After a video of a human and his cat sledding down a slope set social media ablaze, adventure cats Weston and Ellinore are taking the Pacific Northwest – and the whole world – by storm.
Weston and Ellinore reside in Chehalis, Washington with their human mom and dad, Ashley and Jesse Smith, and they aren’t just adorable kittens – they’re adventure cats extraordinaire who have inspired aspiring would-be feline adventurers worldwide.
These adventure kittens recently gained fame when Jesse, who is a professional photographer, posted a video of their adventures on Instagram. It was just your everyday video of a cat riding on his person’s shoulders while they zipped down a snowy slope. Weston, perched atop Jesse’s shoulder like a sailor in the crow’s nest, scented the air with his nose as they picked up speed.
As of this writing, it has had more than two million views – and it has provided a rare glimpse into the secret lives of these feline adventurers.
When Weston and Ellinore first became part of the Smith Family, they were socialized on a regular basis – including going on regular hikes. Adorned with harnesses, the kittens acclimated quickly to the great outdoors and their excursions within the beautiful Pacific Northwest. They often lead the way on their hikes, much to the delight of fellow hikers.
When snow began to fall, Jesse and Ashley didn’t put their felines’ adventures on hold. Following the success of their hiking trips, they took them sledding. While Weston took to it immediately, Ellinore decided that she was more of a trail cat than a snow bunny. In between trips down the slope, the kittens warmed up in the car, refueling for another adventure.
This feline duo was adopted from the Lewis County Animal Shelter last October. Weston, a dapper tuxedo cat, caught their eye, but not before they fell in love with a tabby named Ellinore. “My wife always had tuxedo cats,” Jesse said, “and we’d just lost our beloved tuxedo, Gaige, to a silent and aggressive cancer. We went to the shelter, not necessarily looking to replace Gaige, but to see if any of the cats spoke to us.”
Ellinore was quick to reach out. “Right off the bat, Ellinore was very vocal, and very friendly,” Jesse said. “The moment I opened the kennel, she leaped onto my shoulder and then to the top of my head, where she continued to sit for the next few minutes.”
Then they saw Weston, and he was nearly identical to Gaige. “He really had a way with my wife,” Jesse recalled. But they’d also fallen in love with Ellinore, who was only a few months older than Weston. Rather than choosing one or the other, Jesse said: “We decided to claim both furballs. We placed them both into the same kennel over the weekend, since they still needed to be fixed and we wouldn’t be able to pick them up until the following Monday.”
When the two kittens met, Weston bypassed Ellinore and went straight to the bowl in Ellinore’s kennel.
Currently they have one older sister, a tabby named Delilah. “The two kittens were an instant fit for both of us, but for Delilah, that wasn’t the case,” Jesse recalled. “There were a few weeks of tension, but they now get a long quite well.”
The Smiths are avid hikers, so they decided to bring their new feline family members along with them.
“Shortly after adopting them, we discovered the website adventurecats.org, which pointed us in the right direction with all the things we need to know for hiking, camping, and outdoor adventures involving your cat.”
While their first hike together at Coldwater Lake near the Mt. St. Helens Monument was four miles long, the kittens kept up. When they slowed down, Jesse and Ashley picked them up. “They didn’t want to be held, though,” Jesse said. “They wanted to be on the trail. That was the moment we really thought that this could really work.”
Since that first hike, the quartet has explored many trails across the Pacific Northwest, including Rainbow Falls and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, where there was already two feet of snow on the ground. “The cats put in roughly two miles and they did a great job,” Jesse said. “By the time we reached the turnaround point of the hike, they were ready to curl up on our hiking packs and hitch a ride back to the car!”
Their recent hike at Rainbow Falls State Park was “the best I’ve ever seen,” Jesse said. “Typically there’s 15 to 30 minutes of warm up before they get the flow of the trail. This time they were in ‘go’ mode from the start: never running out of sight, and always coming when we called for them. It filled us with pride to see them trotting along the trail and enjoying it.”
Weston and Ellinore might share a love of the great outdoors, but their personalities are very different. “Ellinore is very calculated and smooth. Weston is wide open, clumsy at times, and quite the lover. He is pretty responsive to voice commands and getting into the flow of the hike,” Jesse said. “Ellinore marches to the beat of her own drum, often testing our patience. But if these cats have taught us anything in the wild, it’s definitely patience. We’ve learned how to slow down more on the trail and take in the sights, enjoying watching the two climb downed trees.”
Weston and Ellinore sometimes make appearances at Jesse’s “day job,” photography. “I’ve been professionally shooting photos since 2006,” he said. “I have a special place in my heart for the sport of Motocross. I’ve been into it since I was 13 – I’m 29 now – and I cover races around the region for NW based Racing organizations, some of which the adventure cats will be attending in the coming months.”
Over the years, Jesse has freelanced with the local newspaper in Centralia, the Chronicle. “I have experienced a lot of awesome things in my time with the publication,” he said. “I do a lot of commercial photography for local businesses, senior and family portraits, commercial wedding photography, and nature and landscape photography. I look forward to the upcoming hiking season and taking more captivating photographs of the sights around Washington, but with cats in the foreground this year!”
“For 2017, Ashley and I plan on hitting the trail hard with our new companions,” Jesse said. “We want to do a couple overnight backpack trips with the two fur balls, some car camping at our favorite northwest campgrounds, and hopefully give kayaking with the cats a try.
“Ashley and I both want to express our appreciation to everyone who has shown interest in what we do, and all of the new followers Weston and Ellinore have gained in the wake of this viral sensation,” Jesse said. “We also want to say that fame has never been the goal for these two. Their well being is our number one priority, so first aid kits, and the knowledge of how to take care of them if the unspeakable were to happen, is always on our mind.”
Jesse added: “Weston’s ego has definitely outgrown his litter box, but we try to keep them humble. We’ve been blown away by how viral that video has become. Both of them both get much more attention, and a lot of people enjoy seeing them when we decide to take them out and about in town.”
We won’t let Weston and Ellinore know that they’re cover cats now – or that they’re heroes for felines and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
To learn more about Weston and Ellinore, visit their Facebook page here.