Explore Georgia with Pine and Shroom

Rebecca Terry always considered herself a hiker. But by early 2020, she wasn’t hitting the trails as much anymore.

Then an orange cat named Pinecone strutted into her life. 

Terry met her at PAWS, an animal shelter in their city of Rome, Georgia. Pinecone, who was then a kitten, charmed Terry and her husband instantly.

“All of a sudden she flopped on her belly,” Terry recalls. “I looked at my husband and was like, ‘We cannot leave this cat.’ She was our cat.”

They took her home, and Terry bought a harness on Amazon. She began training Pinecone to both walk on the harness and ride in a backpack outdoors, and before long, Terry was hiking again — this time with Pinecone in tow.

Now that Pinecone is a veteran of the trails, Terry and her husband have added another adventure cat to their lives: Mushroom, a one-eyed tabby cat who loves walking on-leash and meeting people. Terry captures her cats’ adventures on Instagram, where you can see them posing atop rocks, sniffing in the woods, and sporting stylish bandanas around north Georgia’s trails. 

Behind the scenes, though, Terry is careful to tailor trips to each cat’s needs. Although both Pinecone and Mushroom enjoy adventuring, they have different personalities and preferences when outdoors.

“Pinecone does like it, but I will say she is a particular cat,” Terry explains. “She loves being in her bag. She is super shy but super friendly.”

Because Pinecone is more reserved and prefers traveling in her backpack, Terry often hikes with her in the early morning, when trails are likely to be quieter. 

“When she feels truly comfortable, she’ll jump out of the bag,” Terry says. “She loves to sniff things. She’s a very slow hiker, but I actually love that.”

Mushroom, on the other hand, is up for a faster pace. Although she’s lived with Terry and her husband only since late 2021, she’s made a name for herself as the family’s social butterfly.

“She is the exact opposite of Pinecone,” Terry says. “She does not want to be in the bag whatsoever. She loves to see people on the trail.” 

Because Mushroom and Pinecone have different adventuring personas, Terry doesn’t take them out for the same trips yet. Instead, she chooses activities for each cat to suit their interests. 

Mushroom likes exploring and snuggling with her humans, making her the perfect candidate for kitty camping expeditions. When Terry and her husband take her camping, Mushroom spends the night sleeping beside them in a hammock.

“She does phenomenal,” Terry says. “She’s so good at sleeping in the hammock.” 

Since Pinecone prefers seeing the trails from the comforts of her backpack, she can accompany her humans on longer journeys. Terry’s favorite hike with her so far? A day exploring Cloudland Canyon, a Georgia state park known for its scenic waterfalls.

Like many cats, Pinecone isn’t always a fan of water. But by gradually training her with treats, Terry helped relieve Pinecone’s anxiety near waterfalls, and they spent a perfect day together at the park.   

The pair visited on a weekday to avoid crowds. They sat together in front of a waterfall, watching autumn leaves cascade around them. 

“I think it was the most beautiful experience I’ll ever have,” Terry says.

Wherever she travels with Mushroom and Pinecone, she has cat necessities on hand. Mushroom and Pinecone get plenty of water and snacks, and Terry always keeps the cats on-leash when outdoors.

“You never know what cats are going to get scared of — a smell, a sight, a sound,” she says. “I don’t even like to edit out the leash in photos.”

Safety is key for Terry’s adventures. Dogs are, of course, a common sight on hiking trails, so Terry is prepared for all canine encounters. 

“I’m pretty vocal about [the fact that] my cats can get nervous,” she says. “I usually scoop them up. If Pinecone is uncomfortable, she’ll go on my shoulder and climb back into the bag.” 

At home, though, Pinecone and Mushroom have three dog roommates. They live in a loft with high beams, which offer hiding spots for Pinecone when she wants to spend some time apart from Mushroom. 

Since Mushroom is relatively new to the family, Pinecone is still adjusting to her presence. But, Terry says, they’ve made progress toward friendship: The cats spend time together on their cat tree, for example, and Terry often hears them playing together at night.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the end of them bonding,” she says. 

Pinecone was the first cat Terry ever adopted as an adult. She was going through a difficult time before meeting her, but Pinecone helped change her world for the better. 

“I’m a cat lady now,” Terry says. “I’m obsessed in a way I didn’t think I would be.”

These days, curious hikers sometimes stop her on the trails. After all, Terry often travels with either a cat in her backpack or a cat walking alongside her.  

“It’s more so with Mushroom,” Terry says, “because she’s out of the bag. I’ve had people stop me and ask questions about how this works.”

She encourages people new to the world of adventure cats to put their pets’ needs first. That means packing essentials like water and food, keeping cats leashed at all times, and preparing for emergencies. 

But it also means letting cats lead the way. Don’t skimp on training your cats — “I trained very slowly,” Terry points out — and figure out what’s comfortable for them.

Because Terry caters her trips to Pinecone and Mushroom’s individual preferences, they can enjoy being outdoors as much as she does. 

“Time, patience and encouragement is what you really need” when training your cat, Terry says. “Have them determine what your adventure should look like.”