A rescue cat has swapped tree climbing for mountaineering making it to the summit of Mount Snowdon and Sugar Loaf Mountain in Wales this year with its lurcher pal and veterinary nurse owner in tow.
While part Maine Coon moggie Orion posed happily for photos 1,085 metres up on Snowdon, it was on a day out in the tamer landscape of Gloucestershire’s Westonbirt Arboretum that he left his rescuer Katie Bowen, 31, “having kittens.”
Katie, of Bracknell, Berkshire, said: “We did have a hairy moment in Westonbirt in October 2021, when I let him climb a tree, but he went higher up than I could reach and wouldn’t budge.”
She added: “I spent about 20 minutes waiting for him to decide to come down. He was quite happy to just sit there watching everyone.
“I was having kittens, thinking he wouldn’t come back!”
Katie, who also has a pet lurcher, Pongo, five, first encountered Orion, now two-and-a-half, in June 2019, when he arrived at the rescue centre where she worked with his sister.
Just two-days-old, they had been separated from their mother, so Katie hand-reared them.
She said: “Orion was found as a kitten, so no one knows a lot about his background or even his breed.
“I was a vet nurse in a rescue centre. We would often get kittens brought in and I ended up with Orion and his sister. They were tiny.”
She added: “I hand reared them from two days old.”
Sadly, Katie only had room for one kitten at home and, after falling in love with Orion, she decided to adopt him when he was old enough to leave the centre.
“He’s always been a real mummy’s boy,” she laughed.
She added: “He loved being with me constantly. I could only really keep one kitten with the space I had at the time and his sister was more of an independent lady, suited to a different home.
“I just couldn’t let Orion go.”
At that point, Orion had only roamed around indoors but, determined he should have the same opportunities as Pongo, Katie started training him on a harness when he was nine weeks old.
She said: “I started putting a harness on him as a kitten and he didn’t bat an eyelid.
“He’s such a chilled-out cat. He used to come in to work with me and nothing seemed to bother him
“So, I thought, ‘I take Pongo out on all these adventures why shouldn’t Orion be part of that?'”
She added: “I started off with putting a harness on him at home so he could get used to it in the house, then I started to attach the lead.
“It just kind of developed from there.”
In September 2019, Orion stepped outside wearing his harness for the first time, walking with Katie and Pongo around her local wood, Swinley Forest, in Bracknell – and loved every second of it.
Katie said: “I know the route in Swinley Forest well and it’s pretty quiet.
“But he loved it.
“Every time we walk we do it on Orion’s terms.”
Two years on, Orion is a veteran rambler and even joins Katie on eight-day camping excursions in Wales.
“I generally take Pongo and Orion wherever I go,” she said.
“Orion even comes away on holiday. Most of our holidays are either camping or in a van. We just hit the road and off we go.”
She added: “He loves being in the van because he can just watch the world from his little domain.
“He’s really nosy. When we get a pitch to camp, he likes to sit up on a picnic table and surveys the whole campsite.
“He just adapts so quickly.”
And in September 2020, Orion scaled Snowdon – Wales’ highest mountain – with Katie and Pongo.
“Wherever we go, people get very excited. They always go, ‘Oh my god, it’s a cat,’” laughed Katie.
“I did have to carry him some of the way up Snowdon, but we still climbed it together. He did get to do some exploring which was brilliant.”
Try a harness – before venturing outside try a harness. Not every cat accepts it, so make sure yours is comfortable.
Buy a cat rucksack – create a safe place for your furry friend to go if the outside world gets too much.
Be aware – cat walking can be fun, but always check out the pet's safety first and keep them away from dogs and other potential hazards.
Go at the cat's pace – do not rush - cat walking can be slow, but you have to go at your pet's pace.
Walk a route you know – for your first walk, go for a rural known route that is quiet and has few fellow walkers using it.
Even airborne display teams do not scare the intrepid feline.
Katie said: “We’ve even been out when the Red Arrows flying team have flown over and, instead of being scared, he’s just sat down and watched them.
“We have been into a couple of towns together, too. Most of the time when we’re in an urban environment, he’ll sit on my shoulders.”
But, whether they are walking in the park or climbing Monmouthshire’s Sugar Loaf Mountain, which they did in November this year, she keeps Orion on his lead.
She said: “I do this for his safety, although he still gets up to mischief – like the tree incident in the arboretum!
“He likes walking in woods best. We went to the New Forest in Hampshire a couple of weeks ago and he really enjoyed that. He likes exploring.”
She added: “Snowdon wasn’t his favourite expedition, because it was a bit windy, which is the main element he doesn’t like, so for some of it he hid in my cat carrier.
“But we did get a photo of him at the top of Snowdon, which is brilliant, and he walked some of the way and loved it.”
With pet food brand, ORIJEN, reporting that one in five owners would like to start walking their cats on a lead, but lack the confidence to do so, Katie is keen for people to see that, with the right training, it can be done.
“I would say just pick up a harness, they are really cheap, and see if your cat accepts it,” she said.
“Not every cat is going to wear one, let alone accept a harness with a lead attached to it.
“But try it at home first and in an environment where the cat is comfortable and just let them get used to it.”
She added: “For the first walk I would choose somewhere quiet and just go at your cat’s pace. Some cats just aren’t going to want to do it, especially if you’re starting with an older animal.
“But if your cat enjoys walking it can be an amazing experience. I really encourage feline owners to try it.”
You can find out more about ORIJEN’s biologically appropriate meals for both cats and dogs here: www.orijenpetfoods.co.uk