Of all the animal companions you could bring onboard a boat with you, cats are probably the last ones you would think of. After all, felines have a strong dislike for water, or at least that’s what the common consensus is.
But that doesn’t mean people don’t go boating with cats. Far from it!
In this guide I am going to talk about how cats can live on boats, whether they get seasick, and how you can make your boat cat-friendly.
Can you take a cat on a boat?
Yes, you can take a cat on a boat, and there are plenty of boating enthusiasts who have done exactly that. But, if you are thinking about having your cat living on your boat with you, you should keep the following in mind:
- A period of acclimation needs to occur, especially if living aboard the boat with your cat.
- You should take your cat to the vet before the trip to ensure they’re in good health.
- Your cat still needs all their essentials, including food, water, a scratching post, and a litter box.
- You should not let your cat wander the boat unleashed.
- Cats can experience seasickness like dogs and other animals.
- Not all cats will love getting wet, so try to keep yours dry if they prefer it.
- Make a kitty cave or nest so they can hide if they need to.
Many sailors have ventured out into open waters with their feline friends in tow.
It can be done, and in this article, we’ll tell you exactly how. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be ready to set sail with your cat!
Boating with your cat (all you need to know)
Like with people, no two animals are quite alike. Sure, they can look very similar, but each has a different personality. Thus, when we say you can take a cat on a boat, that’s generally speaking.
There are going to be some cats that are so enthusiastic about boating that they’ll surprise even you. Others will hate the experience. Your feline friend might also be in between the two extremes, tolerating your boating excursions.
The only way to find out how your cat will react to a boat trip is to bring them out and see what happens. That said, you have to be willing to respect your pet’s wishes. If your cat is visibly uncomfortable and/or distressed the entire time, then making them go boating with you again would be cruel.
If it seems like your cat liked the experience, but you’re not quite sure how much, then you can feel free to venture out with them a second or even a third time. Perhaps with more time on the boat, your kitty companion will grow to love it.
The main obstacle that tends to hold people back when it comes to boating with their cat is water. They leave their cat at home and take the dog instead because lots of pup’s love swimming, but cats? Not so much.
Well, that’s what you think.
Remember, each animal has a distinct personality, and that goes for a cat’s water preferences as well. A universal hatred for water is not something all cats share. If you live somewhere where the weather is primarily arid, then your cat may actively seek refreshment. To them, a dip in a bathtub feels wonderful.
Even if you don’t call a humid environment home, your cat may still secretly be a water baby. Don’t automatically assume your cat will hate it without trying.
Do cats get seasick?
Cats can indeed suffer from sea sickness. While this occurs from being in a car most often, motion sickness can also be triggered from riding in a boat.
It’s not just cats either, as almost any animal can get seasick, just like us humans. Some, such as horses and rats, have an inability to vomit when they feel seasickness. That’s no problem for your feline, though.
They can puke just fine, as we’re sure you know.
According to BBC Science Focus Magazine, when animals experience seasickness, it’s due to a discrepancy between the animal’s sense of balance and what’s going on around them.
If motion sickness is caused by car rides, sometimes your pet will outgrow them. That happens a lot in dogs, as their ear structures will continue growing as they mature, increasing their balance so they’re less susceptible to feeling ill.
While seasickness is technically a form of motion sickness, it’s unclear if pets like dogs and cats will outgrow it. You should keep an eye out for the symptoms of seasickness as your cat rides with you aboard your boat.
Signs of seasickness in cats
Those symptoms are:
- Licking their lips a lot.
- Smacking their lips together.
- Drooling excessively.
- Whining or making other noises of discomfort.
- Uneasiness, listlessness, or a sudden cessation of activity.
A trip on a boat is not the same as a car ride, where you can pull over, find a different route, and head home. You may be stuck on the boat for hours with a cat that’s seasick. For that reason, we recommend coming up with a contingency plan.
Dramamine, a common medication for motion sickness, is safe for cats. You only want to give them 12.5 milligrams of the stuff at a time.
Administer the medication about an hour before you set sail and your cat may avoid motion sickness symptoms completely.
It’s possible your cat’s seasickness may lessen with time as they adjust more to the natural rocking motions of the boat. Your cat may also never get over their seasickness.
That’s a reality you may have to live with.
Are cats living aboard boats happy?
Let’s say that instead of taking your cat on a day trip or several, you want them to live with you on the boat. You may do this for months at a time or even year-round. Is your cat built for such a thing?
Sure, they are! That said, as we’ve mentioned throughout this article, whether your cat can live on a boat will absolutely vary depending on the cat in question.
If your cat is a natural skipper like they’ve been meant to be on a boat their entire lives, then transitioning them from daytime rides to full-time boat living shouldn’t be a struggle.
Even if you cat takes time to adjust to being on the boat but does eventually quite like it, then they should be fine living on your boat. It’s those felines that are prone to seasickness that you might want to consider alternate living arrangements for.
After all, Dramamine is not something pet nor human should take all the time. In animals, you should not exceed three daily doses. The dimenhydrinate in the medication can lead to a slew of side effects.
On the less severe end, these include urine retention, dry mouth, and your cat feeling sedated (Dramamine can lead to drowsiness unless you give your pet a non-drowsy formula).
More severely but less commonly, pets may experience weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea. Those aren’t life-threatening side effects, but they’re ones you’re trying to avoid by giving your kitty Dramamine in the first place.
If you’re seriously thinking about bringing your cat with you on your boat to live there, we recommend an appointment with your veterinarian first.
They can check over your cat, assess their health, and confirm whether your kitty is seaworthy. If your vet cautions you against bringing your cat onboard your boat on a full-time basis, you should take them up on that.
How to get your cat used to living on a boat
If your cat is healthy and ready to begin living with you on your boat, you may wonder how to get them used to their new arrangement. I’m here to help. These acclimation tips also apply to those sailors who only bring their cats with them on day trips.
1. Start small and short
Even if your goal is to live on your boat with your cat, you don’t want to begin with overnight trips. It’s too much straight off the bat.
Think back to the first few times you ever rode a boat. You may have been a child or even younger. More than likely, you were uneasy and scared your first few times, right?
Your cat is going to feel the same way.
Plan for very short excursions at first then, no more than an hour. Make sure you don’t venture out too far, either. This way should your cat begin exhibiting symptoms of seasickness, you can quickly get them to land before they’re too ill.
As your cat adjusts more and more, you can begin increasing both the time spent on the water and the distance you travel. Work your way up to overnight trips if you want to live on your boat, then voyages that last several days.
Once your cat is good with spending a week or longer on the boat, you’re ready to begin living with your kitty on the sea.
2. Leash ‘em up
We don’t recommend unleashing your cat while on the boat, especially if they’ve never stepped foot onboard before. You have no way of knowing how your cat will react during their first time. Things could go well, or kitty could freak out and try to bolt.
Cats are especially adept at hiding, sometimes squeezing themselves into tight, inaccessible spaces. Trying to coax a terrified kitty out can be difficult, and that’s if you can even find them in the first place.
This is a scenario you’d like to avoid if possible.
By keeping your cat on a leash, you never have to guess where they are. Some pet owners use a harness so you’re not applying too much pressure to your cat’s throat.
Whichever you prefer, don’t let your cat roam free their first handful of times on the boat. In fact, if you only stick to day trips, then we’d say don’t ever let your cat off the leash.
Besides your cat running and hiding, a myriad of other horrible things can happen with an unleashed feline. They could slide, lose grip, and fall into the water if the deck is slippery. They could also end up in the drink if your boat makes a sudden turn or maneuver.
Most cats can swim, but they don’t necessarily want to. If your cat falls in the water, their life could be at risk.
Don’t take that chance!
3. Create a hiding place
Making your cat feel comfortable can go a long way towards adjusting them to being on your boat. Through constructing a kitty cave or hiding place, you’ll give your favorite furry friend their own retreat.
This nest should have a cat’s well-loved blankets (especially those with favorite scents on them) as well as treats, toys, and catnip.
Where you set up the hiding place on your boat matters. You want it somewhere towards the boat’s middle, but lower on the vessel.
Your cat is less likely to feel all the boat’s motions there, which could reduce seasickness. If they do begin feeling a bit ill, your cat can rest here.
You may let your cat burrow in the blankets to their heart’s content or they may want you to cover them.
4. Bring familiar items
Having essentials becomes especially crucial when living on a boat with your cat. All the basic things your feline needs for everyday life should come with you on the boat.
These include bowls for food and water. You need to make sure the water you feed your cat is always fresh.
A scratching post lets your cat play and keep their claws neat. Never forget a litter box either, that is, unless you want your kitty making a mess all over your boat.
Cats and specific boat type living
Curious if the type of boat you own is conducive to living with your cat? Let’s talk about some of these vessels now and how happy your cat would be onboard.
Cats on narrowboats / living on a canal boat with cats
Also referred to as a canal boat, narrowboats are named such because they can easily ride through tight canals. These vessels originally came about as a solution for getting through the United Kingdom’s canal locks, which were used heavily in the Industrial Revolution. Regular-sized boats would have been too big to fit, but narrowboats could get through the canals with ease.
Those canal boats had a width of less than seven feet and an average length of about 72 feet. Even today, the measurements of narrowboats haven’t changed much.
Your living quarters in a narrowboat would be much tighter when compared to other boat types. This doesn’t mean kitty will hate it here.
In fact, it’s often just the opposite. Here’s an article from Canal & River Trust.org about a person’s experience living with their cat on a narrowboat to inspire you. It seems to be quite a pleasant existence!
Having cats on a sailboat
A sailboat is another common vessel. These boats have two main sails, the headsail and the mainsail. Fun fact: one type of sailboat is called a catboat. This boat has one mast without a jib. The mast is attached towards the front of the boat.
You don’t have to necessarily bring your cat on a catboat, as almost any type of sailboat should do. People can and do live on sailboats all the time, so there’s no reason you and your cat can’t as well.
Cat on houseboats
By far, the best type of boat for living on is a houseboat. It’s in the name, after all. Houseboats have walls, ceilings, windows, rooms, the whole nine.
You typically don’t travel much in a houseboat, instead mooring it for a while and then moving on should the desire strike.
Do keep in mind that most houseboats don’t have motors. This doesn’t mean they lack electricity, though.
Tips for successful boating with cats
You’ve decided which type of boat would be best for you and your cat. You’re ready to head out, be that for a day or even a lifetime. How can you ensure your kitty’s happiness and therefore yours? Here are some tips to follow:
- Consider adding burlap, carpet, or fishnet to the sides of the boat. If your cat ever falls, they may be able to pull themselves up. This only applies if all your cat’s claws are intact.
- Hold onto your cat’s leash or have someone else do it whenever they’re on the boat. You may think attaching the leash to a part of the boat is a good idea, but it rarely is. Should your boat turn or capsize, your cat could be in great danger.
- Use a sun-proof jacket or apply sunscreen regularly to your cat, at least every two hours. Yes, your cat’s skin can burn, even under all that fur. SPF 15 sunscreen should suffice, but you can go for a higher SPF if you’d prefer.
- Consider investing in cat booties if your feline friend will wear them. Otherwise, you must be diligent in maintaining the temperature of your deck. If it’s too hot, your cat is at risk of burning their feet.
- Put all fishing hooks and gear as far away from your cat as possible. If they’re hooked, your cat could be severely injured.
While not as common as dogs, cats make a fantastic companion on a boat. You can bring them out for an afternoon or even for life if they like it well enough.
After all, not every cat detests water.
You do have to watch out for seasickness in your feline friend. It’s also advisable to keep your cat leashed so they don’t slip and go overboard. Otherwise, vessels like narrowboats, sailboats, and especially houseboats make fantastic living quarters for people and cats alike.
Best of luck!
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On the subject of taking pets on your boat, you might also be interested in these guides which are dog-related: