Feline adopted from Rifle Animal Shelter loves paddleboarding, biking and skiing

Adventure cat Liebchen sits nicely for a photo on the Rio Grande Trail south of Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Independent/Post Independent

Liebchen is different from most foster cats.

When this young orange tabby cat adopted from Rifle Animal Shelter isn’t napping in his favorite bed, he goes on an outdoor adventure with his adoptive parents, Aspen residents Erin Geldermans and Dan Schreck.

“He really is like a little dog/human/cat hybrid,” Geldermans joked of Liebchen. “He’s sort of our leader too. He totally owns us. He totally saved us.

Whether it’s paddle boarding, biking, or hanging onto the shoulders of his adoptive parents as they ski down Aspen Mountain, Liebchen is becoming the unofficial adventure cat of Roaring Fork Valley.

Geldermans said Four Mountains has actually made Liebchen a ski pass for the past two ski seasons.

“It’s like a normal ski pass,” she says. “He just has his little face on it.”

September 2020 was the first time Geldermans and Schreck felt Liebchen’s purrs echo through their arms. They had just signed the adoption papers and the 10-month-old kitten’s demeanor was more relaxed than relieved, Geldermans said.

Little did the new adoptive parents in Aspen know that the Rifle Animal Shelter averaged about 1,400 adoptions a year, and of that group, Liebchen would turn out to be a feline anomaly.

Rifle Animal Shelter executive director Heather Grant called Liebchen “not your everyday adoption.”

“Every day we find great homes and our animals are adopted,” she said. “But this is a very special adoption. This cat does some unusual cat things.

“It’s exciting to see that a homeless animal can have such an amazing home and life.”

Liebchen is the offspring of a stray cat, Geldermans said. His mother, Wren, was first taken in by another foster mother, and the stray eventually gave birth to a litter of kittens. One of these kittens was Liebchen.

At the time, Geldermans was in the process of finding a cat. She said she had always dreamed of having her own cat since her family was allergic to felines.

Adventure cat Liebchen goes for a brisk hike near the Roaring Fork River on Tuesday afternoon.
Chelsea Independent/Post Independent

When Rifle Animal Shelter took the litter and posted a photo of Liebchen online, it immediately caught Geldermans’ attention.

“There’s something about him,” she said. “I can just feel it.”

Geldermans also said she wanted to support an adoption agency rather than buy a cat from a private source. One of the reasons being that there are at least 2 million pets euthanized each year in the United States because they are not adopted, she said.

Although the Rifle Animal Shelter is a no-kill shelter, Geldermans said it’s best to donate to an adoption agency and get “a really awesome cat.”

“I think they’re just cold, they’re resilient, they could have been through a lot,” she said of the adopted animals. “That can make them really great companions.”

Today, Liebchen is an outdoor enthusiast. The cat, named after an affectionate German term, usually looks out the window and meows if it wants to go on an adventure.

Besides Aspen Mountain, Liebchen’s trips include hiking Maroon Bells, riding gondolas in Telluride, and strolling the Rio Grande Trail.

“Sometimes he doesn’t want to go out with us,” Geldermans said. “Usually he runs to the door because he wants to get out. But sometimes he’ll just turn his back on us and go sit up in bed.

Liebchen enjoys a gondola ride in Telluride.
Submitted / Erin Geldermans

Journalist Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or [email protected]

Clyde P. Johnson