The Cats of CARCA

Applicant Name: Shmuley Hawrys

Aliases (if any): Shmooberts

Handler (Human): Elisha Hawrys

Well Shmuley is a very sensitive cat….although she has a Jewish male name she is a female cat that has the physical strength of a male cat of the Jewish variety.  She has a strong calling to seek out and rescue others…she does this for me every day when I get lost in my apartment.  She may be diabetic with a crooked tail and declawed from a previous owner (booo!!) she has skills that make all of this irrelevant.  Shmuley loves cold weather and especially loves getting wet in the snow.  What more could you ask for from a potential rescue cat?  Shmuley is fearless as well.  You should see the damage she does to the bugs she finds in the apartment..scary!!   Interestly, Shmuley has learned a lot from Murdoch a rescue dog in Fernie trained by my brother Dave Hawrys (for real).  I think the skills she has learned from Murdoch will help her immensely during this training process if she is accepted.

Summary of Skills (point form please)

–       Super fast

–       Meows extremely loud all the time

–       May be declawed but she is quick with her paws

–       Really long white whiskers…good for search skills I think

Applicant Name: Albert

Aliases (if any): “Fat Albert”

Handler (Human): Jon Martin

Albert would be  invaluable to any avalanche rescue  team as a source of warmth, an alarm to bad weather (meows loudly), a projectile for triggering avalanches as well as all of the standard rescue cat responsibilities.

Summary of Skills

a. detects and seeks out body heat instinctually

b. highly visible in snow (he’s black)

c. excellent digger

d. expert mountaineer and backcountry skier

e. high altitude helicopter rescue experience

Applicant Name: Buddy

 Aliases (if any): Hey, Bud; It’s the Budster; Buddy, my man

 Handler (Human): Michael and Lauren O’Malley

We are thrilled to take this opportunity to submit an application from Utah, where innovations in avalanche science and rescue techniques have a long and storied history.

Buddy is a 13-year-old barn cat rescued from the shelter.  What would be better than the rescued becoming the rescuer?

Buddy’s skill set could fill a critical gap in your feline roster. While not particularly athletic, Buddy would make an excellent supervisor for a team of Avy-cats.  He is never shy about expressing his opinion, he’s highly vocal (particularly around dinner time), and, best of all, he sits around a lot.  So he’d be in a perfect position to direct the activities of all the overachievers shown on

Buddy’s avalanche experience focuses upon advance preparation and forecasting. He has been raised in Summit Park (aka “Ice Station Zebra”), which is an outlying neighborhood of Park City, UT.  The roof just above our front door (see photo) gets a lot of wind load, and when the roof snow pack breaks, the snow piles up and up and up.  Buddy’s keen sense of hearing detects the subtle shifts in the roof snow pack, and whenever a huge rip occurs, he’s curled up on the living room rug.

There is a strong positive correlation between his napping patterns and roof avalanche occurrences.  Of course, there’s also a strong positive correlation between his napping patterns and most any other conditions, but with further specialized training that only C.A.R.C.A. offers, we feel this can be refined to a high degree of sensitivity necessary to advance the success rate of Avy-Cat teams.

Summary of Skills

 Managerial skills – Won’t lift a paw to get things done

  • Wisdom that comes with age – He’s seen it all: raccoons, porcupines, that nasty mutt next door. He doesn’t fold under pressure; he exercises good judgment and hides under the back porch.
  • Sheds constantly – Loose hair would dampen unstable snow base
  • Articulate – Meow means:
    a) “An avalanche is imminent”
    b) “Isn’t it time for a spoonful of Pacific Salmon paté?”

Applicant Name:   Josh

 Aliases (if any):  Loverboy (girl)

 Handler (Human):  Laurelyn Sayah

 Since I last contacted you with interest in enrolling Josh in an Avy-Cat Level 1 course, we have made progress in his training.  He has been fitted with a special location-finder cone to help him focus in on victims quicker, and attached antennae to lengthen his range of detection (see photos).  He seems to be tolerating the new responsibilities well, and will be ready for service as soon as the vet clears him (her) for outside duty again.  I am working on training him to ride inside my parka instead of the carrier for quicker deployment.

 Summary of Skills

 Josh is very good at detecting even small mamalian movements under several feet of solid material, and at finding a way to get in to the source (less good at getting back out).  His location-finder enhances this skill, but can get in the way for digging, so he would be most efficiently used as part of a team where a specialized digger Avy-Cat would come in as soon as the victim was located.


Applicant Name: Nigel

Handler (Human): Mike/Christina

After hearing about this documentary, Nigel realized he had found his calling in life. He has always excelled at digging and making a big mess out of gardens and himself and we feel he can put his experience and energy into something a little more productive. At two years old, this was his first actual winter in the snow and he loved every second he could be outside rolling around in our west coast cement. Nigel is also extremely friendly and has no fear of people. Upon rescuing any victim, Nigel would pounce upon him/her and provide warmth and comfort to the frightened victim.  We think his energy, digging skills, affection and feline persistence would make him an excellent candidate for a new coastal chapter of  C.A.R.C.A.

 Summary of Skills

  • -great a digging(in the neighbors bark mulch and snow!)
  • -affectionate
  • -loves people
  • -young and full of energy, when not napping

Applicant Name: Mo

Aliases (if any): Stripes

Handler (Human): Sam

Mo is a spry kitten of about 5-6 months of age. As you well know, kittens are most easily trained at this age so she would be an excellent candidate for the CARCA program. From an early age Mo has displayed a high aptitude to human needs. The attached photo is an excellent example of her dedication to he human counter parts, defending what she recognizes as important to them. She has no qualms about small spaces and will frequently dive underneith our couch cushions as part of our at home avaluanch simulation training. She will likely be well suited to being a part of your advanced deployment team and will feel quite comfortable in the Avaluancher. She is a strong minded kitten with a fierce desire to please her humans. She would without a doubt make an excellent addition to the CARCA team.

Summary of Skills

  • -Dedicated
  • -Sharp claws for digging
  • -Happy in small spaces
  • -Small in actual size… to fit in the smallest of spaces
  • -Will chatter to get her point across
  • -Feisty
  • -Likes to sit on your shoulder for a better veiw with her superior cat vision

Mo the kitten demonstrating her digging technique in the "2-stage Cold-Activated Avalanche Training Simulator"

Applicant Name: Rango

Aliases (if any): Ranger Rango

Handler (Human): Dr Liz

Please explain why you feel your cat would make an excellent CARCA Avy-cat. (use additional space as needed)  Rango has an adventurous spirit, excessive curiosity and a deep love for people.  He can also put up with dogs, when need be.

We live in Rhode Island, where there is only one ski area, Yawgoo Valley.  Yawgoo is not exactly a mountain, it is more like a hole that people ski into.  While avalanches are a rarity here, the possibility exists that an earthquake or nearby demolition related to road construction could trigger an avalanche, piling up manmade snow and ice upon the foot of the hill/hole, perhaps burying all of the dozens of skiers who are on the mountain on a given day.  The local ski patrol would be paralyzed without the aid of a trained and fearless rescue cat.  Response time would be quick, as all roads approaching Yawgoo come from uphill, where he resides.  Rango could be skidded downhill to the site of a tragedy with a simple push of his crate onto the rutted ice of the primary slope.  The gentle, almost non-existant vertical drop would deliver him at a very slow speed to the site of any disaster.

Rango’s love of adventure and people make him the ideal cat for this work.  He would like me to bring him to Fernie, to train with the best, so that he can bring home authentic CARCA skills to little Rhodey’s ski resort: Yawgoo Valley.

Summary of Skills

  • Rugged
  • Fearless
  • Cold tolerant
  • Digs well

I know this CARCA thing has broken down a lot of barriers, but this is a bit too much, too soon.


Applicant Name: Riley

Aliases (if any): Riley-Diley Dinger-Donger,  Fancy Boy

Handler (Human):Andrea and Stephen Coyle

Despite a kittenhood spent on the streets in upstate New York, Riley has grown into an athletic but caring cat.  He is the type of kitty who never gives up on a task until he gets what he wants.
He is also a cancer survivor.  In 2010 we found a sarcoma on his back and he was told his chances to survive were not good.  Nevertheless he underwent major surgery at Angell Memorial Hospital in Boston and beat those odds!  He had a tough recovery but he is a tougher cat.  Now his stripes don’t quite match up along the surgical site, but he feels that just makes him unique.
Because of this experience he places an enormous value on life and the will to preserve it.  And he is back to full Riley power!

Summary of Skills
• Able to jump to the top level of the cat tree (3 meters) in one bound
• Tireless digger – dirt, litter, snow, upholstered furniture – it doesn’t matter what.
• Takes instruction well – at least when it’s something he wants to do anyway.
• Good snuggler and great personality

Yup, storm's coming. Going to be a busy week.

Applicant Name : DOG

Aliases (if any):Deegie Doodle

Handler (Human): Handlers (minions) Brenda Varnam and Dave Williams

I am a senior cat and so have had 13 years of mountain weather observations and wisdom to pass on to the young whippersnappers in the field. I was born and raised in Banff, Alberta and so have a distinct knack for predicting the strong westerly flow that brings the deep soft snow and wind that can cause hazardous avalanche conditions. I spend most of my time observing the weather from my front window (picture proof attached!) and have demonstrated strong concentration skills, see I am still observing the weather despite the three large distractions in front of me! I can clearly communicate the changing weather to the humans around me; for example when it is sunny I will nap in my sun spot, when it is cloudy I will nap on my heated bathroom floor, when it is very cold out I will loudly summon my minions to light my woodstove so I can nap in front a warm cozy fire.

I feel strongly that my keen weather sense is something that needs to be passed on to the next generation of CARCA dediCATes. The education of outdoor enthusiast about the advantages of sleeping in a sun spot during high or extreme avalanche hazard is an important roll CARCA cats can play in the  prevention of Avalanche accidents.

Thank you for promoting such a noble profession for so many strong and enthusiastic cats, I am only to sorry to be in my golden years and so cannot truly dedicate my nine lives to the safety and enjoyment of the wintery outdoors. Keep up the good work CARCA!

Maximum rest = Maximum performance

I cannot think of anything more exciting than The Weather Network.

Applicant Name: Princess Lizbeth the Fierce

Aliases (if any): Lizbeth, Liz, Fluffly, Fluffster

Handler (Human): Miriam Iorwerth

Liz is a young cat who has been brought up in the Highlands of
Scotland so knows a thing or two about wild weather.  She is a good
worker and likes the cold. Unfortunately she is scared of everything,
so some development would be needed in this area. She is a member of
the British Association of Ski Patrollers, and enjoys snowboarding and
red wine in her spare time.

Summary of Skills (point form please)
– Lots of fluff so will handle the cold well
– Small, so very well suited to rapid deployment
– Young, so easily trainable
– Good at digging
– Very quiet so won’t grumble about the cold (also see point 1)

If you go into the back-county unprepared and are caught in an avalanche, I will find you, and I WILL NOT BE HAPPY.



Applicant Name: Monster Too and his brother Blackberry

Aliases (if any): Mr., Mr. Too, Mau Mau. Blackbeard, Pigberry.

Handler (Human): Cindy Konigson

Dear Sirs,
My cats and I have been watching CARCA for months now and they are interested in becoming Avalanche Rescue Cats.  Monster Too and Blackberry have lived at Snoqualmie Pass, WA their whole lives. Monster Too (nicknames Mr., Mau Mau, Mr. Too) is a social, athletic and graceful leaping cat in his prime at 6 years old.  He loves to sleep under the covers where he sucks on his tail (don’t tell anyone as this embarrasses him.)  This burrow cat trait makes him unafraid of tunnels and small places and he will dig at blankets and pillows to get under them which would make him a perfect candidate for Avalanche training.   He retrieves toys, communicates well and also loves to be outside, except when it is raining, and is harness and leash trained.  Blackberry (nicknames Blackbeard, Pigberry) is Mr.’s brother and is well insulated against winter cold and snow.  He is a very powerful cat and can pin Mr. Too to the floor with very little effort.  He is vocal and tenacious and will leave the deck to go out in the snow no matter how deep it is.  When he has to swim to get through it he slides down the gap to get under the deck where he can hunt before he uses his claws to climb up the snowbanks to get back out.  He is also harness and leash trained and both are gregarious and love people.  Being Snoqualmie Pass residents they have been exposed to avalanche blasting which often shakes the house and rattles the windows.  This doesn’t phase them and they sleep right through it.  Misty and Cicely look up to them and have learned their fearless burrow cat techniques and are practicing retrieval as well as getting fit with a daily chasing and wrestling workout in hopes of becoming Rescue Cats when they are ready.  As a team these brothers would be an asset to the CARCA.  They also have many cat friends at Snoqualmie Pass that they would be interested in recruiting.  They thank you for your consideration.
Cindy Konigson (their humble servant)

Summary of Skills (point form please)

  • Team players
  • Harness trained
  • 6 seasons of snow experience with long winters. October until June most years
  • Desensitized to avalanche control work
  • Both have experience training dogs and kittens
  • Mr. Too is an experienced tunneler
  • Mr. has a very keen mind and communicates with his eyes and voice
  • Mr. is agile and can change directions in mid air. Good for escaping snow slides.
  • Blackberry is a fearless snow explorer and will dig for rodents under the snow
  • Blackberry is very strong. He jumped off the deck which is a storey off of the ground and knocked me down for fun once.
  • Blackberry is also very vocal and will call me when he wants something.

Blackberry taking his turn in the Avalanche Burial Simulator


Monster Too on watch.

Applicant Name: Speaker to Animals

Aliases (if any): Fluff, Agent Orange, Speaker

Handler (Human): JA macTavish

Living as we do in the High Sierra, Speaker has shown a great apptitude for travel through snow, as well as an impressive sense of smell and superior digging skills. I believe that if all winter backcountry travellers were required to wear a small, gopher-scented locket or bandana, that Speaker would have no problem locating anyone to a depth of ten feet (or possibly more.)

At 5 months of age, he is very responsive to training (although I must note the exception of the command “No”, to which he remains at this time insensible), and very energetic, especially between the hours of 3am-6am, and 10pm–2:45am. He has a dense, fine, medium-haired coat of a color easily spotted against snow and most rock, naturally insulated paws, and an unusually long and full tail that can be used as an emergency ruff for additional protection against hypothermia.

As noted, Speaker does not currently live in Canada, but as his Handler, I would be very willing to relocate the both of us for Canadian Citizenship, as my current country is proving less hospitable to people of my ecomnomic niche by the hour.

 Summary of Skills

  • Speedy and/or determined travel on or through numerous snow conditions
  • Tracking skills; visual, auditory, and olfactory
  • Highly intelligent and responsive to most commands (i.e.; “Get the toy!”)
  • Exceptional climbing ability on any terrain
  • If you are caught in an avalanche, I challenge you to NOT be rescued immediately.

    Step 1: Search avalanche zone

    Step 2: Locate victim location.

    Step 3: Pull you out with my own teeth if necessary.

Applicant Name: Molly

Aliases (if any): The Russian Princess

Breed: Russian blue / Prince Rupert Stray

Handler (Human): Angela

Good day, I would like to volunteer my mother in-law and her and her cat Molly to be a “contributing” rescue team to CARCA.

A light bulb went on after seeing the revolutionary footage in the Banff Mountain Film festival. As a former avalanche dog handler I recognize the importance of dedicated and vigilant avalanche rescue teams. In the time of my dog handling I recall being approached on a regular basis by members of the public who would express their genuine desire to have their own domestic animal working in the avalanche rescue industry. It is with great excitement accompanied with a sigh of relief that I learned of the creation of CARCA. Until CARCA came into existence avalanche rescue work has been unfairly dominated by the canines partnered with the typical young eager ski patrollers/guides/SAR who have the belief that they are the only ones who can help. I say what about the older human generation who are seeking rejuvenation and physical exercise? What about the cats? And last but not least what about our in-laws?I really don’t know much about Molly the cat. I know it’s a female and that she’s grey. I guess a benefit of this would be that her darker colour would make it easier to spot her on the snow. She’s got a belly that almost drags on the ground as she walks. Molly’s “extra layers” could be beneficial if there’s a need to quickly grab the cat for immediate redeployment? Molly lives in West Vancouver after being rescued from the streets of Prince Rupert. Her life right now is one of cushy soft cushions covered in plush 800+ thread count material, playing with her twizzle stick at 4am, endless free food, spreading kitty litter all over the floor after taking a poop in the litter box and getting cuddles for no reason whatsoever. In fairness as things are Molly really doesn’t accomplish very much in her day. It is for this same reason that, as a caring son in-law, I feel some sorrow in seeing my cat-in-law sitting idle when it has so potential to contribute to the avalanche industry. My hope is that with the mentorship and support of the other certified CARCA cats Molly might come to realize her full potential or at least get off the couch. I’ve attached a couple of photos of what I hope to see as the before and after shots. As selfless as this might sound it would fill me with so much pride to see my mother in-law out there in the middle of the night in the midst of a frigid winter storm standing waist deep in snow, desperately clutching onto her cat dressed up in a CARCA vest- in fact it almost brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it. A dream maybe but we all have to have our dreams.

Summary of Skills (point form please)– Nothing right now but there is hope for everything.

Applicant : The Snow Leopard

CARCA Chapter Designation : IARCA /Washington

Letter of Application :

To: Canadian Avalanche Rescue Cat Association (CARCA)

From: R. Chamberlain

RE: Cat Avalanche Rescue Teams

I just viewed your award winning film at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, and I was thrilled to see the work that you are doing. I would like to start an affiliation and chapter of CARCA near Mt. Rainier, WA. I am involved in mountaineering adventure sports, and I don’t see why my cat can’t start going to the mountains to begin training this winter. He’s big, with six toes, and a bob tail–so he looks and acts like a bob cat– plus he’s already trained to walk on a leash and harness. Once he’s gone through the CARCA training successfully, I believe that we can generate interest in our local region to train other cats to be part the elite order of order of CARCA –though I suggest an International Association of cat avalanche rescue teams, IARCA.  We need all the help we can get.

Of course cats are masters of high places. I’ve been following the lore of snow leopards for years–through literature, natural history, and through my love of the cultures and traditions of Tibet, India, Pakistan, and other regions around the Himalayas’ that honor these magnificent creatures; however, until I saw your film, I had never made the connection between ordinary domestic cats and these mysterious mountain creatures. I have always thought of the snow leopard, with its high altitude “mountain” adaptations, as phantoms of high, windy, cold places that were connected to mystical places,  I had never considered the vast untapped mountaineering potentials of the ordinary cat. Who would have guessed that some cats are better than dogs at avalanche and mountain rescue?

I am deeply grateful for this discovery, and for the opportunity to help cats develop their full potentials–as a fully trained members of mountain avalanche rescue teams– in service to such a noble cause.

I would eventually like to train a team of cats to deploy on all Mountaineering adventures.  I know that my husband and family will feel much better knowing that I am completely safe in the company of our cat when I am in the mountains.

Too bad about the dog/ cat animosity thing.

Applicant : Tibet

Handler : Janet

CARCA Chapter Designation : Vernon

Letter of Application :

Dear Steve,

We just saw your documentary C.A.R.C.A. at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in Vernon, and I was delighted to see it wasn’t just another ordinary film about exuberant golden retrievers careening down the slopes with their tongues hanging out having fun without realizing the gravity of the situation – it was a CAT! And cats by their very nature take life much more seriously!

I believe my cat Tibet (who looks just like a snow lion – I am sure you will agree when you see his photos) absolutely loves the snow. Tibet was a rescue cat from the SPCA when he was 1 year old, and after the first snowfall of the first winter we spent together I let him outside and he began excitedly gathering the snow up in his paws he was so delighted. He always helps me shovel the driveway and delights in my attempts to bury him by throwing shovel fulls of snow at him. Not only is he a very dedicated and fantastic hunter, he is also fearless – One winter day he had brought in a small bird, which luckily was uninjured, so I removed it from his jaws and released it from the back deck which is a full story off the ground. Tibet was so incensed that as the bird flew down through the yard he launched himself off the deck, flying into the snow, bounding after the bird (which thankfully got away). I also need to tell you how keen his sense of detection under snow is – One day when we were out in the yard in a good foot of snow, Tibet, who had not even been out a minute, all of a sudden punched his fist down into the snow and unerringly pulled up a vole. Now with that kind of innate skill I am sure it would be very easy for him to learn to be a rescue cat and a valuable member of your organization. Please accept our application


Tibet and Janet Parkins

All I want for Christmas is you not to die in an avalanche.


Vernon Avalanche Rescue Cat Status : ALERT and READY

Applicant : Quenta

Handler : Pico

CARCA Chapter Designation : Revelstoke

Letter of Application :

Hi CARCA folks,

Quenta has grown up in the snow, and spends at least a minute or two outside every day in the winter, less on cold and snowy days. She spends the rest of the day dreaming of snow, sleeping on white pillows.

Here is a look at one of the training sessions I have been having with her. You can see she is picking up the digging techniques quickly. Any help with other training aids would be greatly appreciated.

From snowy (some of the time) Revelstoke.



Applicant : Tucker

Handler : Kim

CARCA Chapter Designation : Crystal Mountain

Letter of Application :

 Dear CARCA members,

I used to be an avalanche dog handler, but after 23 years as a ski patroller at Crystal Mountain, I’ve finally seen the light. The future of avalanche rescue lies in the feline species. Tucker, named after the ubiquitous sno-cat of the 50s and 60s, was born to search. Or rather, he was born to hunt, but don’t tell him that it’s all the same thing when you’re not really big enough to kill your prey. And digging? My god, Tucker can dig. Well, it’s more like scratching at this point, but he’s working up to digging.

Tucker would love to be part of the “team”. He’s anxiously awaiting your response.

Kind regards,

Kim Kircher (Tucker’s human)

You will feel my wrath if you travel unprepared into the backcountry.




Applicant : Smudgey Von Poofy Pants

Handler : Liza

CARCA Chapter Designation : Canmore/Bow Valley

Letter of Application :

Ever since Smudge was wee, she’s had dreams of doing something great; Something to give back to our community. As she was a rescue kitty herself, she naturally followed the calling to becoming an avalanche rescue cat so she could return the favour. She draws her inspiration from the parallel between her being dug out from a wild life of eating rotten food scraps and dealing with dirty matted fur, and her ability to dig others out from the cold, constrictive, nightmare of avalanche burial.

Although her training has been informal so far, she shows extraordinary promise as a potential CARCA trainee. Each morning she practices digging me out from under the covers, and pouncing on my head when she finds me. She never misses. Also, her polydactylism makes her extra-efficient during snow travel and allows her to dig with the speed of 1.2 cats! She is a true leader on the sharp end of the rope.

Please consider Smudge in your selection for the CARCA team. We are also interested in learning how to start a local Bow Valley Chapter.


Avalanche danger: Moderate ==== Vigilance: High to Extreme

Textbook victim indicating technique.

Applicant : Henry James

Breed: White Persian

Handler : Michelle

CARCA Chapter designation : Revelstoke

Application Letter:

Just want to say that I’ve been training my own cat, Henry James, to do avalanche rescue work as well. I leave his favorite cat toys under the eaves of the house and when the snow falls off, Henry James and I go to work. Henry James is a white Persian and many people think the long haired cats aren’t hard working but they are completely wrong. He is especially good at smelling because of his smooshed-in face characteristic of his breed. In summer, I maintain his avi skills by letting him catch mice and birds.

Applicant : Freaux

Handler: Sarah

Breed: Tabby/German Shepard/Siamese/Bengal Tiger/Chinese Shar pei

CARCA Chapter Designation:  Whistler, BC

Application Letter:


I have been following your progress with great excitement as my cat Freaux is an amazing feline with dog like appearances. She is bigger than your average cat, but makes up for it in speed and agility. Why just the other day she caught a pigeon in mid air! Fact.

She already has a great love and respect for the mountains and we’ve been skiing with her since she was just a little pup….uh, I mean kitten. Anywho, we would love to join CARCA and start a Whistler chapter for your wonderful organization. Freaux has a keen sense of smell, big fat paws for digging and a pleasing personality. Please let us know if you have any questions about our kitty. She’s resting in the photos, look at those cute kitty ears! You can also see her in action in this youtube video, don’t be fooled by the title:

Thank you and meow,

Sarah and Freaux