On May 23, Erin Verplaetse was hiking at the base of Colorado’s Quandary Peak with her boyfriend, Graham Shuee, when they encountered a mysterious basket on the trail.
Shuee immediately got down on one knee and opened the basket to reveal a 5-week-old black-and-white rescue kitten and an engagement ring.
“He pulled off this grand scheme with some help from his friends,” Verplaetse said. “He admitted that he had no idea what we would do with another cat, but couldn’t imagine proposing to his crazy cat lady any other way.”
Naturally, she said “yes.”
Verplaetse named the tiny kitten Quandary Q Lotus Lady, although she typically refers to her kitty simply as Quandary or Q, and little Q became an adventure cat at that very moment, hiking alongside her newly engaged parents.
“We saw her being young and open-eyed as an opportunity to have her be our adventure cat,” Verplaetse said. “Our other two kitties were adult-adopted rescues and not as open to our adventures, despite our efforts. We immediately decided that Quandary would go everywhere with us.”
After about a week, Verplaetse’s other cats, Zoe and Nimbus, accepted the tiny Quandary into their home with open paws. Not long after that, Quandary decided to show off her kitten parkour skills with a leap from the dining table — a leap that broke her tibia, “leading to a couple months worth of paychecks and heartbreakingly adorable casts.”
Quandary spent a month in a cast and two weeks on cage rest, but once her little bones had healed, she was back to daily leash training in nearby parks to get accustomed to being outdoors.
On her first camping trip, Verplaetse says Quandary was “a perfect combination of curious and cautious,” which gave her a lot of confidence about continuing to adventure with the kitten. Now she says Quandary does a bit of everything: hiking, camping, climbing and even accompanying her and her fiancé to cat-friendly breweries.
However, she says Quandary’s favorite activity is definitely camping.
“She loves watching the birds, bugs and fire crackle. She sleeps like a rock, snuggled in my bag with me at the end of the night.”
When they head out for a trip, Verplaetse and her fiancé always bring along Quandary’s adventure pack, which includes collapsible bowls, food and toys, and they also pack a litter box, which they leave in the car.
“Yes, we’re those weird people that travel with a (clean) litter box and extra litter in our car.”
During the car ride, Quandary typically prepares by taking a catnap so she’ll be full of energy when the hiking begins.
When it’s time to adventure, Verplaetse says Quandary always wears a harness and tags, acknowledging that while her kitty usually stays close, “you can never be too careful with your fur babies.”
“Hiking with Q inevitably is unpredictable. She’ll do a combination of jaunting along and hitching a ride on mom or dad’s shoulders. In the same manner she is also spontaneous in her wish to either scramble up the nearest tree or saunter eagerly down the path.”
Verplaetse admits there are disadvantages to hiking with a cat if you’re focused on speed and covering lots of ground, but says there are also incredible benefits to venturing into the great outdoors with your feline.
“Hiking with your cat definitely keeps you humble, and therefore much more attuned to your surroundings; to slow down and soak it all in,” she says. “Cats are such curious creatures that want to look closely at everything. We aren’t taking her for a hike. Quandary is going for a hike, and we are lucky enough to be trailing her.”
Keep up with all Quandary Q Lotus Lady’s adventures by following her on Instagram.
All photos are courtesy of Erin Verplaetse and Cody Wellons.