Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cats on Board

Did You Want Something? - Kookie

   Living on a sailboat is pretty "out of the box" for may land-lubbers.  Add in, not one cat but, four . . . four!? . . . Well, let's just say that along with all the animal lovers that hear our story and cheer us on, there are plenty of others that have some "interesting" reactions.  We've heard everything from,"What do you do  with all that fur?" to, "That's too many cats.", to "Are they (the cats) ok with that?".  No matter what the reaction, most people are amazed, when they see for themselves, that we make our furry family work.  It really does work.  So, for those of you that are entertaining the idea of bringing an animal aboard or are just curious about how it works, I though I'd go over some points/tips that make living with four cats  on a boat a little more "purrrfect" . . . Sorry, I couldn't help myself . . .


   It's Their Space, Too:  It may not sound like rocket science but, before introducing our furry friends to our new space, we needed to keep in mind that they wold be living in the boat, too.  I know animals are adaptable and being flexible is usually not too difficult for them but, they needed that extra bit of consideration since we were about to rearrange their little world; A new environment can be scary.  Just as you would "baby-proof'" your home for a new child or make accommodations for a person with special needs, we accommodated the cats.  Will they be able to maneuver around the boat easily?  Where are the best places to put a litter box or food bowls?  Do they have safe places to go in rough weather? We kept these and a million other questions in mind as we began the moving process.

Our "Scratching Mast"
   What's Old Is New Again: We brought what we could from our current home.  Toys, blankets, litter boxes . . . we wanted them to have familiar things (with familiar smells) in the boat.  For an animal, if the place smells familiar, it will start to feel like home more quickly.  Their food and litter were important in this process, too.  A familiar feeding routine, the same brand of food, and even the same brand of litter (because they all smell differently) helped our kitties adapt more easily.  The biggest thing that we couldn't bring with us was a scratching post.  We actually had two scratching towers in our RV (our previous home) that would never have fit on the boat.  What to do?  I had a light bulb idea while working around our mast one day.  The mast was the perfect base for a scratching post and it wasn't very aesthetically pleasing (our mast runs all the way through the boat).  So, we wrapped the mast from the ceiling to the floor in sisal rope and voila!  A great scratching post that was nice to look at; a win/win.
Close Up


   Doctor, Doctor, . . .:  Of course, no matter where we are, we try to keep the cats up to date on all of their shots.  However this proves to be difficult at times because a new place means a new vet and, if you're out of the country, this is even more problematic.  So, we did our homework.  Since we knew that the first foreign place we'd be visiting was the Bahamas, we researched the fees and procedures on the Bahamian government's website as well as pet travel sites that told us about finding a vet there.  This allowed us to prepare ahead of time.  We were able to check the cats into the country without a problem and keep track of vet clinics, should we need one (thankfully, we didn't).  We also keep books on the boat that specifically deal with pet care on a boat.  Even the best plans can't ensure that there's a vet available every time you need one.  These books, allow us to have information at hand concerning administering medication, diagnosing common ailments, pet safety, and more; Should we need to treat the cats in a remote location on our own, these will be a big help (I have read them cover to cover).

Oliver Sporting His Harness
   A Safe Place:  This was a BIG worry for me before we moved aboard.  What if they fall overboard?  What if the seas get rough? I worried about this A LOT.  My fears only dissipated when we were actually able to implement a plan.  First, we made sure that we had solid rules.  For us this meant that the cats could only go as far as the cockpit while we were underway; they could walk around the deck only while we were at anchor or in port; they were, under no circumstances, allowed to roam free in a marina; and, lastly, we must supervise them while they are outside.  We follow these rules religiously and, thank God, they are all safe, sound, and no one has gone overboard.

   The cats also wear harnesses at all times. We initially looked at pet life vests (yes, they make them small enough for cats).  However, after doing some research, we found that this could actually be a hindrance to cat safety.  Unlike dogs, cats rely on their agility and ease of motion to stabilize themselves.  These life vests (and we looked at a lot) would have all restricted their natural movements.  So, instead of investing in something that would have been a possible hazard, we purchased harnesses.  These don't float but, it gives us a way to grab on to them for easy retrieval.  Our thought was that with our rules and vigilance in place, the cats weren't likely to go overboard but, just in case, we needed a way to pull them out as quickly as possible.  At first, the cats resisted the harnesses.  They even tried to walk backwards in an attempt to get out of them but, after a while they were fine.  Now, they are like a second skin (or fur) for them.  They don't even seem to notice them.

   The Day to Day:  This requires a good bit of extra work but, it is certainly worth it.  I clean their litter boxes once every day (we have two).  We make sure that they have fresh food and water, giving them two meals a day and topping off the water bowl as needed.  I also wash their bowls and mats regularly to keep away any bugs or germs that might want to hang around.  I have to corral their toys in a central location because they tend to get left all over the boat and I give out treats every now and then, just because.  I also do A LOT of combing.  In short, these guys are well cared for.
Simeon, Lounging As Usual

   So, that's my quick glace at bringing our kitties on board.  I'm sure there are things I forgot to cover but, these are the major considerations.  If you have any questions, please let me know. Hopefully this gives those of you would-be cruisers some food for thought.  For those of you that were simply curious, well, I hope you now see that we aren't quite as crazy as we seem for bringing these guys aboard and that it really can work. As for the question of why there are four cats . . . Well, that's another story . . .
Silas: In A Word, Silly

   Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (If no one has commented yet, there will be a "No Comments" link near the bottom of the post. If someone has already commented, there will be a number and the word "comments" beside it. Just click whichever of these is there, click, "add comment" when the window opens, and type away.)


  1. Katie, I'm finally getting caught up with my blog reading. I so need to post about our last couple of days in the Bahamas! But anyway, for now we are living in western PA where I got a job waitressing at an inn that I previously worked at for 10 years ending in 2010 (it's like learning to walk again). Hans is back to selling insurance, and Wilbur misses the boat.
    I really enjoy your posts, they're very informative and well written!

  2. Thanks! I hope the jobs are going well and Wilbur isn't getting too restless. We have found some work here, necessitated by our mysterious engine issues. . . Hope to see you guys out on the water again soon :)


Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments.