Bolt and Keel are not like ordinary tabby cats.
Instead of roaming inside apartments and staring out windows at birds, the two brothers enjoy going on outdoor adventures with their owners, Kayleen VanderRee and Danielle Gumbley.
The duo take the cats out almost every weekend to various spots around Vancouver Island.
Bolt and Keel have gone snowshoeing at Mount Washington, climbed to the Triple Peak lake in the Port Alberni Valley, participated in a week-long sailing trip, a four-day canoeing and kayaking trip, and countless day hikes.
The adventures started 10 months ago when VanderRee and Gumbley were running a kids summer camp at East Sooke Park.
While stopping for a lunch break in the parking lot near Aylard Farms, VanderRee heard a soft meow coming from behind the garbage cans. To her surprise, she saw two kittens roughly four weeks old, who had made a make-shift home for themselves.
The women asked around to see if the cats belonged to anyone in the park with no luck, so they decided to take the kittens home.
“Originally I was going to take them back to my house and to the SPCA. But by the time we were done work, (the SPCA) was closed,” Gumbley said. “The next day we were leaving for a canoe-hiking trip up in Strathcona Park and . . . I said ‘I guess they’re coming with us’.”
The cats proved to be more curious than regular house cats, and after the cats survived a long car ride, a paddle and two days in the rain, the women fell in love with them.
Gumbley, an avid rock climber, named Bolt after the bolts climbers clip into. He also has a zigzag on his tail that looks like a lightning bolt. Keel was named after VanderRee’s love of sailing.
Since then, the women have taken Bolt and Keel along with them on almost all their wildlife adventures.
The cats, which are “still in training,” are buckled into a harness and leash when they go on hikes, or Bolt will wrap himself around VanderRee’s neck. While water doesn’t seem to scare Bolt and Keel, loud noises still spook them.
“They’re pretty good at adjusting to new places because that’s all they really know,” Gumbley said. “It’s probably just because we found them so young and we’ve exposed them to constant change. But it’s also their personality.”
VanderRee also started a Bolt and Keel Instagram account that has more than 23,000 followers in the past four months. They also have their own Facebook account, SnapChat, and YouTube channel that has more than 200 followers.
“People love cats anyway. But it’s not very often you have adventure cats. It’s just grown fast mostly because people like cats,” VanderRee said. “As long as it’s quiet, (the cats) seem to enjoy it. They seem to enjoy the challenge, which sounds weird. You can tell by a cat’s tail and mannerisms with how they walk.”