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Gary is an adventure cat, making him part of a growing global network of outdoorsy felines.James Eastham

James Eastham is at the top of Nakiska Ski Area, getting ready for his first run of the day. He puts down his red backpack, reaches in and pulls out a cat named Gary.

“He falls asleep in his pack a lot,” Mr. Eastham says. “We probably interrupted nap time.”

Gary has sharp green eyes and plump paws. His fur is white and grey, with the two colours sharing space on his face. Gary is named after Calgary, where Mr. Eastham adopted him. He doesn’t meow much. Neither does Gary.

Mr. Eastham puts tiny goggles over Gary’s eyes, throws his pack back on, and hoists the cat onto his shoulders. Gary stretches out so he can look downhill, with his face next to Mr. Eastham’s right cheek. Gary wraps one front paw over Mr. Eastham’s right shoulder and dangles a hind leg over the other.

“Skiing with Gary is a pretty casual affair,” Mr. Eastham says. And then Mr. Eastham starts skiing. Down a mountain. With a cat on his back.

Gary is an adventure cat, making him part of a growing global network of outdoorsy felines. Gary wears a safety harness when skiing and a life jacket while rafting. He hikes and likes to camp. Mr. Eastham’s partner adopted Gary as a kitten six years ago and together they document their adventures online for the cat’s 248,000 Instagram followers.

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Gary has been featured on Catexplorer, an Australian company that offers training tips and organizes cat meet-ups around the world.James Eastham

Gary has merchandise and occasional sponsorship deals. Catexplorer, an Australian company that offers training tips and organizes cat meet-ups around the world, featured Mr. Eastham and Gary on its podcast. Mr. Eastham and Gary played host to a virtual meet-and-greet at this year’s Edmonton International Cat Festival; paying fans tuned into a livestream Q and A as the pair canoed around Canmore’s Rundle Forebay.

But Gary isn’t a corporate sellout. Mr. Eastham works in social media and his partner is a veterinarian. They are fussy about which brands Gary backs. The Edmonton International Cat Festival, which organizers claim attracts 3,000 cat lovers each year, donates ticket revenue to local rescue groups, for example. Gary promotes Trupanion, a pet insurance company, which aligns with his owners’ passion for animal welfare. Mr. Eastham and Gary ski free at Nakiska, a mountain 100 kilometres west of Calgary, in exchange for social-media buzz.

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Gary sits on the shoulder of his owner James Eastham.James Eastham

And while Gary has a following, his audience is dwarfed by the 1.9 million people who keep tabs on Suki, a Bengal adventure cat in Calgary. Suki’s owners did not return a message seeking comment.

Adventure cats are often the product of compromise and envy. Selvynna Tang adopted a kitten 2½ years ago because she couldn’t have what she really wanted: a dog.

“Dog owners get to bring their pets everywhere,” she says. At the time, Ms. Tang lived in an apartment in downtown Toronto that was too small to accommodate a puppy. Still, she longed for the canine lifestyle and put Teddy in a harness in a pet store one day. “He seemed fine,” she says. She took him to a park and the kitten remained unperturbed.

“They don’t know that it is weird.”

Ms. Tang acclimatized Teddy to car rides, stores, parks and trails. Now the pair live in Vancouver and Teddy can handle five-hour hikes, assuming someone carries him most of the way. Cats, after all, are not dogs.

“It is possible to train them, but they are definitely not going to be walking alongside you as you run down a trail,” Ms. Tang says. Teddy poses for photos at scenic viewpoints – the domestic short-haired cat has 9,345 followers on Instagram and the odd sponsor – but nature isn’t really his thing.

“He actually really likes wandering around in parking lots,” Ms. Tang says. “He likes concrete. In parking lots, he’ll sniff around and if he finds a good spot, he’ll actually roll around in it.”

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Michelle Gagnon, seen here with Bodhi, has been adventuring with cats since 2001, making her a pioneer in the community.Handout

Michelle Gagnon has been adventuring with cats since 2001, making her a pioneer in the community. Ms. Gagnon wanted a dog – she planned to enroll her prospective pet in an avalanche rescue program – but was living out of a van in Canmore then. She settled for a kitten and named him Bugaboo, after the B.C. mountain range.

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Bodhi is a Maine Coon who rides on a sled when his owner Michelle Gagnon skates.Handout

They headed south on a three-month road trip, climbing mountains in the United States. Bugaboo has since died and now a Maine Coon named Bodhi is her buddy.

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Bodhi is a sensation on Instagram, with 23,700 followers.Handout

“He’s very opinionated,” Ms. Gagnon says of her two-year-old cat, who has 23,700 followers on Instagram.

Bodhi lounges on her shoulders when they ski, chills in a sled when they skate, and stands on the bow of Ms. Gagnon’s boat when they paddle. “He’s a bit of an adrenalin junkie,” she says. “I just hope to see more cats out there – to make it more of a normal thing.”

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Michelle Gagnon and Bodhi, drying off after a dip.Handout

But adventure cats require patient, flexible owners. “You can’t just make a plan and go,” Ms. Gagnon says. “It can take forever to walk around the block initially.”

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Betty is Stephanie and Landon Ketterer's cat.Handout

It also means putting up with strange looks. Stephanie and Landon Ketterer brought their cats, Mike and the now late Lily, on their honeymoon two years ago. They went to wineries and a brewery as they road-tripped through the B.C. Interior. The cats, as experienced kayakers, tried paddleboarding for the first time. Mike, sensing Mr. Ketterer’s nervousness, jumped off the board, swam 20 metres to the shore of Okanagan Lake, and hid with a family sitting on the beach. The family laughed, but not everyone plays nice.

“We get rude comments all the time,” Ms. Ketterer says. “People say it’s cruel. Cruel to put clothes on your cat, cruel to make them go outside or make them walk.”

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Stephanie Ketterer holding her cat, Mike.Handout

But most people are curious. Back at Nakiska, James Eastham says Gary, a cat who wears goggles designed for dogs while participating in activities meant for humans, is increasingly internet-famous.

“You get a lot of people wanting to take a photo of you if you are skiing or hiking because it is not something you see every day,” Mr. Eastham says.

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James Eastham/Handout

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect first name for Landon Ketterer.

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