Meet Gary, an Instagram-famous Alberta adventure cat

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.

Helicopters? No big deal for this cool cat. (Submitted by James Eastham)

“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 drape himself across Eastham’s neck like a scarf as his human leisurely skis mountain 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.”

WATCH | Gary goes kayaking, skiing and ‘meow-taineering’:

Gary the Cat’s adventures kayaking, skiing and ‘meow-taineering’ are being well documented for his more than 300,000 Instagram followers. 0:58

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. 

Eastham says Gary favours one activity above the rest: paddling. ‘He just sits on the front of my boat and soaks up the sun and gets rocked by the waves gently to sleep.’ (Submitted by James Eastham)

“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.

WATCH | Other adventurous Alberta cats:

Turns out there’s more than one Albertan taking their cat out to the mountains. Thanks to the owners of Bodhi, Jules, Milos and Dave for letting us feature your very well-behaved felines. 0:36

“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.”

While he doesn’t like to go super fast, Gary the cat sure loves to take in the slopes on his owner’s shoulders. 0:26

‘We started harness training [Gary], and as he got more confident and happier outside, we just kind of slowly started going on longer excursions,’ Eastham said. (Submitted by James Eastham )

Wild ice skating is a hobby for many Albertans out on the frozen mountain lakes of the Rockies, even for the Instagram famous Gary the cat. 0:13

Gary, pictured, takes a break from the slopes to laze upon a snowmobile in the Rockies. (Submitted by James Eastham)

With his goggles in place for a little sun protection, Gary the cat loves taking walks outside. 0:11

‘When we’re out, especially when we’re skiing but also when we hike, Gary’s favourite place to ride is on my shoulders,’ Eastham said. (Submitted by James Eastham)

Tagging along for a paddle is one of Gary’s favourite activities, since he can sit in the sun and gets rocked to sleep. 0:13

This very adventurous Alberta cat has made it to the summit of many peaks in the Rockies. 0:14

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