creative Stuff, for LAA Pet Talk. She resides in South Carolina with her husband and dog. Her blog features Diary of a Chubby Piggie and Into the Journey of Dog. Copyright August 2013-March 2014.

If you are a pet owner with writing skills, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors would love to hear from you! We’re especially looking for content about birds, exotic animals, and horses. Content may take the form of an advice column or how-to articles. You may even simply wish to act as an expert consultant. If you are interested, please check out our Author Guidelines.

Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Bites When She Plays

Dear Miss Behavior, My Siberian Husky is a great dog. She only has one problem. Sometimes she gets really excited and starts biting my hands, my arms and even pulling on my clothes. I try telling her “NO!” but it doesn’t seem to make a difference to her. She is about a year old and we take long walks every day. Can you help?

missbehaviorI’m sorry to hear that Angel is trying to use you as a toy. This is a behavior that needs to stop. Not only is it dangerous; rips in clothes are definitely fashion faux-pas.

It sounds like Angel has had quite a bit of practice with the mouthing, so you’ll need some patience in stopping it. Whenever she starts to grab you, say “Ouch “in a loud voice with feeling. It doesn’t matter if she hurts you or not, we’re creating a word that she’ll learn means stop mouthing you and calm herself.

When you first say the word and she stops, you’ll quietly praise her. Tell her she’s a “gooood doooog” in a low and slow voice. You can give her a small treat if you have one handy but don’t pet her. Petting or touching her will encourage her to start mouthing again.

After a few times, she’s going to start testing you by trying to nip you again. When she does, you’ll move onto the next step. As soon as she grabs at you or your clothes say “Ouch,” and cross your arms and turn your back on her. When she calms down, verbally praise her as before.

Angel is quite smart, so she’ll soon figure out that mouthing you means you’ll stop interacting with her. The problem is she’s been rewarded for biting in the past. Anytime you pushed her away, grabbed her muzzle or wrestled her to the ground was probably viewed as a reward. Not only did you touch her but, in her opinion, you actually played with her.

So she’s going try to push you into ‘playing’ with her again. The next step requires her to have a flat buckle collar on and her crate nearby. You said you crate her at night so that’s great. When she begins chewing on you say “Ouch” but instead of ignoring her, you gently take hold of her collar and lead her into her crate. Close the door and leave her alone for a short time. Don’t get angry, don’t yell at her, or be mean when you put her in the crate. If her crate isn’t handy, you can take her to the laundry room or if you’re outside go inside without her. The end result is Angel spending a few minutes alone.

(I’ve been asked if that will make her hate her crate and I say no. Dogs learn to dislike their crates if they’re forced to spend too much time in them or if they’re frightened or teased while in the crate. I loved my cr—room as a child, even though I was sent there when I did something naughty.)

When you go back to her, be sure to keep it low-key when you let her out. Don’t encourage her to become excited. She needs to sit before the door opens. She’ll soon learn when you say “Ouch” to calm herself or she won’t have any playmates.

Remember, Siberian Huskies are very intelligent and have boundless energy. It sounds like you’ve got a good start with the long walks, but don’t forget to exercise her mind as well as body. Take an obedience class and train her every day, not only will she be better behaved but she’ll have less energy. Once you’ve taken her through a couple of obedience classes, the sky’s the limit. Consider agility, flyball, and/or even tracking to engage her.

Thanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

marcygraybillAfter Marcy adopted her first dog in 1988, she began to research about dog care. Research took the form of checking out books and videos to learn how to train Lady. Eventually, Marcy and her sister began taking their dogs to the dog run and taking formal dog classes. For about six years, Marcy volunteered for the Capital Humane Society, where she performed a variety of jobs, and took time to watch the dogs and learn about their behaviors. Currently, she’s an obedience instructor at GLOC. “I think the most important is to keep up to date on what’s going on in the field.  I try to read articles, blogs and  new books that come out, and watch any DVDs that are available.”

Kitten 101, According to Nacho, Taco, Queso, and Sopa


The four kittens arrived at their new temporary home. Their pet foster parents took turns welcoming each of them by saying their names and hugging them. Then the pet foster parents quietly slipped out of the room and eased the door shut behind them.

The four kittens looked up and down and around their room. They whimpered a little, and then were drawn to a cat bed that had a familiar smell. The kittens realized it was a bed from their previous home and were comforted to have found something familiar in this new place. Nacho wrapped his paws around his siblings, and they snuggled into him. He could feel them quivering and tried to reassure them.

NACHO: What did mom say to look for? Water, food, and litter box. All check!

QUESO: I miss our last foster home.

SOPA: I can’t sleep.

TACO: It’s too quiet. There are no children.

NACHO: There’s also a people bed, a scratching post, and lots of cat blankets!

The other kittens peeked over the top of their bed. Their eyes scanned left and right. The walls were a calming ocean green color. Bright sunshine danced across the hardwood floor. But nothing cheered them. They hunkered back into their bed.

Nacho tried again to boost their spirits. He reported that there were fluffy pillows and a thick comforter on the people bed. Queso shrugged and Sopa turned her head away, but Taco sat up to check out the room for herself.

TACO: I dare you to climb the people bed!

QUESO: Let me sleep.

NACHO: There are lots of toys here. Who wants to play?

SOPA: I want mom.

The door to their room opened, and the pet foster parents entered with bowls. They placed the bowls under the foot of the bed. The kittens could see that two were full of water. Now they were scooping food into the other bowls. They stopped to smile at the kittens. They reached out their hands and gently patted each of the kittens on the head. The woman told them they were cute and took something out of her pocket. Then she snapped a picture.

None of the kittens moved until the pet foster parents had gone. Only then did they venture out of the bed to eat. After their tummies were full, they immediately returned to their bed.

The evening stretched into night. One by one the kittens yawned. Purrs arose from them as they fell asleep, holding and comforting one another.


The first rays of a new day filtered into the room and woke Nacho. He wanted to explore their new home, but he didn’t want to disturb the others. Instead he stayed perfectly still and tried to think of how he’d help them adjust once again to a new home.

Queso began to toss and turn, knocking the others out of bed. They glared at her and sleepily crawled back into bed. But by now everyone was awake.

QUESO: When are our new foster pet parents going to come see us?

SOPA: Maybe they’ve abandoned us?

TACO: Or maybe they’re just giving us quiet time?

NACHO: Exactly! I think our pet foster parents are being smart. Think of everything that’s happened in the past few days. Mom was brought back to her outside home. We went to that place where they made us sleepy and we woke up with thread on our bellies. Now we’re in a new place. Our pet foster parents are giving us time to recover from all the changes.

The girls turned their back to Nacho. They knew he was right, but they still felt unhappy and so they didn’t like his answer.

Nacho patted Taco on her head. Taco licked Nacho’s face. Even if they didn’t know what lied ahead, they were safe and warm and in a good place, and so she was ready to be happy again.

TACO: Don’t humans sleep at night? Maybe they’re not up yet?

QUESO: Tell us a story, Nacho.

NACHO: If I were to tell my pet foster parents one thing….

TACO: No! I want a story, not school!

NACHO: It’s not us who needs school. It’s our new pet foster parents. We need to talk about what we need to teach them. First is food and water. We’re already three months old, so we’re big enough to eat on our own. But we’re also still growing, so we need lots of food. Our pet foster parents should feed us two, three, four times a day. We should have as much food as we’ll eat until we’re about six months. And our water dishes should be emptied, washed, and refilled once or twice a day.

TACO: This is what we need to teach our pet foster parents about the litter box. It should be scooped a couple of times per day to keep it clean. Every few days, they should dump the litter, clean the box, and replace with new litter. And here’s the most important thing: because we’re kittens, our pet foster parents need to use non-clumping litter. If we eat clumping litter, it could clump inside us and make us sick.

SOPA: Ew! Why would I eat litter?

TACO: To find out what litter tastes like.

SOPA: You’re weird.

TACO: Seriously, we might not even be trying to the litter. It could just stick to our paws, and when we lick our fur, we could accidentally swallow the litter.

QUESO: You forgot to say that our pet foster parents shouldn’t overfeed us. It’s not healthy for us. We’ll tire out faster and get more diseases from being overweight.

NACHO: Someone’s been listening to the pet channel….

QUESO: And you forgot to say that if we get sick, the litter should get changed more often, and our foster pet parents should ask the shelter about taking us to the vet.

NACHO: Now you’re just showing off!

QUESO: Can I talk about vet care?

TACO: No! We just got back from the vet.

QUESO: This is what our pet foster parents should know about vet care. We’re been tested for worms and intestinal parasites. Some kittens can get fleas (but we didn’t!) and will need to be treated for them. Because we’re kittens we’ve already gotten some immunizations to protect us against diseases. We’ll also need more in our first year.

TACO: Are you proud of the big words you used?

SOPA: She kept me awake one day practicing them!

QUESO: And on our last trip to the vet, we got fixed so that we can’t have babies.

TACO: Babies? We’re still babies ourselves!

NACHO: But cats can have babies as young as four months.

SOPA: You should also add that as kittens, we need to be watched carefully for signs of illness. If we don’t drink or eat or pee or poop in a day, we need to see the vet. If we vomit or have diarrhea, we need to see the vet. If our eyes are watery or our noses start to run, we should see the vet. If our tummy hurts or swells, or if we’re coughing or finding it hard to breathe, we should see the vet.

TACO: Whew! That’s a lot to remember.

QUESO: Shh! I hear footsteps!

This time after preparing breakfast for the four kittens, the pet foster parents sat on the floor next to the kittens. The four kittens exchanged glances. Nacho stretched and then hopped out of the bed. He was hungry and wasn’t going to let the presence of people stop him! Nacho ran to a bowl, and then looked over his shoulder at his siblings who were slowly following him. He knew they’d follow his example, and so he turned and sniffed the hands of the pet foster parents before digging into the food. The girls stared at the humans, and then darted to a second bowl of food.

Bellies full, the four kittens meowed to one another. Nacho returned straight to the pet foster parents. He butted his head against the man, then the lady, and purred. He loved people! Taco saw laces on the shoes of the man and began to poke at them. Then she saw a plastic ball that had been at their first home. She ran up to it and batted happily at it. She was even more excited when the man threw it for her to chase. The other two girls darted up to, then darted away from the humans, and then back again. They exchanged nose rubs with Nacho. After that, they scampered after Taco to play, but kept peeking back at their new foster pet parents. So much to see and to do!



The four kittens grew more and more delighted with everything they were figuring out. For instance, now that they’d stopped moping and started exploring, they’d discovered more than one of the comforts from their first foster home. The cat bed, the curved scratching post, and even all the toys except the catnip sticks had made the journey with them.

They’d also discovered a new scratching post, one with a nook where they could hide. Then there the tons of cat blankets, all of which smelled fresh, as if they were new or at had least been washed clean of the scent of other cats.

But better than all of these was the people bed!

it was huge! It towered above their heads! The bed had taken the kittens a few tries to climb it. They had to use the sheets hanging over the side to scramble to the top. Nacho and Taco had also found they could hoist themselves up by using the legs of their pet foster parents.

Once on the bed, the four kittens liked taking turns to strut along the headboard as if it were a balance beam Queso and Sopa enjoyed leaning over the footboard and surveying the play action. The footboard was also a great way for Nacho and Taco to launch themselves after toys.

The four kittens were even torn about whether to continue sleeping in their bed or to use the people bed. The decision was made when the man slept in it the third night. After lots of meowing and staring, the four kittens snuggled up next to the man for a very, very, very long nap.

SOPA: Is he dead?

QUESO: He can’t be. His chest is moving.

TACO: Don’t humans sleep for ALL night?

SOPA: They’re weird.

NACHO: But they’re also warm and soft. I like snuggling with them.

QUESO: I don’t like that they want us to meet new people.

SOPA: Me either. I hate change.

TACO: I just want to stay with our pet foster parents forever.

QUESO: Tell us a story, Nacho.

NACHO: If I were to tell my pet foster parents one thing….

TACO: Fine! More facts! This is what we need to teach our pet foster parents about play. Handling and playing with us at least once a day will help us release our energy and build a bond with them. We’d welcome playing a few times day for at least ten minutes. If those playtimes are consistent, we’ll come to look forward to them. I like when they toss mice and balls for us to chase. My favorite is what they call danglers because they fly around me and above me, so they’re hard to catch. But when I do catch them, it’s fun to snag them out of the air or tackle them to the floor.

QUESO: How about what they call an air purifier?

SOPA: I don’t think that’s a toy. I think it’s to keep our room from getting too stinky

NACHO: Someone’s been listening to people talk.

TACO: I like what they call a laptop.

SOPA: Me too. I could watch it all day!

QUESO: You forgot to say that playing with us will cut down on our urge to bite and scratch and other naughty stuff. They shouldn’t let us play with their fingers or to chew on their toes. If they do, we’ll never outgrow those bad habits.

NACHO: This is what our pet foster parents need to know about socializing. The more positive experiences we have the better. This way we’ll grow into well-adjusted adults. They should expose us to all kinds of different noises and parts of the house. They should groom us every week and get us familiar with a crate so that we won’t hate them taking us places. They should introduce us to new people, new pets, and to those small humans. And it helps to reward us with lots of treats so that we’ll our new experiences

TACO: Mom didn’t have any that because she lived outside, and so that’s why she’s afraid of people. But she wanted us to have a better life, which is why she gave birth to us in the window well of a house. She said socializing was the most important thing we could learn. We need to keep meeting new people, even if we don’t always like it.

SOPA: But why does everything important have to be so hard?

QUESO: It just is. Besides, maybe all the visitors we meet will be as nice as our pet foster parents.

TACO: Duh! Our foster pet parents invited them, didn’t they?

Later that day, the expected visitors came, and the kittens were ready for them. The mom and her son followed the foster pet parents into their room. At first, they sat on the floor with the kittens and just let the kittens come up to them. Then the visitors began to pick the kittens up one by one. Who could resist their cute faces?

Soon the kittens warmed up to the visitors, which meant it was playtime! Nacho and Taco tumbled about a blanket that had been laid on the floor to provide extra warmth. The girls batted toys back and forth to one another. The visitors laughed at their antics, and the pet foster parents took pictures.

Then the boy grabbed one of the toys. The two shyer kittens stared at him, not sure what to expect. He moved the ball to the right and then to the left. The girls sat up and their heads moved as the ball moved. The boy moved the ball to the right and left again. Nacho and Taco stopped to watch. The boy eyed them, and then proceeded to move the ball up and down. Now all the kittens were watching the ball.

Suddenly he threw the ball. The kittens dashed after it. The ball bounced and rolled here and there. The kittens tumbled over one another trying to catch it. But Nacho was bigger and faster, and he got to it first. He batted it to Taco, who batted it to Queso, who batted it to Sopa. Then the boy picked up the ball again, the kittens watched, and the boy threw it again.

After many rounds of this, the mom told her son it was time for them to go home. The kittens watched them go, and then clambered onto the people bed to rest. The pet foster parents laid with them and looked through all the pictures they’d taken. Then they left, returning shortly to change water, food, and litter, and to straighten up the bedding.

When the foster pet parents left, the kittens yawned and stretched. One by one they jumped off the bed, hungry after their day of adventure. As soon as they’d eaten, they returned to the bed and watched the waning daylight through the window.

QUESO: I heard our pet foster parents say that they were going to show our photos to their friends, and that maybe that would help find us our forever homes.

SOPA: We’re going to have a good future.

NACHO: Once upon a time, there were four kittens who each needed a home. They lived with one foster family, and then a second. Both families cared for them, and so those kittens grew up safe. They had everything they could want. Food, water, shelter, plenty of toys, and tons of adventures, and so they grew up feeling loved….