Many cats get to be stars, but not many get calls from “America’s Got Talent.” Then again, Romeo is no ordinary cat.
Even before he began his outdoor adventures, Romeo, a Bengal, had earned the title of adventure cat. His indoor activities — including skateboarding, playing piano and navigating obstacle courses — even led to appearances on Animal Planet, NBC and Bravo and in publications of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”
Clicker training helped Romeo learn his skills, but these days, he’s more focused on enjoying the great outdoors. “He is a little terror to his siblings if he doesn’t get his adventure time,” Cindy Rio-Rados told Adventure Cats.
Romeo, his brother, Kieran, and their camera-shy sister, Alex, live with Rio-Rados and her husband in the Seattle area.
The rainy weather doesn’t always allow for outdoor time, so Rio-Rados uses food puzzles and other activities to keep the kitties stimulated. Plus, regular training helps Romeo so he “doesn’t see Kieran as competition,” according to Rio-Rados.
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Luckily, Kieran is fine giving his brother the spotlight — and all the camera attention. When someone pulls out a phone to photograph Romeo, Rio-Rados says Romeo avoids the camera. “He is like ‘No paparazzi’ and turns his head away,” she said. But with larger cameras, Romeo “actually works the camera.”
Rio-Rados documents Romeo’s adventures online, and he’s one well-traveled feline! He often joins his owners on the ferry or in an attached carrier on their bicycles. He has also traveled on buses, seaplanes and helicopters, but taking the train remains on his bucket list.
Romeo even flew to Central Texas recently, where he roamed in an enclosed yard for the first time and was “a happy little bee in that yard, prancing around and surveying his world,” according to Rio-Rados.
Because he’s a Bengal, Romeo thrived in the heat and humidity of Texas. However, Seattle’s cooler temperatures often require him to don fleece jackets, especially since the kidney disease he developed after eating tainted cat treats left him unable to regulate his body temperature well. However, the condition hasn’t affected Romeo’s appetite for adventure.
Romeo’s favorite outdoor activity? Walking the trails near his home.
“The trails are perfect for him. They’re like guidelines so he doesn’t have to guess where to go,” Rio-Rados said. Romeo’s tendency to sniff everything makes for slow going, but it allows his owner to “see hiking as a different way of viewing the world, which was actually more liberating than the physical component of it.”
Rio-Rados credits Romeo with “opening her world,” and it’s easy to see why. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which limited her activity in public.
She’d planned to get a service dog to assist her, but from the day she brought Romeo home, she realized that he “seemed to have a need to be with me wherever I went.” She used clicker training to reinforce Romeo’s service behavior but says, “it’s his instinct that makes him so perfect for the job.”
Unfortunately, cats aren’t widely recognized as service animals, but many local businesses have accommodated Rio-Rados and Romeo. His favorite store to visit is REI because he can sit in front of the big fireplace, which Rio-Rados says, “is an adventure, but he can also relax.”
Getting Romeo more comfortable with larger crowds had an additional, unexpected benefit for Rio-Rados. “He brought me a husband!” she said.
Rio-Rados’ future husband approached her and Romeo at the mall one day, and they spent several hours talking. When they later married, Romeo served as ring bearer and held the important jobs of Bride’s Cat and Best Cat.
Whether he’s helping his owner live a fuller life, performing on TV or acting as matchmaker, Romeo truly embodies the spirit of an adventure cat. He’s expanding the way people view felines and showing the world that cats are capable of much more than just snuggles and entertainment.
Watch Romeo explore Mount Rainier National Park in the video below.