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Meet Bolt and Keel: 2 Cats Making It in the Great Outdoors

Hiking, kayaking, camping, canoeing — these cats (yes, cats) get out and explore nature.

Anastasia Thrift  |  Nov 7th 2016


Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our September/October 2016 issue. Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

Cats are natural explorers (remember when you found your kitty on that random shelf in the closet that time?). So to picture them padding across forest floors or boating around a lake exploring their furry hearts out isn’t too far-fetched. In fact, it’s incredibly, adorably true for a few.

Two such cats have been taking their spirits of exploration out of the house and into the forests and waterways in and around Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, for more
than a year. Bolt and Keel are tabby brothers who belong to Kayleen VanderRee and Danielle Gumbley, two hikers/ sailors/campers/climbers whose discoveries included these tiny stray kittens in a park, inauspiciously behind a garbage can.

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Photos by Kayleen Vander Ree and Danielle Gumbley

“We were actually working with a summer camp at the time and had 20 kids wanting us to keep them,” Kayleen said about the cats she and Danielle found. “We originally planned to take them to the shelter because we couldn’t imagine them fitting into our adventurous lifestyle.”

The women guessed the cats were about 4 weeks old when they found them in the summer of 2015. They embarked upon their planned hiking and camping trip for the next two nights, documenting the adventure in pictures posted to Instagram.

“We are often gone on weekends hiking and camping so didn’t see how it would work,” Kayleen said. “Because we had to take them on our already planned trip, we fell in love with them and realized we could train them to come with us! We both loved cats before and love them even more now.”

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The ridiculously cute cats’ comfort level was so high, the women continued to bring them on outings. Since then, they’ve brought them on several treks from snowshoe walks to sailing voyages. Bolt and Keel wear harnesses during hikes and life jackets on the water, outfitted for every occasion.

“They’re constantly trying new things and going to new places with us. They quickly adapt to their surroundings and let us know if they are happy or not.”

Each has his own favorite — and less-than-favorite — activity.

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“Keel is an amazing hiker, he hiked 5.3 km [3.3 miles] with us on one of our recent trips, whereas Bolt is a little slow, so we often just carry him or put him around our neck,” Kayleen said of the two cats’ outdoor activity prowess.

“Keel has had a harder time adapting to kayaking, so we have opted to just take Bolt out the last couple times, who has done really well in the water! We plan on teaching him to swim this summer.”

Even more plans are on the horizon for the foursome in addition to kitty swimming lessons. They want to hang out at the rock climbing crags and take another canoe trip. But how did they get to this point of amazing adventure, and how can other people do the same?

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“We’re not cat trainers; however, we have attributed our success of Bolt and Keel to starting them so young, their adaptable personalities, and the fact that we consistently take them out,” Kayleen said. “The most important thing is to listen to your cat’s needs. Even Bolt and Keel have bad adventure days.”

It sounds, fortunately, like the good adventure days win out and will in the future. We’ll definitely be watching their progress on Instagram, along with our little housecat trekkers, once they’ve stopped scaling the great bed mountain or spelunking in the empty bathtub. The next time you find kitty in an odd spot, know that in her mind she’s simply seeking the thrill of discovery, a feeling in many cats’ hearts.

See more of Bolt and Keel at their website.

About the author: Anastasia Thrift’s “job” is to find interesting cats online and share stories and photos of them for CatChannel.com. She’s written about pets and their people for 10 years, working her way up the food chain to cats. Neighborhood cat, Killer, ate on her front porch for a year before reluctantly letting her bring him indoors. Follow Anastasia on Twitter at @ThriftT.