Source: CBC (Extract)
Posted: March 24, 2021

Hiking, skiing and paddling cat takes social media, world by storm.

An Alberta housecat — ski goggles strapped to his furry face and zipped into a tiny winter jacket — likes to go for a leisurely ski down mountain slopes while draped around the neck of his human.

Gary the cat, from the mountain town of Canmore, has also traversed mountain ranges, wandered frozen lakes and — his favourite — been rocked gently to sleep on the bow of boats.

All while being snapped in photos and video that have made him an Instagram star.

Described by owner James Eastham as grey, white, fluffy and “pretty cute,” the six-year-old feline was adopted from the Calgary Humane Society about five and a half years ago.

But his thirst for adventure and bids for freedom eventually led to internet celebrity.

“Gary tried to escape our apartment, so we decided if he wanted to go outside, he’d have to go out on a leash,” Eastham said on the Tuesday edition of CBC Calgary’s The Homestretch.

“So we started harness training him. And as he got more confident and happier outside, we just kind of slowly started going on longer excursions — first just to the local park, and then shorter hikes.

“And eventually day hikes, paddling and even skiing.”

Gary likes to curl around Eastham’s neck like a scarf as he skis the slopes and documents their adventures with photos and videos.

“Skiing with Gary is a pretty casual affair, so we stick to the easy runs,” Eastham said. 

“He doesn’t like it if we go too fast, the wind kind of messes up his fur and gets in his face, so we ski slowly and carefully.”

However, Eastham says there’s one adventuring activity that Gary favours above the rest.

“Gary’s favourite thing to do is paddle. He just sits on the front of my boat and soaks up the sun and gets rocked by the waves gently to sleep.”

Social media stardom — along with a Reddit page and merchandise — wasn’t far behind for Gary, who now boasts more than 340,000 followers on Instagram, though doesn’t mean he is always recognized. 

For instance, he rides the chairlift in a backpack, which allows him to be discreet, for a time.

But when he emerges to double as Eastham’s ski scarf on the slopes, the second glances and shouts from the chairlift begin: “Oh, it’s the cat guy!”

“I think it’s a bit unusual … You don’t see a lot of cats out doing these sorts of things,” Eastham said. 

“He’s a pretty cute cat, so that helps. And people love the mountains. So you put it all together, and it’s a winning combo.”

Eastham’s advice for pet owners who want to get their own cats into adventuring? Go slowly.

Gary was acclimatized to a harness indoors, and at his own pace. They embarked upon activities with care and dressed Gary to protect from the cold, and his eyes from the sun.

“Gary’s a pretty tolerant cat and we’ve worked up to this over a long period of time, so he’s comfortable with it,” Eastham said.

“Cats do what they want to do, so I don’t recommend just stuffing Fluffy in a bag and going to hit the slopes. That probably won’t go well.”

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