Kayleen VanderRee and Danielle Gumbley were loading up their car for a weekend of hiking when they heard muffled cries coming from behind a stack of trashcans.
The women, both from Victoria, British Columbia, wandered over and discovered two small kittens that had clearly been abandoned. The nearby animal shelter had already closed down for the day, and the women didn’t want to burden their housemate with watching the tiny felines. So, they decided to take them on the trip.
“We figured the kittens were small enough that we could carry them with us,” says VanderRee. “They were purring the whole five-hour drive to the trailhead, and once we were adventuring, we either carried them with their heads poking out of our jackets or wrapped up around our necks — like a purr-itto. They did end up peeing on our sleeping bags at night, but other than that they took to the adventurous lifestyle like they were born for it.”
And, like they say, the rest is history. The now-grown cats — named Bolt (after a piece of rock climbing gear and the lightening-shaped pattern on his tail) and Keel (for the sailboat part) — are regular adventurers, joining their owners on excursions over both land and sea. The cats have their own rain jackets, life jackets, scarves and pannier bags — and an Instagram following that rivals some professional athletes’.
“Although we get a lot of weird looks, everyone has been extremely positive,” says VanderRee. “The main thing that separates Bolt and Keel from dogs is that they need to feel safe all of the time. They don’t like the feeling of being exposed — it is an instinct of survival! In areas that are more exposed, like in a kayak or an open trail, we either carry them or put them in our backpacks.”
But, most of the time, Bolt and Keel manage just fine on their own. They’ve hiked most of a three-hour scramble to an alpine lake. They’ve trudged through the snow with their canine friends. They’ve spent a week on a sailboat. And, as if to prove us wrong on most things we’ve assumed about cats and their feelings about water, the duo have become regulars on open-water kayak trips.
“They recently got lifejackets, as Bolt tends to push his limits and fell off the kayak,” laughs VanderRee. “He was amazingly calm. We think he will enjoy swimming this summer once the water warms up!”
Take note, dog people. Adventure cats are officially a thing.
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