By Dr. Margie Scherk DVM, Dip ABVP (Feline Practice)
When most of us think of our cats, we usually think of them as being homebodies. If not curled up on their preferred perch inside, or batting their favourite toy around the living room, they might be outside exploring the yard, but they rarely wander too far afield.
Some family cats, though, have embraced a new role: adventure cat! They can be found in many countries, and often are very well-travelled, some even internationally.
Meet Bug. Bug was the first feline adventurer I met at a veterinary meeting in Barcelona. She and her person, Ken, have been exploring the great outdoors, paddleboarding, sailing, canoeing, hiking and flying to far-away destinations, starting when she was under a year of age. Ken, who is an American veterinarian, took her camping at 5 months old and discovered she wanted to follow him on short hikes. Bug now enjoys 3-4 mile (5-9.5 km) hikes in quiet spots.
Living on a lake, Ken noticed that Bug, who is fascinated by water, was climbing on the floating chunks of ice as it broke up at about 9 months of age. He recounts: “She was always walking around on my boats and paddleboards, so one day I took her in a fishing boat, then a paddleboard, then my sailboat and a canoe. When we go to any marina now the first thing she wants to do is climb on boats and explore them.”
Since those early days, Bug has travelled with Ken to Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Spain, Portugal and most of the US states.
Follow Bug and her adventures on her Facebook page.
Lauren, who is also a veterinarian, lives to sail. She told me that she: “had a cat named Pancake that really wanted to head outside. So, I put her on a harness, and she was perfect for a walk around the neighbourhood. That became a daily event. It seemed logical to try paddleboarding next, in a quiet spot. And then, of course, sailing evolved from there.” She thinks that most cats have more adventure inside them than we give them credit for and has a second cat, Tiller, who also goes sailing with Pancake. You can find her on Instagram @pancakesails.
Another colleague and friend, Cecily, in Canada, shared Angus’ story with me. “When I take the dog ashore for her evening constitutional, Angus insists I take him for a row. Sometimes we are lucky enough to be anchored near a small island, and then I take the cats for some much-appreciated land time.”
But not just veterinarians adventure with their cats. Friends of mine take their cat, Aslan, between their weekend home and their work week home by ferry every week. This started when Aslan (aka King) was a kitten. Since then, they also take him for walks along the beach and short hikes in his backpack. Aslan’s parents work between two cities and bought The Fat Cat Backpack primarily as a car carrier. To their happy surprise, Aslan has come to love the pack and now sits inside it very happily for walks of up to about an hour. His “staff” fit him into a harness that clips to a bungee cord inside the pack, and Aslan is ready for another safe adventure. He loves the sounds and smells of the outdoors, peering out with curiosity from the top of his pack. Aslan’s parents have recently tried to get him to walk on a leash, with success that could, at best, be called “mixed”.
Gary, another Canadian adventurer, has his own Instagram page: @greatgramsofgary. He wears goggles to protect him against bright sunshine when hiking in the snow of the Rockies. Gary has a warm jacket harness for skiing, but also enjoys kayaking and other sports.
While aspirations to adventure might linger inside some household cats, it’s not for everyone. Here are a few tips for adventure cat success:
If you are curious and want to read more about Adventure Cats, check out Adventure Cats: Living Nine Lives to the Fullest by Laura Moss.
The header photo on this article features Archer, a Canadian adventure cat who regularly explores outside with his people, Rebel the dog, and horses Zar and Big Red. Follow their adventures on Instagram @zar_04.