Cats on Sailboats – How Safe Are They? Is the trend here to stay?

It’s no secret that most cats don’t like water. Just a few days ago, my old, wobbly cat, Aslan, had a litter box accident and needed a bath, so I can personally vouch for how much some cats hate water, even when the water is warm and provided in a whirlpool bathtub. But what I can tell you is that while some cats are not grateful for care, other cats legitimately don’t like water.

Some people really like to push the envelope when it comes to their cats. The increasing number of people training their cats to wear a seat belt and walk on a leash has proven that many cats can do well in unusual situations, as long as they are set up to succeed before entering the situation.

One way some people have begun to push the envelope with their cats is by taking them on cruising trips, but is that safe or practical?

Is Sailing With Cats Safe?

Sailing with your cat can Be safe, but it is imperative that you take some great precautions to keep your cat safe and in the boat. The best starting point is to start with a cat breed that is known to commonly love water, such as Bengals, Turkish Vans, and Maine Coons. Keep in mind that every cat is an individual, so you may end up with a cat that is averse to water, even in a breed known for its love of water.

Cat on a boat
Image credit: Simone Padovani, Shutterstock

What to know in advance

There are several steps you should take before your cat sets foot on a sailboat, such as checking the rules of the marina or areas you will be traveling to and training your cat to wear a harness and leash, a tag collar, and a life jacket made for a cat.

If you are planning to take your cat on a liveboard sailboat, it is very important to check the rules and regulations because many marinas do not allow pets at all or only allow dogs. Your cat must also be fully vaccinated and disinfected by a veterinarian before boarding your sailboat.

Other parts of keeping your cat safe on a sailboat include getting your cat used to the boat itself, as well as the sights, sounds, and smells your cat is likely to encounter on your boat. Your cat should also be familiar with the boarding and disembarking protocols. If your cat is going to get in and out of the boat in a carrier, she will need to get comfortable with the carrier. If you plan to walk your cat on a leash and on a boat, she needs to be completely comfortable with that and she should always be prevented from having a chance to jump into the water or run off the dock.

Why is cruising with cats a trend?

A significant portion of the people who take their cat out on a sailboat also live on this boat. There are a lot of reasons why someone might choose to live on a sailboat, from a love of water to different living expenses compared to buying a home. Many people enjoy the company of a pet, and people who live full-time on a sailboat may be more likely to be lonely than the average person, especially if they spend periods of time at sea.

Many animal-loving sailors consider cats a great choice for a sailing companion. Cats are compact, often more so than dogs, so they are an adequate size for the limited living space available on a sailboat. They also often require less exercise each day, at least not in the same way that many dogs require exercise.

I can personally attest to the fact that American Bully, Eva, and my high-energy cat, Nutmeg, don’t have at all the same exercise needs, even though they both require moderate activity every day.

Cats can often extract their excess energy through activities such as scratching, climbing, and hunting, all activities that can be modified to take place on a sailboat safely. Don’t shoot mice at your boat or anything, but playing with the toys often simulates a cat’s hunting, satisfying their instincts.

Cats also have less waste than dogs and are likely to learn quickly to use the litter box. Dogs can be trained to use a crate or pillow, but it is not instinctive for them and may take time to train. Just keep in mind that any area pet litter regulations will still apply to waste from your cat’s litter box.

Siamese cat on a boat
Image credit: ela_elarts, Shutterstock

In conclusion

Assuming that people continue to live on sailboats, it is very likely that the trend of having cats on sailboats is here to stay. People are looking for more ways to enrich their cats’ lives by taking them on adventures, and there are few things more adventurous than cruising, especially for cats.

Don’t expect to wake up tomorrow and have a cat who wants to be your sailing buddy. Otherwise, you may have the same experience I had while bathing my cat just a few days ago.

Featured image credit: Nikiforov Alexander, Shutterstock

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