Is there anything that tugs at our heartstrings like stray kittens? How about those kittens finding their perfect home? Check out this next level cat rescuing.
Kayleen VanderRee and Danielle Gumbley live in Victoria, British Columbia. Kayleen VanderRee was tossing out some garbage in a trashcan at a park one night in July when she heard the mewing of two abandoned kittens roaming around in trashcans. VanderRee knew that predators like eagles and foxes also frequented the area, so she took action!
VanderRee waited until a tiny, adorable kitten emerged from behind a bush, then nervously approached her. “I coaxed him out and picked him up,” she said. Then, something unexpected happened. A second kitten emerged. That’s when she called in backup: her best friend, Danielle Gumbley.
Taking Them Home
“They were clearly abandoned,” VanderRee told The Dodo about the kittens. “There’s a lot of cougars and bears and eagles in the area, so we decided to take them with us because we didn’t want them to get eaten.” Of course, VanderRee and Gumbley originally thought they would take the cats to a shelter, but the local shelter was closed. As so often happens with kittens, they got attached to the two adorable cats.
The lucky felines were given names: VanderRee’s cat was named Keel, and Gumbley named her kitten Bolt. Now the once abandoned cats have fur-ever homes and get to stay best friends forever.
Their First Adventure
These cats didn’t even know how lucky they were when Danielle and Kayleen found them. It turns out their new owners were also active weekend adventurers. Originally, Danielle Gumbley wasn’t so convinced about the cats, but Kayleen VanderRee convinced her friend to let the cats come along on a weekend trip.
“I just gave puppy eyes to Danielle and said, ‘You have to keep them, as I can’t keep them, but you have to.’” At the time VanderRee was in college. Gumbley hesitated before giving in a little. She told her friend, “We’ll see how they do over the weekend.”
The Action-Packed Weekend
These kittens had no idea what an action packed weekend they were in for. Lucky for us, Kayleen VanderRee decided to document their first trip with the kittens. They started their adventures with the abandoned kitties in their hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, then branched out to mountains and lakes in the area.
Keel and Bolt didn’t seem to mind the trips. The girls even drove out five hours, but “Bolt and Keel mostly hung out in our jackets. They definitely attached to us right away and had no problem coming up with us on the drive up.” said VanderRee.
It turns out Keel and Bolt were natural-born adventurers and loved every second of the trip with their new owners. “Keel purred the whole time,” said VanderRee. “Once on the trail, they seemed to be right at home.” Her photos of the trip seem to confirm how much the cats enjoyed their adventure.
One of the completely content kittens pokes out of the top of a purple backpack in the photo above. It’s smiles all around. It seems safe to say these kittens are the purr-fect hiking companions. That’s not the only adorable anecdote from their weekend adventure with the kittens.
What Sealed the Adoption
Even though Danielle Gumbley was hesitant to take on the responsibility of two kittens at first, their weekend adventure sealed the adoption. “Danielle and I go out adventuring pretty much every weekend or every other,” VanderRee explained. “It was important to us that the cats could fit in with our lifestyle.”
After kayak rides, hikes through the scenic woods, and camping under the stars, Bolt and Keel seem to be adventure tested and adventure approved. It sure beats living in a garbage can! Plus, what could be better during a cold hike than a cuddly purring kitten curled up in your jacket for some extra warmth?
The Right Equipment
In order to keep Bolt and Keel as comfortable as possible on their adventures, Gumbley and VanderRee have stocked up on all the equipment these cats need. The cats each have their own sleeping bags, which they’ve abandoned in favor of sleeping on top of VanderRee and Gumbley.
Bolt and Keel also have tiny life jackets, harnesses, and leashes. Sometimes their owners dress them in sweaters, coats, or rain jackets to keep them out of the elements, but they can always save a safe spot inside VanderRee or Gumbley’s jacket. If you want to take your own pets on adventures, be just as prepared. Also, be sure to bring food and water for your pets, and stay up to date on shots.
Two Healthy Kittens
When Gumbley and VanderRee returned from their first adventure, they were convinced the cats would fit with their busy lifestyles, but there was still one essential step. They had to take Bolt and Keel to the vet. There they found out that Bolt, the fluffier kitten, and Keel, the shorthair cat, were most likely brothers.
Luckily, even though they had been abandoned, the veterinarian found that they were both in good health. With plenty of sunshine, fresh air, adventures, and hikes through the forest, they’re likely to stay that way for a long time. What lucky cats!
Some people think that dogs have bigger personalities than cats—but Keel and Bolt definitely prove them wrong. VanderRee insists the brothers have very different personalities. Keel eats up the attention, and “Bites your toes if you don’t scratch him,” said VanderRee.
Bolt, on the other hand, is a little more laid back. VanderRee describes him as “super relaxed,” and says she can, “carry him anywhere.” If you’re thinking about adopting a cat of your own but want to make sure their personality is a fit in your home, try fostering for a few weeks first before making a longer term commitment.
Just like the most adventurous humans, these adventurous cats need some downtime every once and awhile. VanderRee and Gumbley document their lives on a Facebook and Instagram page loaded with adventures, but now and then they’re hanging out on the couch.
Gumbley tore two ligaments in her ankle and was cooped up recovering at home. Thanks to Bolt and Keel, her recovery included a lot more cuddles. Cats make great companions for people who aren’t able to get out of the house as much because of age or disability since cats don’t need to be walked outside. On their adventures, the cats like walking, but sometimes they just want to relax and be carried.
These Cats Do What They Want
If you’ve ever tried to train a cat, you know exactly how impossible that can seem. Cats tend to be independent creatures and do what they want to do. Gumbley and VanderRee love going hiking, canoeing, sailing, snowshoeing, and kayaking—and sometimes Bolt and Keel do too, but the key word is sometimes.
“It’s really obvious to us when they do or don’t like something,” said VanderRee. “We make sure we are doing it for the cats and not just forcing them along.” While Bolt and Keel may have plenty of Instagram-worthy photos of their adventures, they’re also carried or hanging out at home a lot of the time.
Teaching a Cat to Walk on a Leash
You may notice that Bolt and Keel are often on leashes during their adventures to keep them safe and together. Not all cats are so comfortable with leashes—at least not at first. If you’d like to take your cat on similar adventures, you can start leash training at home.
Go for a harness, not a collar, and get them comfortable wearing it around the house before you set foot outside. When you do start walking outside, make your cat earn her supper. Break treats into tiny pieces before feeding, and give your kitty a small bite each time she steps in the right direction by a few feet. Patience is key.
How Many Cats Are in Shelters?
Bolt and Keel were lucky to find a loving home with Gumbley, but not all cats get the same chance. Each year, 3.2 million cats enter animal shelters in the United States, and of those 3.2 million, 860,000 cats are euthanized each year because of various reasons including injuries, illness, aggression, and just plain overpopulation.
Gumbley and VanderRee aren’t the only ones who are rescuing cats off the street. Each year, about 27% of new cat adoptions are found as strays. But that’s where the big problem comes in: why are all these cats on the street and what can you do to help?
Breaking Stereotypes about Cats
No one should ever commit to adopting an animal if they don’t think they have the time, money, or patience. All animals will destroy property at some point, have an unexpected vet bill, and maybe even exhibit some problematic behaviors. However, before you write off adoption, think about how a cat might fit into your lifestyle in an unexpected way.
The photo above was captioned, “Breaking stereotypes one adventure at a time.” That’s exactly what Bolt and Keel did for Gumbley, who thought the cats wouldn’t fit into her active lifestyle. Is there an animal out there that’s right for your home?
Cutting Down on Overpopulation
Sometimes adorable kittens like Bolt and Keel are abandoned as kittens because their mother’s owner wasn’t expecting any more cats. Sometimes, they’re born to another stray cat. In order to cut down on overpopulation, crowding in shelters, and euthanizing cats because there’s no home for them, there’s one simple solution.
Spay and neuter your cats! Not only are you helping to cut down on unwanted cats, a female cat will live a longer, healthier life free of breast tumors. She also won’t go into heat. A male cat won’t have to deal with some prostate problems or testicular cancer. And the benefits don’t end there.
More Benefits of Spaying and Neutering
Male cats are less likely to exhibit aggression, spray urine around the house, to mark territory, or wander away from home. Female cats also won’t yowl or urinate like they would when they are in heat. It’s also affordable to spay and neuter your pets, and many areas have a free or sliding scale program.
So with such a simple solution to overpopulation, why don’t more people spay or neuter cats? It turns out there are some major misconceptions. Spaying/neutering won’t cause your pet to become overweight. It also won’t emasculate a male cat; he’s a cat, so really, he doesn’t care. Kittens as young as eight weeks can be safely spayed or neutered.
Cats Are Family
The way we think about cats is changing. Many cats used to be natural predators on farms or in big cities. They were an effective way to chase off mice, so it was just practical to have one. Today, a majority—56.1 percent—of cat owners consider their cats to be family members. That’s definitely true of Bolt and Keel.
Another 41.5 percent of cat owners consider their cats to be companions. Maybe the most encouraging number is that only 2.4 percent of cat owners consider their cats to be property. With lots of love and cuddles to give and distinct personalities of their own, it’s clear these furry creatures are so much more than an object.
What to Consider before Adopting
Kayleen VanderRee was totally won over by Bolt and Keel, and she just couldn’t imagine giving them up, but she wasn’t able to take them in because she was still in college and her housing didn’t allow it. Fortunately, her BFF Danielle Gumbley made the commitment so VanderRee could hang out with Bolt and Keel whenever she wanted.
Housing is one of the most important factors to consider before adopting a pet. If you’re a renter, you may find your options are much more limited than expected. Makes sure to check out cat-friendly rentals in your city to make sure there is a variety in your price range before making the leap. There are even fewer dog-friendly rentals on the market.
Cats Are Lovebugs, Too
“Cats are usually seen as very home based and laid back, and dogs are the loving ones that always like to come on adventures,” said VanderRee. Bolt and Keel prove cats can be just as loving and adventurous. The adventure kitties may be so excited about their weekend camping trips and hikes because it’s become a habit.
If you’re thinking about taking your own cat on adventures, you might want to build up to longer periods of time outside. VanderRee also thinks Bolt and Keel being kittens when they started going on adventures helped them get used to all the time outside.
Bolt and Keel’s Fan Club
Since Bolt and Keel’s adventures went viral, the brother cats have amassed 69,200 followers on Instagram, and have made 475+ posts of their time exploring the wild. Their fans are inspired by their heartwarming story of finding a forever home and have even started taking their own cats on Bolt and Keel inspired adventures.
“We look at our hikes and adventures differently,” said VanderRee. “I get competitive, like go-go-go, and it forces us to slow down and really enjoy the process.” Gumbley was also surprised by how well the cats meshed with her lifestyle. Who knew cats could be such compatible outdoor companions?