Exploring the great outdoors comes naturally to these two intrepid kitties, whose wilderness trips with their humans have made them two of social media’s most popular felines.
Given the choice between staying comfortably at home or embarking on a wilderness adventure with their people, most cats would much prefer the homebody option. But Bolt and Keel aren’t like most cats. These venturesome feline brothers share their lives with two women who love the great outdoors – and they’re just as enthusiastic about exploring and enjoying the natural world as their humans are.
Perhaps one reason Bolt and Keel are so comfortable with an active outdoor lifestyle is because they were evidently born in the wild. “We found them as one-month-old kittens in a bush at a local park,” says Kayleen VanderRee, who resides in Victoria, British Columbia. “They appeared abandoned and hungry, and there was no mother cat to be seen. We couldn’t bear to leave them there. The intention was to take them to the local shelter that evening, but it was closed by the time we got there.”
Kayleen and her partner, Danielle Gumbley, were planning to embark on a canoe trip the next day. Because they didn’t know what else to do with the kittens, they decided to take them along. “By the end of the trip, they proved themselves as adventure cats and we started to dream of other trips we could take them on,” says Kayleen. “It was important that our new-found pets could fit into our active lifestyle without having their quality of life compromised.”
Kayleen and Danielle gave the kittens names that reflect their outdoor activities – Bolt, “after a climbing bolt, and because his tail is bent in the shape of a lightning bolt”; and Keel, “for the keel of a sailboat.”
The women engage in a wide variety of outdoor activities, from camping, canoeing and hiking to rock climbing, sailing and kayaking. And Bolt and Keel go right along with them. “They’re natural adventurers,” says Kayleen, though she adds it’s not always smooth sailing (pun not intended!). “Just like a person, they have good and bad days. If the elements cause them discomfort, we turn around or change our plans to make sure they are not scared or uncomfortable.”
She adds that patience is of vital importance when going on outdoor trips with cats. “On our own adventures, we often pushed our limits, summiting mountains and sailing across oceans. However, bringing Bolt and Keel along has changed the whole pace of our adventures. We have to be flexible, and stay attentive to their behavior and needs.”
Having adventure cats also means making proper preparations for them before setting out anywhere. “We bring a combination of wet and dry cat food; however, Bolt and Keel tend to eat more wet food as it helps with hydration.” When it comes to bathroom requirements, Bolt and Keel are quite happy to dig their own holes while on the move. “If we are camping, we bring a litter box and make sure we pack out their waste. And when we’re on the water, sailing, kayaking, canoeing or paddle boarding, they wear small dog lifejackets.” The cats also have winter apparel for the colder weather, and while on the trail, they either walk on harnesses and leashes or ride in the women’s backpacks or inside their jackets.
Kayleen and Danielle began sharing photos and videos from their trips on Instagram and YouTube, and also started a blog about their adventures. It wasn’t long before Bolt and Keel attracted a large fan following. They’re also been featured in other media, including People Magazine, Good Morning America and CBC News. “We are lucky to have so many supportive fans who love to follow our unique adventures, as well as media attention to share our story around the world.”
Not unexpectedly, Kayleen and Danielle have stored up some memorable moments from their trips with Bolt and Keel. “We love how their personalities shine through while on different adventures – for example, Keel loves hiking, while Bolt loves canoeing and kayaking. Their characteristics and preferences are amplified while outdoors.
“One of our favorite moments was when Bolt leaped off the bow of our canoe and ‘doggy’ paddled to shore,” Kayleen continues. “He was completely unfazed and shook himself off, ready for the next adventure. Another of our best experiences was when we hiked a section of the Sunshine Coast trail. Keel refused to be carried and decided to hike the whole 11 kilometers over two days – we were so impressed. We love bringing joy to others through our adventures with Bolt and Keel.”
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