Ever heard of a cat going hiking? How about sailing? Or snowshoeing? Or kayaking?
If your answer is no, it’s time you met Victoria’s famous adventure cats Bolt and Keel.
The 10-month-old brothers have amassed more than 21,000 Instagram followers in four months.
Their “humans” are two Victoria women: Kayleen VanderRee and Danielle Gumbey.
The 20-something friends were working at a summer camp in East Sooke Park last summer when they stumbled upon the abandoned kittens behind a garbage bin at Aylard Farm during their lunch break.
“Keel walked out and mewed at me,” Kayleen recalls.
At first they intended to take them to a shelter, but it was closed by the time they got home, so the adventurers ended up taking them on their weekend trip to Strathcona Park.
That outing involved a five-hour drive, followed by a canoe journey across a lake and a five-hour hike to Marble Meadows.
“It rained the whole time and they didn’t really care,” Danielle says with a laugh.
From that point on, they weren’t giving the kittens up.
“I thought: I can’t take two cats. That’s insane!” Danielle says. “But I don’t regret it.”
Since then, Bolt and Keel have added sailing, kayaking, snowshoeing and camping to their repertoire.
Once, Bolt even slipped in the water while paddling in the Christmas kayak parade.
“He just lay there in the water,” Kayleen says.
“Because they were so young we’ve just taken them out on most of our adventures so they’ve kind of been conditioned to that being normal. We’re definitely not like cat whisperers in any way.”
Kayleen, the lady who takes all these gorgeous photos, created Bolt and Keel’s social media presence as a class project for a communications course at UVic.
Soon, she was being contacted by publications all over the world. She woke up one morning with a 5,000-person leap on Instagram.
“The Internet loves cats. And tell a story with the photos.”
The ladies and their cats just returned from a sponsored trip to the Sunshine Coast, where they canoed, camped, hiked a piece of the Sunshine Coast Trail, stayed in a hut and even went Zodiacing.
Funnily enough, when they’re at home, Bolt and Keel are indoor cats.
“We don’t tend to take them out close to the city,” Kayleen says. “They don’t like Mount Doug. They don’t like beaches. They like a narrower trail, not wide open.”
They enjoy a challenge though — like scrambling up a mountainside — and they loved running around the sailboat during a week-long trip last summer.
On June 2, the cats will celebrate their first birthday. At the current clip, they’ll have amassed about 30,000 Instagram followers by then. Meantime, Kayleen will graduate from UVic in recreation and health education this spring.
As for Bolt and Keel, they’ll continue to be Internet sensations “as long as the Internet loves cats.”