Hasara Lay is the owner of two adventure cats, the founder of the Catexplorer website, and the host of the Catexplorer podcost. Nearly 25 years ago, Hasara started exploring the world with her childhood cat, Tabby, The two were strongly bonded and so Hasara took her with her on family road trips, which occurred every few months.
When Tabby died, Hasara grieved for a long time. At the same time, she felt grateful to Tabby who taught her much about life and cats. For example, Tabby introduced her to the concept of adventure cats, long before this was even a term. She also taught her husband to appreciate cats, and to entertain the idea of adding cats to the home.
One day a friend sent Hasara a photo of several foster kittens and Hasara immediately fell in love. She and her husband agreed to go see the kittens and decide if they wanted to adopt two of the six. Lumos immediately came up to play and cuddle with them. Then Noxie also started following them around. And that’s how Lumos & Noxie, two adventure cats, became part of Hasara’s life.
ALLISON: What has been the most fun adventure?
HASARA: There has been so many! One that stands out is the first time we used their cat backpacks. We had been unsuccessfully training them to use the backpacks at home ,and Lumos and Noxie still weren’t happy with them. We had the same experience with their harnesses, but they had a light bulb moment with them when we took them out with the harnesses. So we tried the same thing with the backpacks, and it just worked. The trip was supposed to be a 10-minute walk at a local park, but they had so much fun that we were there for two hours and watched the sunset.
ALLISON: What has been the most scariest adventure?
HASARA: Lumos & Noxie had been exploring for quite a while, when I decided to go have brunch with a friend. The kitties often go to brunch with my husband and I. However, this was my first time taking them by myself.
We had a great time, and Lumos and Noxie were awesome. They took turns walking and staying in their backpacks and were really well behaved at the cafe.
However, in the end, Noxie was not ready to go home. She chucked a fit when we got into the car. Lumos and Noxie travel in a separate carrier in the car. When I tried to transition Noxie from her backpack to the carrier, she refused and started running around in the car.
I always keep the car completely closed when I am transitioning them. However, this day was one of the hottest days on record and Noxie quickly became hot and started panting. I became panicked and tried to cool her down.
In hindsight, we shouldn’t have gone out on such a hot day, even if there was air conditioning in the car. I also should have stayed calm. Noxie probably felt my panic and that did not help.
ALLISON: How about a funny or embarrassing moment?
HASARA: While we are walking, Noxie loves sitting in her backpack with her paws resting on my shoulders or on my head. She looks over my head and shoulders, curiously watching the world go by. We’re used to this but always forget that this must be quite a sight for everyone else!
We were away for a weekend in Bowral, which is a country tourist town about an hour and half away from Sydney. We had brunch on the main street in Bowral. We decided to explore a little bit and Noxie did her typical stance on her backpack and my shoulders.
It was hilarious because we had so many people stare at us. We got quite a few comments of “oh my god!” and “that’s just nuts” and “is that a cat!”. It made us laugh because we made a bit of a scene on the main street of Bowral.
In the past that would have scared us as extreme introverts. Now it makes us happy, because it makes other people smile.
ALLISON: Why did you start the Catexplorer website?
HASARA: When I started training Lumos and Noxie I began sharing everything I learnt, from the products to use, the training techniques to try, and the places to go. I found a lot of people were interested in this.
I initially created Catexplorer as a depository for this information. But I also wanted to give people a place to share their stories, celebrate the wins, commiserate about the challenges, and swap lessons learnt. So I transitioned Catexplorer to be just that.
ALLISON: Why did you start the Catexplorer podcast?
HASARA: I felt that the members of the Catexplorer community have so much to share. Their stories are just incredible and deserve to be told.
There is only so much you can share in a caption on social media or on a blog post. I really wanted to dig deeper so decided to do that as interviews on a podcast.
It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve loved speaking to so many of these people. They inspire me by their stories and how far they’ve come.
What has the reaction been to these ventures?
HASARA: I’ve been blown away by the support we’ve received. Everyone has been so incredible and willing to share.
I’m proud of Catexplorer, but mostly of the members in the Catexplorer community. The amount of successes we have seen in the community has been incredible. We’ve had cats go on their first successful walk, their first car ride, their first backpack ride, and first every camping trip.
Hearing about all of these moments, just makes me so happy and grateful for our community.
ALLISON: What challenges did you encounter?
HASARA: I co-host the Catexplorer Podcast with my husband Daniel. We’re both extreme introverts and at times talking to people can be challenging for us. We’re constantly learning about interview techniques and how to improve the podcast for our community.
ALLISON: For others who aspire to change stereotypes about cats, what advice would you give?
HASARA: Keep showing the world what your cat can do. It’s only by sharing their amazing abilities that we can slowly shift perception of cats. Perhaps a photo or video may only do that for a couple of people, but can you imagine the change we can make if we all shared?