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Meet Dundee’s paddle-boarding ‘adventure cats’ Bongo and Fifi

Bongo and Fifi go everywhere with their owner Lucy Frankcom - whether its paddle-boarding, cycling, horse-riding or hiking.

Lucy Frankcom with cat Bongo on Loch of Clunie. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson
Lucy Frankcom with cat Bongo on Loch of Clunie. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

Have you ever seen a paddle-boarding cat?

Well, it’s a thing.

In fact, there is an entire Instagram account dedicated to the antics of Bongo and Fifi – Dundee’s very own adventure cats – who also enjoy kayaking, cycling and horse-riding.

Owner Lucy Frankcom, 23, says she was inspired to create the account because strangers frequently showed a keen interest in her pets.

Bongo is two years old. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

The dentistry student at Dundee University takes Bongo, two, and Fifi, just seven months, everywhere with her – including the library and supermarket.

She keeps the Bengal cats on a lead or in her cat carrier.

“People are always coming up to me and asking questions.

“They say, ‘Oh, my cat would never do that! How do you get them to do it, what are they called, how old they are?'”

She joked: “I am thinking about getting a sign with their names and age so I don’t need to keep telling everyone.

“Everyone loves them.”

‘They act more like dogs than cats’

The Bengal cat is a domesticated cat breed created from a hybrid of the Asian leopard cat, with domestic cats.

They are growing in popularity among UK pet owners, in part thanks to a trend on social media platform TikTok.

Lucy explains: “They act more like dogs than cats

“Lots of people who are dog people love them because they are very dog-like.

“They’re really affectionate, they love to cuddle up to you, they also play fetch.

Lucy says Bongo and Fifi are very dog-like. Image: Lucy Frankcom

But Bengal cats are not recommended for those who want an easy-going pet.

The high-maintenance creatures are known to resort to aggression and destruction if they’re not given enough attention.

They also require a diet of almost entirely raw meat, which Lucy buys from a specialist pet store.

Bongo loves to look at the ducks and birds on the water. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

Lucy says: “They can’t go out by themselves because they have really high prey drives. (It means they’re likely to chase after anything that moves and could end up injured).

“They love water, they’re very active, and very noisy – they make wild cat noises.

“They need walks every day and they need proper enrichment, otherwise they will destroy your house.

“They’ve got a cat wheel in our house, a floor to ceiling pole to climb up, wall mounted shelves and cat trees.

“A lot of people who get Bengals have issues with them because they don’t give them the proper enrichment they need.

“They need a lot of exercise and enrichment or they get bored and destructive.

“We’ve not had issues thankfully, but we would have done if I didn’t do loads of stuff with them”

Lucy, who is currently busy studying for exams, usually walks Bongo and Fifi up the Law in Dundee each day.

But when she has more time on her hands, she likes to take them on “big adventures”.

She says: “I went to Isle of Skye with Bongo last year and that was really fun, he enjoyed that.

“They both travel really well, you can take them anywhere, on any form of transport.

“Bongo has always loved paddle-boarding.

Bongo enjoys horse-riding. Image: Lucy Frankcom

“Fifi has only done it two or three times. She was a bit cautious at first but now she is a lot better.

“I didn’t really need to train Bongo much. He just got on it and then that was it.

“They really like seeing the birds and ducks on the water.

“When I bring the paddleboard back to land, Bongo won’t get off it – he just stays sat on it.”

Lucy likes to take her cats on ‘big adventures’. Image: Lucy Frankcom

Lucy uses positive reinforcement training techniques to help the cats feel comfortable with new activities.

Bongo is also a fan of horse-riding, and used to regularly join Lucy on her saddleback journeys when she lived in Manchester.

“I had him in a sling on me while I was riding and another time I led the horse and had a saddle pad on her which he sat in. He loved the horse.”

Lucy stresses people should research breeders before buying a Bengal cat

But Lucy stresses that anyone thinking about buying a Bengal cat should do their research first to ensure they are buying it from a reputable breeder.

It’s a mistake she made herself when she bought Bongo in Manchester two years ago.

Unfortunately, he later developed a genetic eye condition due to poor breeding.

He is partially-sighted and sometimes wears special goggles to help him see in bright lights.

The cats even join Lucy on cycling trips. Image: Lucy Frankcom

Lucy explains: “Bongo was from a not-so-great breeder in Manchester.

“He is a Bengal cross. It wasn’t a very good breeder at all, but I didn’t know any better at the time.

“So we did buy him, but it probably wasn’t a good situation.

“He has got a genetic eye condition and can’t see well in bright lights.

“It only developed after we got him, we had no idea what it was.

“Thankfully Bengal cats use their smell and other senses more than vision, so he is still pretty good.”

Lucy enjoys speaking at events about adventure cats.  Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

When it came to buying Fifi a year later, Lucy didn’t make the same mistake.

“I did lots of research and Fifi is a pure bred Bengal from a good breeder.

“We had to wait a long time before buying her because she was so expensive.

“But I’ve got her whole pedigree, she is registered and has had every single test possible, because she is from a proper place.”

Most importantly, Bongo loves his new friend.

“He loves Fifi. He has been desperate for a friend. He loves other cats.”

Bongo wears special goggles to help him see in bright lights. Image: Lucy Frankcom

The price of a Bengal cat can range from £300 to £5,000.

Since starting her Instagram account – aptly named Bongo and Fifi the Adventure Cats – Lucy has gained more than 2,500 followers.

She has also been invited to speak at various events about adventure cats to share her own experiences.

In the meantime, she’s looking forward to finishing her exams so she can plan her next escapade with Bongo and Fifi.