The doctor is in…into adventuring with his cat, that is.
Veterinarian Dr. Kenneth Lambrecht — aka Dr. Ken — runs West Towne Veterinary Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin, and when he’s not tending to the local critters, Dr. Ken can often be found adventuring with his cat Little Bug. In fact, Dr. Ken and Bug’s adventures over the last six years have taken them on a variety of excursions around the world.
Bug joined Dr. Ken’s family after one of his cats passed away. Dr. Ken, seeking companionship for himself and for his other cat at the time, told his clinic that he was looking for a male to join the family, but when an assistant introduced him to female foster Bug, Dr. Ken knew she was a “purrfect” fit.
“I took her home to meet my 7-year-old cat, Tiger,” he said. “She strutted up to him and said, ‘I am here. Deal with it.’ She is truly different!”
The rest is “kitten” in history.
Bug came into Dr. Ken’s life through his veterinary clinic, and today, Bug can still be found hanging out there. In fact, when she’s on the clock, you’ll often spot her in Bug’s Gym, the clinic’s feline exercise facility named after her.
“She often sleeps on top of the refrigerator, supervising our staff meetings or up on a perch in the business office or in Bug’s Gym,” Dr. Ken said.
The idea to build a feline-focused gym arose when Dr. Ken realized that such facilities are rare for cats.
“I used to own 4 Paws Swim & Fitness, a dog-rehab-and-weight-management center, and I said, ‘Hey, cats need indoor fitness, too,'” he told Adventure Cats. “It started with building Big Mountain. Then I added running wheels, climbing walls and everything else. It is important we tend to the needs of cats to climb, hide and generally be active and stimulated in their indoor environment.”
MORE: This cat is visiting all the U.S. national parks
Despite having an entire indoor facility named after her, Bug’s adventures aren’t limited to the indoors whatsoever. Bug has gone on a variety of outdoor escapades, including stand-up paddle-boarding, sailing, beachcombing, tree climbing, hiking, canoeing, skiing and rock-climbing.
And she’s quite the cosmopolitan kitty. She accompanies Dr. Ken to all of his veterinary conferences, so she’s traveled across the nation via car, tram and bus. She’s even been to Europe.
I had to step back from my training as a veterinarian, scientist and wildlife biologist and just look at Bug in different terms. She has truly opened my eyes to what cats are capable of
Bug’s sense of adventure cannot be contained by one country or even to one type of adventure. Not only that, but Bug’s venturesome personality also seems to defy limits. One of her SUP adventures even included a 2-mile trek and overnight camping trip. Clearly, this is one intrepid cat.
Bug certainly has quite the diverse explorer’s resume, but Dr. Ken says that Bug’s favorite types of adventures involve water and walks alongside him.
“She is absolutely fascinated by water of any kind, but hiking in the woods with me off-leash is her favorite,” he said. “I actually take all four of my cats on short half-mile, off-leash walks regularly. When she gets on sand, Bug totally transforms, and she loves to run along beach when waves are crashing in.”
Dr. Ken even created his own CFD or “Cat Flotation Device” (pictured above) for Bug for when the water is rough.
Although he’s worked with cats for years, Dr. Ken says his experiences exploring nature with Bug have changed how he thinks about felines.
“I had to step back from my training as a veterinarian, scientist and wildlife biologist and just look at Bug in different terms,” he said. “Many people joke that she really isn’t a cat. She has truly opened my eyes to what cats are capable of.”
MORE: Could your cat be an adventure cat?
Indeed, Bug embodies what it means to be a true adventure cat, and her adventurousness is even rubbing off on her kitty sister, Annie, whom Dr. Ken hopes to take on adventures soon.
As for Bug’s future plans, Dr. Ken will undergo the challenge of paddle-boarding across Lake Michigan and Bug will join him on the support boat. In addition to being a SUP pro, Dr. Ken is an avid sailor and hopes to take Bug yachting with him all over the world.
Dr. Ken is also planning to write a non-fiction book for children about Bug’s adventures, which he hopes will challenge common perceptions about cats.
“I want to inspire courage and adventure to children by showing them that our preconceived perceptions about cats — or anything — can be limiting,” he said. “Cats really are magical creatures that can inspire all of us.”
Truer words have never been meowed.
Think your kitty would enjoy getting outside to explore the great outdoors like Bug? Dr. Ken says it’s “pawsible,” but he advises that it’s not for every furry friend. If you decide to give it a shot, he suggests that you start when your cat is young and take it slowly.
“Get them used to being comfortable in your arms and in a soft travel bag. Getting used to traffic noise and loud noises of all kinds gradually is key. Use harnesses — not collars [and] attach a long light leash. Have them microchipped and, of course, treated for heartworm, tick, and flea control. Avoid risky situations and know their limits by watching their body language. Stay close to them to protect them from predators.”
We agree with Dr. Ken: Safety “purrst” is the name of the game.
For more information about Dr. Ken, Bug and Bug’s Cat Gym, follow this dynamic doctor and cool cat on Facebook. All photos courtesy of Dr. Ken Lambrecht.