How to Sail with a Cat (The Ultimate Guide)

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If you’ve ever wondered how to sail with a cat, or if it’s even possible, then you’re in the right place. Because today we’re going to answer the how, what and why of sailing with your kitty!

We love taking Yoda out on all sorts of adventures.

We can show him the world and give him a “once in a 9 lives” experience, helping to build his confidence and curiosity, as well as getting to spend more time together as a family

While cats aren’t typically known for their love of water, a trip over the waves from the comfort and safety of a sailboat can be a brilliant bonding experience for cat and pet parent alike.

Whether you are a seasoned sailor, intermediate level or something of a beginner, if you’re looking to take your feline friend out on the water this is for you.

We have a few handy tips to teach you how to sail with a cat and to ensure the safest and most fulfilling trip for you and your cat.

What can you expect from this blog? We’re glad you asked!

How to Sail with a Cat – Key Takeaways

  • The essential need-to-knows about sailing with a cat. Including: clicker training your cat, acclimating your cat to being onboard, researching marina rules and regulations and more.
  • What you’ll need to take with you to keep your cat calm and comfortable onboard. Such as: food and water, toys, treats, cat crates or carriers, a closed litter tray, cat life jacket and harness, a pet passport and more.
  • How to keep your cat safe whilst at sea — like investing in a net, hook or installing a ladder on the side of your boat. And what to do during cooler or hotter temperatures.
  • Ensure your cat is not distressed, upset or at risk. Adjust or shorten your journey if they are presenting with stress behaviors. 
How to sail with a cat

Sailing With a Cat – The Essentials

Training your cat for boat travel

Before taking your cat onboard a boat, it’s important that they’ve reached a good level of training

They should be able to recognise your voice and their own name, meaning you can call them back to safety should you run into danger.

To increase the effectiveness of your kitty’s training, you could implement clicker training for your cat. This will help to build on their skills and good behaviors, through the use of a small clicker device and positive reinforcement.

By rewarding good behaviors, your cat will learn to associate the required behavior with a positive outcome. The goal is that they will then be more inclined to maintain these good behaviors.

🐾 Check out this clicker training kit to get you started.

Keeping your cat safe on open waters

Your cat’s safety is the number one priority whilst onboard and particularly when out on open water

We’ll cover the basic safety measures later in this article, but a good place to start is to purchase an appropriate harness and life jacket for your cat. As well as getting hold of a long net and hook that you can use to scoop your cat up, should they fall into the water.

It’s also important to ensure that your cat can swim

Cats don’t particularly like or enjoy being in the water, but swimming is a necessary skill they must have in order to keep themselves safe if they find themselves overboard.

Here’s how to teach your cat to swim.

Don’t dive in too quickly 

It’s vital to gradually acclimate your cat to onboard life.

Allow them to get used to the boat while it’s stationary. Give them the opportunity to learn the smells and sounds and new sensations that come with being in a new environment. 

You want your cat to associate the boat with safety, so building up their confidence and comfort in this space is the first step to sailing with your cat.

Once you feel your cat is used to the boat environment, you might try short trips out. This will give you the opportunity to gauge how your kitty reacts and adjust accordingly. 

Should this process go swimmingly (pardon the pun) you can start to lengthen journeys. Regularly take your cat out so that being onboard begins to feel like second nature to them.

In no time at all, your kitty should be setting sail with you on all sorts of wild adventures. The best first mate anyone could ask for!

Know the rules and regulations

There will be varying pet policies depending on the marina you moor in. 

So when planning your journey, make sure that your stop points allow for pets. Also, make sure to research facilities for cat litter and waste disposal and appropriate drinkable water sources to refill your supplies if needed.

Sailing with a cat

What You’ll Need to Go Sailing with Your Cat

Food and water

This one goes without saying really – you gotta pack the right snacks! 

Make sure you have a solid supply of food and water for both your cat and yourself. Always pack more than you think you’ll need in case of emergencies. It’s the number one way to maintain a tight and happy ship. 

Your cat may have various digestive sensitivities, and boat travel is known for causing digestive disruption (hello, sea sickness!) So take a few food options for your cat to cover whatever state their tummy is in whilst at sea.

Consider investing in a sensitive stomach cat food if you know your kitty is a little more delicate.

Toys and treats

On calmer days, your cat may need a little extra stimulation. Bring a small selection of fun toys and tasty treats, to help keep your cat entertained when there isn’t much going on.

Many people find scratching boards or posts to be great cat toys to take on board.

These will keep your kitty stimulated and entertained whilst also having a calming effect.

They can also help to comfort your cat, if they’re feeling a little anxious on the journey.

Comfort

Making sure your cat is comfortable in this new, and at times unpredictable, environment is another top priority as a pet parent. 

Some of the best ways to provide comfort for your cat whilst sailing include:

  • Setting up a cat crate or carrier. This will act as a cozy and familiar safe space that your cat can retreat to if they become anxious or overstimulated. Read more for our top recommendations on portable cat carriers.
  • Taking some calming cat treats, catnip toys or pheromone sprays to help create a calmer environment for your cat onboard.
  • Packing appropriate medicine and calming aids. Sailing can cause sickness and unease for both cats and humans alike. Talk to your vet before sailing with your cat to ensure you are equipped with the necessary medicine, first aid, vaccinations and treatments so that your kitty is in ship shape before setting off.
  • Creating a calm space in which a cat can do their toileting business on the boat is super important. We’d suggest a closed litter tray like this one to avoid unwanted messes or discomfort for both you and your cat whilst sharing the onboard space.

Warmth

Things can get chilly out at sea. And just because most cats have a layer of fur — this doesn’t mean that they won’t get cold. 

Be sure to take plenty of blankets and even cat sweaters (if your cat tolerates wearing them, of course!) to keep your cat warm and snuggly on the colder days and nights. 

The sea air can be particularly chilly. And on the flip side, during hotter days where the sun reflects off the water, things can heat up pretty quickly.

Be prepared for a variety of weather and temperatures when out on the water.

Harness and life jacket

Finding an appropriate harness, leash and life jacket for your cat is one of the most important requirements before taking your cat out on a boat. 

The open water poses all sorts of dangers and challenges, so take every precaution to keep your cat safe. Being over-cautious may save your cat’s life, and as the saying goes — it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Don’t leave your cat unattended at any point and make sure to keep them clear from the sides of your vessel. 

Pet passports and travel documentation

If you are planning a slightly longer adventure and intend to cross international waters, make sure you have appropriate travel documentation for both yourself and your cat. 

There are different rules about bringing animals into other countries. This means you’ll need to research the rules of entry before you set sail, to avoid being turned away.

Cat onboard sailing

Cat Sailing Safety Onboard

Water safety

As we’ve previously mentioned, it’s important to invest in 

  • A proper cat life jacket (complete with handles to allow for your pet to be carried or hooked out of the water)
  • Cat harness (appropriately fitted, so it won’t slip off, and a bright color for greater visibility)
  • Leash (made of durable, good quality material. Like this one)

These are the best precautions to take to ensure the safety and security of your cat when onboard.

Cat life jackets are slightly less popular than dog life jackets, but we would recommend checking out the following brands in XS sizes for your kitty:

For harness recommendations, take a look at our article on The 5 Best Cat Harnesses For Adventurous Felines here.

Nets, hooks and ladders

Should your cat accidentally fall overboard, you’ll need something to retrieve them. 

Cats can’t hold onto rescue hoops or inflatables, and so we’d recommend purchasing a long net strong enough to scoop up your cat and bring them to safety. Something like this animal capture net.

A pole hook is also an excellent option, as you can hook onto the handles of your cat’s life jacket and harness to pull them back onboard. Make sure the pole hook is extendable and can hold a heavy weight, like this one.

It’s also a good idea to attach a ladder over the side of your boat. This gives your cat the option to grab on and climb back onboard if they are able.

Secure objects that could fall on your cat 

Boats are known for rocking with the waves, and with this comes the risk of objects falling on your cat, trapping them or causing injury and distress

Correctly secure all pieces of furniture and objects in place, to avoid at-sea accidents. 

Health and hygiene

Keeping up with the hygiene of your boat, particularly when living with an animal, is paramount. 

Regularly clean the space and remove hair, sanitize surfaces and correctly dispose of litter and waste. This will help to ensure both you and your fur baby remain in peak health for your journey.

Ventilation and onboard temperature control 

As we’ve mentioned above, things can run very hot and cold when out at sea. Strong winds and rainstorms can make temperatures plummet, while the afternoon sun can reflect off the water and get everyone pretty hot under the collar. 

Ensure your boat has appropriate ventilation for the hotter temperatures to keep your cat comfortable and reduce the health risks posed by extreme heat.

Likewise, a good supply of blankets and plenty of kitty snuggles will keep both you and your cat warm and cozy during those cooler temps.

Health warnings to look out for 

It’s crucial to keep an eye on your cat throughout the journey and to adjust the route and length of the journey accordingly. Especially if it becomes evident that your cat is in distress

If they seem out of character, present with stress responses and behaviors, become ill or start presenting with physical symptoms that increase in severity, find the nearest stop point and seek medical attention.

Sailing with a cat

How to Sail With a Cat – The Conclusion

To summarize, with the proper preparation and planning, it’s possible to sail with a cat… and have fun doing so! 

Here’s the key points to takeaway from this article:

  • Train your cat verbally or with clicker training. This means your cat is more likely to listen to you when out traveling in new environments.
  • Acclimate your cat to onboard life. Start slow and allow them to explore the stationary boat. When you’re confident that they’re happy you can build up to longer and longer journeys.
  • Pack all the essentials: food, water, toys, treats, home comforts, toilet facilities, medicine and hygiene products…if you think you might need it when out on the water, pack it!
  • Things can get precarious out at sea, so take all the appropriate safety measures for you and your kitty.
  • Life jackets, harness and leash, nets and pole hooks and ladders are all excellent safety precautions to keep your fur baby comfortable and protected.

The bottom line is this…

As long as your cat is safe and happy to be onboard, sailing can be a beautiful bonding experience for you and your cat. It can also make for an extremely refreshing and restorative adventure.

What ways do you keep your cat happy and safe when sailing? We want to know! ⛵️

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