Q: Our family is going on a longterm cruise on our boat, and we don't want to leave our cat behind. Can he live happily on a boat? If so, do you have any safety tips?
A: Cats have a long history as sailors — just ask the Vikings. Cats have many advantages as seagoing companions: They're small, quiet, surefooted and use a litter box. With preparation and practice, your cat can become a great first mate.
Take a couple of trial runs. Hang out on the boat while it's in the slip so your cat can explore. See how he does walking a gangplank (if he's leash-trained), and note his response to the boat rocking beneath him as he walks around. Take it slow, and give lots of treats during his explorations (on-leash or under supervision).
Then take a short cruise, again rewarding him with treats as he gains his sea legs. If he appears to have ship cats in his family tree, outfit him with a pet life preserver that fits securely and doesn't obstruct his movement. Choose one in a bright color so it's easily seen if your cat goes into the drink after a pod of porpoises or a fin of flying fish. It should have a handle on top so it's easily grabbed by your hand or a boat hook.
A rope ladder (cats are good at climbing) and a dip net are also good items to have. Place netting between stanchions all the way around the boat to help prevent "kitty overboard" incidents.
Weighted stainless steel food and water dishes won't slide around. Avoid using clumping cat litter; it hardens when it gets wet and can be difficult to scrub off the deck.
For more tips, check out these blogs: blog.navily.com/en/blog/sailing-with-a-cat-on-board and adventurecats.org.
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