will fetch your hiking boots and do back flips by the
front door if you mention going "outside."
a cat if it wants to go for a hike and it will pause,
lick a paw, and maybe say "meow." That means
"no," or at best, "meh."
not all cats. Not Buddy. His "meow" means,
"Yes, that sounds wonderful. Go get my harness and
GPS tracker and warm up the car."
Rachel Swartz, one of Buddy’s owners, was coaxing the
cat along on a York County trail:
psst, psst! Hi, Buddy. Hi, Mr. Puffy Tail."
is a 7-month-old feral found near a warehouse last year.
Someone dropped him into a box and put him by Steve
Swartz’s desk at the heating and air-conditioning
company where he works, across the street. Someone knew
Steve loved cats, just as much as he loves kayaking,
camping, backpacking, stand-up paddleboarding, and
Buddy’s training to be an outdoor cat.
this day, he was wary of the media, popping his head out
of a backpack with mesh windows and stepping gingerly on
the trail at Apollo County Park in Brogue, Pa., a few
miles west of the Susquehanna River, only to plop down
on the pine needles when he saw strangers.
gets pretty shy," Steve said, crouched down near
is part of a movement, a collective purr from cats all
over the world who want more out of life than a warm lap
and a broken shoelace. These "Adventure Cats"
have their own websites, Instagram pages, and YouTube
channels, furry transcendentalists finding solace in
nature with a look on their faces that screams, "I’m
a lot of stereotypes out there about cats," said
Laura Moss, a freelance journalist who started
AdventureCats.org in 2015. "We saw it as a way to
rebrand cats and cat people. It’s not for every cat,
by any means, but there’s a lot of cats out there who
would love some fresh air."
hate water, right? Adventure Cats features a feline
named Vladimir who kayaks in fjords with his newlywed
owner, and another named Bug, who paddleboards with a
personal CFD: cat flotation device. Cats aren’t just
going to jump into a lake for the heck of it and stink
up the car the way dogs do. They’re not fools.
cats ski, sail, soak up the sun on warm, Southwestern
mesas, and even scale rock walls in backpacks. The
bonuses are endless: Cats will catch and eat flies in
your tent, and when you stop at a craft brewery for a
flight in some crunchy mountain town, they’re
perfectly content to curl up on the car seat.
we get up in the woods, he does his own thing,"
Matthew Tumbiolo, a Schuylkill County resident, said of
his cat Gepetto. "You’d think he was a dog."
even took Gepetto on his honeymoon, a road trip that
included hikes in the Outer Banks, Smoky Mountains, and
the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina.
go off into the woods on his own, maybe 30 or 40 feet
from us," he said. "If he gets too far, he
has eight cats but only one other, Mr. Bones, goes
outside. Mr. Bones acts like a teenage mountain biker on
Red Bull. Gepetto is more Thoreau at Walden.
Bones likes to distract Gepetto," Tumbiolo said.
"He kind of does this body-slam roll into Gepetto
when we’re out."
Swartz started slow with Buddy, easing him into the
harness and later the leash before venturing outside.
Some cats don’t get past the harness.
sometimes they just fall over," Steve said.
moved on to parks, and Apollo is the Swartzes’
favorite as it’s rarely crowded. Still, they make
laminated signs and place them at the trailhead and
other junctures along the route asking dog owners to
the cat is hiking here today," the sign reads.
"He is not used to strangers yet and can be a
has bigger plans for Buddy, including an overnight trip,
likely close to home at first. He’s already bought
Buddy, who has his own Instagram account, a tiny tent,
and Steve has plans for more gear in the future.
looking into a radio tracker with a five- to 10-mile
range," he said.
did bound down the trail at Apollo Park eventually,
mostly going 50 feet at a time before crouching down to
scan the scenery. He almost looked like a … you know
… but he isn’t.
he goes I go," Steve said. "He’s not leash
trained in the sense that he’s going to follow you
where you go. He is a cat."