Pets & Animals

Between a rock and a furball: Man goes on climbing adventures with his pet cat

Today
Millie the cat's first climbing adventure was a day trip to Joe's Valley for some bouldering. She's perched atop Craig Armstrong, who is wearing a bouldering pad on his back.

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, wait — it's Millie the mountain-climbing cat!

Millie and Craig Armstrong, 37, of Salt Lake City have been inseparable ever since Armstrong adopted the furry feline as a tiny kitten. It didn't take Armstrong long to realize he could bring Millie with him on climbing trips. He first wrote about it on backcountry.com, where he works as an email marketer.

"This is my first cat," he told TODAY.com. "For the last two years everything I owned fit in plastic bins in the back of my truck. I had one pair of jeans and seven T-shirts. What I'm saying is, I enjoy freedoms. I don't like things that weigh me down or limit my movement, so I always knew I'd get a cat one day and not a dog."

Today
Scoping some new lines in the middle of nowhere, Idaho.

After taking Millie on some simple climbs, he and a friend started going on "catting trips." 

"I really just brought her as a companion," Armstrong said. "Turns out, she just loves climbing things. Also turn out, I have a friend that loves taking his cat places. So, we've gone on some trips just to do climbs with the cats. Catting trips, if you will." 


The "catting trips" are a way to climb casually with their felines. "When you go on a hard-core climbing trip, it is for you," he said. "It is a climbing trip." "Catting trips," on the other hand, are at a more casual pace that the cats can enjoy without having to worry too much about falling or getting injured.

Armstrong said he started climbing after speaking with a pretty woman at work who liked to climb. Although he did not fall in love with the co-worker in question, he did fall in love with climbing. "It is the moment when you meet fear and you either cave into it or overcome it," he said of his love of climbing and bouldering. "Those moments when you overcome it, you feel really good about it and it takes you to very beautiful places."

Taking the cat along with him has made Armstrong slow down and relax. "You experience nature at a different pace," he said. "The human agenda is not on the kitty's mind. I have to pay attention to her. It's just fun. You see things in nature otherwise you would have not seen. It is a pretty good time." 

Weekend climbing partner.

A photo posted by Craig Armstrong (@pechanga) on


While out in the rugged terrain, Armstrong said he rarely worries about Millie climbing ability. Instead, he finds himself focusing on other factors in nature. 

"She literally climbs up trees and up rocks," he said. "It is up to me to protect her — she isn't a wild animal. (Cats) will wander off, they'll get destroyed by a great horned owl, coyote, fox or who knows what. It's rad to get them out, but in doing so, you have to save them too."

Their next big adventure will be the West Slabs of Mount Olympus in the Salt Lake Valley. "(I'm) pretty sure she can handle it," he said. "I want her to see as much of the world as I get to. And it's fun having her around."

You can follow the adventures of Millie and Craig on his Instagram.

  • Slideshow Photos

    'My climbing partner eats chicken liver': Man hikes, climbs with his cat

    While many cats prefer napping in the sun, some love to climb, climb, climb. Here, Craig Armstong chronicles his adventures with Millie, his pet cat and trusty rock-climbing buddy.

  • 'My climbing partner eats chicken liver': Man hikes, climbs with his cat

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    Best buds -

    Craig Armstong adopted his cat, Millie, from an adoption center in Park City, Utah. Shortly thereafter they started to climb together. He started to document their climbs on Instagram and also wrote about it on backcountry.com. Armstrong shared these photos and captions about his adventures with Millie.

    Millie's first trip to a climbing destination, daytrip to Joe's Valley for some bouldering (that's a bouldering pad on my back).

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
  • 'My climbing partner eats chicken liver': Man hikes, climbs with his cat

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    Mountain Millie -

    Getting high in Ferguson Canyon, Utah. Millie actually got too high on this one, lost her footing and did a flying 180 at me (and) I had to catch her. She just loves to go up and hasn't learned (when) to stop doing that.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
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    Cat nap -

    At the top of 1,000' of Fun it was HOT. Millie catches some shade while Zac sets up the belay to start the descent.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
  • 'My climbing partner eats chicken liver': Man hikes, climbs with his cat

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    Canyon cat -

    Exploring Little Wild Horse Canyon near Goblin Valley in southern Utah.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
  • 'My climbing partner eats chicken liver': Man hikes, climbs with his cat

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    It's dusty out here -

    Every time we go to the desert, as soon as Millie gets out of the truck she rolls around in the dirt taking a dirt bath. I have no idea why, my buddy's cat Kenneth never does it. Must keep her cool or do something good for her coat, like birds do.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
  • 'My climbing partner eats chicken liver': Man hikes, climbs with his cat

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    Nowhere to go but up -

    Scoping some new lines in the middle of nowhere, Idaho.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
  • 'My climbing partner eats chicken liver': Man hikes, climbs with his cat

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    What a view -

    Summit reflections at the top of 1,000' of Fun, San Rafael Swell. Southern Utah views are amazing, especially from 1,000 feet up.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
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    Deep in the canyons -

    More exploring in Little Wild Horse Canyon.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
  • 'My climbing partner eats chicken liver': Man hikes, climbs with his cat

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    Tangled up -

    Chilling under the rope bag at Devil's Golfball.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
  • 'My climbing partner eats chicken liver': Man hikes, climbs with his cat

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    Furball -

    Fuzzy kitty Millie.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
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    The great white climb -

    Winter attempt to summit a peak on Stansbury Island in the Great Salt Lake.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
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    A leap of faith -

    Bouldering in Moe's Valley, Utah, downclimbing from the top of a tall boulder.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
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    Happy birthday! -

    Millie's 1-year old portrait.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
  • 'My climbing partner eats chicken liver': Man hikes, climbs with his cat

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    To the top! -

    Summit of Devil's Golfball, an aid climb down near Moab.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong
  • 'My climbing partner eats chicken liver': Man hikes, climbs with his cat

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    Chilly kitty -

    Climbing in Idaho. It was cold and windy. Millie catching some rest under my puffy and getting out of the wind.

    Craig Armstrong / Craig Armstrong



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