The best things in life tend to happen when you’re not expecting them — Nathalia Valderrama Méndez and Mantas Mozeris can both attest to that. Last summer, they were living in an apartment in Lithuania and had no plans to get a pet when one suddenly came into their lives.
“We had long ago made a decision together to contribute as little as possible to the pet-shop industry and to only take in animals that are in need of a home,” Méndez told Adventure Cats. “We felt that instead of searching for a pet, especially when we weren’t really planning on getting one, we’d just let it come to us naturally — an animal that would be in real need of a home. Shortly after, Yuki came along and conquered our hearts.”
Now, Méndez, Mozeris and little Yuki live in Sweden, where they spend their days exploring Stockholm and the gorgeous natural wonders of their archipelago. We recently spoke with them about their outdoor adventures.
Adventure Cats: How did you come to adopt Yuki?
Nathalia Valderrama Méndez: Last summer, our 10-year-old neighbor friend Samanta found a little kitten abandoned by the river Dubysa and brought her to us at our apartment. Samanta would always bring us little animals that were wounded or needed help, as she knew how much we love animals.
Yuki was just a baby and she looked so scruffy and thin and had very little energy. We gave her some water and food. Once she gained back some energy, she started looking into our eyes, really gazing into them. That really hit our hearts. There was this instant mutual recognition as if we remembered her and she remembered us.
But we decided not to do let emotions stand in the way, so we started to walk around the neighborhood and ask if maybe someone had lost their kitten. But it seemed no one was missing her, and one neighbor said that this was common around here, that people get rid of kittens by throwing them into the river. That just really broke our hearts and souls to know there are people who would actually do such things to animals and to think that this kitten probably was a survivor, that she had gotten away somehow.
We immediately felt this protective responsibility over her. We knew it was meant to be and questioned it no further. We gave her the name Yuki (夕嬉), which in Japanese means “evening joy,” as she had come to us that evening, bringing so much joy into our lives. We felt that we had been waiting for her, and now she was home. The triangle was completed. A family was born.
Can you tell us a little about Yuki?
Yuki has, since a little kitten, always been very feisty and rough when it comes to playing. She’s our little fighting spirit! She loves to bite and wrestle — but only to the level that our hands can take. She likes to play fetch and to chase dragonflies, bees and other bugs. She loves to watch and help mommy cook. She can be very cheeky and mischievous as she “retaliates” when she’s told off and is very vocal in her complaining too. But Yuki is also very soft, gentle and cuddly. There are just so many things that make our baby Yuki special.
What inspired your first adventure with her?
That same evening when walking back home with Yuki, we put her on the grass to see if she would follow us, and she did. Right away we decided that we’d take her on daily walks from then on, as we didn’t want her to settle for an indoor-cat type of life. We felt she deserved much more — a full life.
What activities does Yuki enjoy?
She loves her forest hikes, visiting the lake, swimming, chasing bugs and to see the ocean waves at sunset. She loves water.
We have taken her on car, bus, subway and commuter train rides to get to my parents’ place, where my beloved Morgan and Ikaro live. They’re two cat-hating Jack Russell terriers. I am just so surprised of how easily they have accepted Yuki into their lives. They get along great, and Yuki is now part of their pack.
Does Yuki have any special outdoor gear?
We just have a Sherpa carrier bag for her travels, the harness and the retractable leash. But when we get a kayak or canoe we might get her a life vest, although she doesn’t really mind swimming.
How did you leash train Yuki?
The first four to five months walks were without harness and leash. She’s always been great following us and coming when called. But as much as we trusted her we’ve always been scared of cars, and I thought that it would be good to start getting her used to going on a leash for more crowded places and around roads.
The leash training took some patience. We realized that pulling the leash as little as possible in the beginning and just walking at her pace and where she wanted to walk was key to a successful leash-walking cat.
Today, we take off the leash in forests and in places where there are no cars around, so she can run free, climb trees and be wild. She never wanders too far and stays in sight. We usually say we have the best leash in the world. It’s invisible, yet the strongest. It’s the trust leash.
What’s one of your favorite memories with Yuki?
A nice memory was on one of our first walks in the forest when moving back to Sweden this spring. We heard a crying sound in the bushes, and Yuki spotted two baby deer. Their mom was around, but Yuki was very curious and got a chance to get quite close to them. We thought that it was a very wonderful and beautiful way to welcome Yuki to Sweden. They later ran off with their mama deer. It was quite magical.
What advice do you have for people considering taking their cats on adventures?
We’d say that first and foremost not to do this as the result of a growing “trend” nor for your own selfish needs, but to take your cat on adventures because you want your cat to experience the world, to embrace their wild side and to expand their consciousness and awareness, to fulfill their daily life as a cat, as well as to grow a stronger bond with your kitty.
Now, depending on age, personality and past of the cat, this will take some patience, dedication and a lot of responsibility. One has to be sensitive to the cat’s preferences, as well as alert to their unpredictable reactions, quickness and discomforts. They’re not like dogs, and they get easily put off things.
Also, to keep a cat, such a naturally wild animal, indoors is to take away a very big part of their natural being. By sharing Yuki’s adventures in pictures we’re hoping to encourage and inspire cat “owners” around the world to take their kitties on fun outdoor adventures. We all deserve and need nature.
Scroll through the gallery above to see more of Yuki’s ameowzing adventures, and keep up with her on Instagram.
All photos are courtesy of Nathalia Valderrama Méndez.