How did you start adventuring with Mr B?
Mom first began taking me out in our garden in January 2020. I was 4 months old and not very furry yet, so I was very cold. Mom realized I needed to wear something warmer so she had to get me a dog coat.
What is the perception of adventure cats like in America?
We know there are adventure cats in the US and in some areas you may actually encounter one although we have not. The general public though is not really aware of them, certainly not where we live. We hear “is that a cat” all the time. The COI community has created an opportunity to generate overall awareness that cats can be just as adventurous as dogs and ensure the perception of adventure cats is positive and inclusive.
Do you find many cat friendly places and activities in America?
With the lock-down situation being in place most of my adventuring life, we have still had opportunities to find cat friendly places. We have gone to garden nurseries, herb farms, barn sales and pet shops. We have also been able to explore church grounds, universities grounds and other unique local landmarks such as Cranbrook House and Gardens and Belle Isle.
What has been you experience in general with taking your cat outside?
Overall, we have had good experience outside on leash at most parks and forests. But we had a very negative off-leash dog experience which has been difficult to get past. We live in a small city neighbourhood and last summer I started to go on evening walks so I could practice tree climbing. One night an aggressive off-leash dog lunged, jumped and barked at me while I was in a low branch of a tree. The owner made no attempt to control the dog. I was terrified and jumped to a fence while yanking the leash from my dad’s hand. I hid in the dark for 15 minutes until I was found. My parents waited a full month before trying again in the hopes I had forgotten about it. What a sad coincidence that the same dog was outside again completely unsupervised. Although this time it didn’t get as close to me because mom saw it right away, it reinforced my fear. Now I growl any time I see a dog.
Thinking more around off-leash dogs, how has this impacted yours and your friends’ adventures?
We proactively prepare in advance for off-leash dog encounters. Mom always carries a big stick. She and dad continually scan the area for dogs. I also have embraced riding on top of my backpack. That means I can be quickly scooped up and feel safe if a dog approaches. The downside to all this is that we do not thoroughly enjoy our experience because we are forever looking out for dogs. I can speak for some of my friends when I say their preparations and experiences are similar.
What made you want to start the Cats on Leash campaign?
After these negative encounters with our neighbor’s dog, we began selecting places to explore that would ensure little to no chance of meeting a dog. But these tend to be quite far from home so most of the time we go to our local nature park near our home. Many people let their dogs off-leash despite the leash requirement. Sometimes these encounters unnerve me and we have to go home. Last fall my best friend in Norway and another cat in the US were also aggressively attacked. This led me to form an IG chat group with fellow adventure cats to talk about our experiences on trails and to give each other support, encouragement and share tips. But the final catalyst was the brutal attack on Olivia Bengal early this year. We all knew this could happen to any of us or any of our friends. I rallied around Olivia to help the medical funding campaign and saw how generous and open the COI community was. The Cats On Leash Awareness Month (COLAM) was the culmination of all these things. We realized we had a voice and collectively we could be heard.
What does the campaign consist off and set out to do?
COLAM is designed to bring about a general awareness that cats like to explore and hike with their humans safely on leashes. But we also want to enlighten others who may be out with their dogs that they might encounter a cat on their travels. As such, we hope people think about the potential pitfalls of letting a dog off-leash in a leash required area. But we also believe dogs are just as wonderful companions as cats so we purposely approached the issue as positively as we could. The last thing we want to do is alienate or shine a negative light on the adventure dog community or the adventure pet community at large. We thought it would be fun to showcase dogs and cats who actually share their on-leash adventures. This way we spread awareness and generate camaraderie with the dog community too.
How can others join in and what does the future hold for the campaign?
Any one can join in this campaign. You don’t even have to be an adventure cat, dog or hiker. We have two hashtags to show support. Simply add them to your posts or stories. #CatsOnLeashAwareness and #SupportCatsOnLeash . You can add the COLAM badge to your photos. Finally, you can join our distribution team to share the feature accounts. Just send me a DM to be added to one of the distribution groups. You’ll receive the photo, caption and handles to tag 48 hours before feature day.
As for the future, we haven’t fleshed anything out yet past the campaign. But the overwhelmingly positive support and use of the 2 hashtags tells us the campaign is a success, and we hope people continue to use them. We would love to make a connection with the dog community to create a general coalition of support for awareness and adherence to leash laws. When you select a place BECAUSE leashes are required, you should be able to rely on everyone complying with the law.
If you had one piece of advice for adventure training a cat, what would it be?
If you love going outdoors yourself and regularly do so, don’t be afraid to try taking your cat with you. But do so safely on leash.
Do you have any travels or big adventures planned for this year?
We are hoping to do some traveling within Michigan again. We would love to visit the Upper Peninsula to see Tahquamenon Falls and Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore. When our border re-opens with Canada, the number one place we want to go is the Bruce Peninsula in Canada. It is a special place for mom and dad.
You can find out more about Mr.Bingley, Emma and the whole family plus follow their adventures at @mr.bingley.mainecoon on Instagram.