No Lazy Couch Kitty! Exploring With Archer the Adventure Cat
After patient training, Vivian Li and her fiancé, Tony Yu, now take Archer on woodland hikes, urban treks, and even kayaking!
As a child, Vivian Li used to get nervous around cats, and always thought she'd prefer a dog to be her four-legged companion to explore the great outdoors. That was before she rescued Archer, a paw-some adventure cat who puts a capital C in "curiosity." Now Li, her fiancé, Tony Yu, and Archer use the grand Canadian wilderness as one expansive kitty playground.
Based in Toronto, Ontario, Li describes Archer as curious, confident, and outgoing by nature. Rescued as a kitten, Li and Yu initially followed the recommendations of keeping him in an enclosed room in his new home to help him adjust and be comfortable. "To our surprise, he wanted out of that room by the second day, and was already prepared to explore the whole house!" Li says.
Archer was around 3 months old when Li and Yu considered venturing outside with him. They started by slipping Archer into a harness. Anyone who's ever tried this with a cat knows exactly what happened next!
"He immediately flopped like a fish on the ground! It was quite hilarious and dramatic to watch." Li says. "The following few days, we put the harness on him more frequently, and incorporated it into his meal, play, and nap time. This made sure he felt complete freedom and not restricted in his movement."
Bit by bit, Archer pawed his way into the world beyond a sunny windowsill. He always had his special cat backpack to retreat to for safety as he grew more accustomed to new noises and scents. Although he responded more positively to leash and harness training, desensitization of unfamiliar noises took more time.
"Eventually, we were able to transition to a quiet park or trail on some small explorations," Li says. "We put him inside his backpack, and let him watch the cars, people, and bicycles pass by. Finally, he was able to feel comfortable and confident enough to slowly explore outside. It was quite a milestone for all of us!"
Li says one of their most memorable adventures is a 15 kilometer (just over 9 miles) hike in the Bruce Peninsula Provincial Park in Lake Huron. "It was one of the most difficult and longest hikes we have ever done together, as the path wasn't paved and people could easily get lost on the trails," Li says. Archer was eager to walk the whole way, but that pace wouldn't help them reach a famous destination, The Grotto, so he rode most of the journey comfortably in his backpack. "Along the way, we even had some families jokingly tell us that Archer would be the first cat to ever reach the beautiful site of The Grotto!"
Training an adventure cat does have some twists and turns. For example, Li says initially, Archer had a lot of fear and anxiety in the car, which often led to extensive meowing and a lot of bathroom accidents, but they continued to learn together. Because Archer is so used to being engaged in the great outdoors, Li helps combat boredom indoors by teaching him various tricks, such as sit, high-five, spin, and wave!
Li received a lot of questions on social media from people asking for tips for cat adventuring and how she started training him, so she started a blog, Our Pawsteps. She shares tales of their excursions, car ride and harness methods, gear essentials, and other helpful aspects of this lifestyle.
"I believe every cat could be an adventure cat, but it does take true dedication, patience, and perseverance to train them," she says. "Each cat will react differently to their new surroundings, and the best way to guide them is always through positive reinforcement."
She also felt it was important to share this knowledge with others who want to enrich their cats' lives through adventures. "I use my blog to debunk all the limits people may have put on cats, and let them know that life with a cat has many possibilities."
Without a doubt, Archer is living his best life!