Most pet cats will become timid or defensive when outdoors, but not Millie – after being adopted by her mountain-climbing owner Craig Armstrong, Millie has become a feline hiking and mountain-climbing legend.
“She literally loves to climb things… if there’s high-ground she’ll seek it out,” Armstrong said in an interview. He had nothing but praise for the tenacious little athlete: “Generally she does best on slabby routes where she can scramble from ledge to ledge. She’s an incredible athlete but steep juggy routes just aren’t her thing. When bouldering, though, she’s done some pretty amazing gaps and dynos.”
“I go on a lot of weekend climbing adventures. It never seemed odd to me, just seemed like something I’d do with my pet, take her places,” explained Armstrong. Ever since Millie climbed up onto his shoulder at the Furburbia adoption center in Utah, Armstrong knew they’d make a good team.
There are, of course, pros and cons to taking your cat hiking – “We camp in my truck; She peed in there one night, but she caught a mouse in there one night, too.” Armstrong hopes that they can become a team in other aspects of his life as well; “I’m still waiting for the day we come across a group of pretty ladies and they love Millie and invite us to their campfire that night.”
Meet Millie and Craig Armstrong, an inseparable mountain-climbing team
Like any other cat, Millie loves to explore. Unlike most other cats, Millie also likes to scale cliffs, climb mountains and investigate crags
Millie’s gear consists of a harness, a leash and some rope
“I go on a lot of weekend climbing adventures. I always figured when I have a pet friend, I’ll take her with me,” said Craig.
“Generally she does best on slabby routes where she can scramble from ledge to ledge. She’s an incredible athlete, she does some big jumps and gaps”
Millie’s friend Kenneth leading a pitch in southern Utah.
“Millie has all the qualities a good climbing partner should have. She never complains, no matter how bad it gets. She always wants to go higher, and she pushes herself hard. But she also knows when to stop”
“I stay close when dogs come around but, like any little one, you have to let them learn how to defend themselves, so I let her stand her ground sometimes. I do worry about snakes but we haven’t had that encounter yet”
“Start slow outside: a local park was first. I’d run from tree to tree and get her to follow. This got her used to being outside and following me around”
“She doesn’t like wide-open spaces with no cover, so I’d take her to a big island in the Great Salt Lake, get out of the truck, and start hiking up a hill. Rather than be alone out in the open, she’d follow me”
“It’s taken a lot of practice and many trips to get Millie to the point where she follows me down a trail past areas like thickets that would have distracted her otherwise. Put your agenda away, be prepared to move slowly and explore the world around you at a smaller, slower pace.”
“Whether she’s following me or I’m following her I generally just stay close enough to rescue her from trouble. I love that little furball and I’d be traumatized if something bad happened, so I stay close.”
After a long day of training, it’s time for the mountain-climbing duo to relax. That is, until their next hike.
He also had plenty of advice for owners who might consider hiking with their own cats. “Get them used to their name and to you as a safe place. In talus fields or thick woods she’ll get distracted and climb trees or explore tiny caves and under boulders and stop following sometimes. It’s taken a lot of practice and many trips to get Millie to the point where she follows me down a trail past areas like thickets that would have distracted her otherwise.”