Boating with Cats: Cruising and Living on a Boat with a Cat

Everyone always talks about taking ol’ Fido for a trip out to the lake, but no one really mentions boating with cats. Maybe it’s because cats are a little less outdoorsy than their canine counterparts. But hey, that doesn’t mean you can’t take your furry feline for a boat ride.

But before you strap her in her seat and rev up that motor, it’s important to know a few things to keep both you and your cat safe on the waves. And what exactly does that entail? Here’s what you need to know.

Can You Take Cats Onboard a Boat?

The short answer is yes, you can. There are presently no regulations or boating rules that say you can’t take your cat out on a boat. But that doesn’t mean you can just take her out anytime you want to without preparation or training.

Aside from getting your cat ready for the trip, you’re going to want to buy a few things to make the trip more comfortable and enjoyable for your feline. This is especially important if you plan on making this a regular experience for your cat.

Tips for Boating with Cats

living on a boat with a cat

The thing about cats is that they’re not really designed for water. Sure, they can swim, but that doesn’t mean they like it. And then of course there’s the predicament of getting them out of the water and back in the boat.

That means you’re going to have to exercise whatever techniques are at your disposal to make sure your cat stays safely on board throughout your trip.

Acclimate your Feline

Although you might be excited to bring your furry friend out to your favorite spot, it’s important that you take the time to acclimate them to your boat. That means letting them explore the vessel while it’s parked safely in your driveway.

Let your cat explore the boat. Take them on a little tour and see how they respond. If they feel a little anxious, provide care and comfort by reassuring them of your presence. It also helps to repeat the process in case they aren’t too comfortable the first time around.

As they get used to the conditions on your boat, you can gradually introduce them to other elements of the boating experience. For instance, you can dock your boat at the local marina and sit on board with your cat while the waves move your boat about.

Take a Dip

While no one wants to see their cat fall overboard, there’s no harm in testing out how well they swim. This should prevent drowning accidents that no one wishes for, but would be nice to be prepared for nonetheless.

You can test this safely at home in a tub or a small outdoor pool. Get your cat to swim a few minutes everyday to get them used to the movement and the water. You can also take them to a nearby shore (make sure they’re on a leash!) and see how they respond to gentle waves.

Train to Climb

It’s one thing to know how to swim and another to get back on board. After all, what good is it for your cat to know how to swim if you can’t pull them back into your boat?

There are a bunch of options you can use to train your cat to get back on board. Pet ladders are common, but these ladders are mostly designed for dogs. Some cat owners use rope ladders since they’re easier for cats to cling to as opposed to steel step ladders.

Use a Flotation Device

Yes, there are flotation devices for cats, but your feline probably won’t feel too comfortable wearing one right out of the box. So make sure you try to get them used to that, too.

Get your cat to wear their PFD especially when you’re on your boat or around water. You might also want to watch them swim with their flotation device on so you can see whether it makes it more difficult for them to swim. If it does, you might want to consider a different design.

When all Else Fails

A long handled net big enough to scoop your cat out of the water might be a handy tool to have on board in case they’re in a panic. Some cats lose their cool if they’re too worried or anxious, which isn’t unlikely if they’re tossed overboard. A net should let you fish them out of the water and back to dry safety.

Do Cats Get Seasick?

Yes, cats do get motion sickness. Unlike dogs who tend to enjoy long rides either in cars or boats, cats tend to do poorly when placed in a moving vehicle. The nausea they feel is often exacerbated by the anxiety and stress of being in a strange new environment.

Some of the symptoms of seasickness in cats include:

  • Lethargy
  • Excessive drooling
  • Pacing and restlessness
  • Loud meowing or hissing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Obvious discomfort
  • Acting 'on edge'

The best way to ease their anxiety would be to provide them a safe, quiet place to stay while you’re underway. A cat carrier would be the perfect little nook for an anxious cat to feel more comfortable and secure especially when they’re in a new environment.

Other than that, you’re going to want to take them out on shorter trips first. This makes it easier for your cat to get used to the conditions out on the water so they’re ready to take on longer excursions.

Related: Can Seasickness Kill You?

The Essentials for Having a Cat On Board

cruising with cats

There’s a whole lot more to boating with cats that you’re probably going to discover on your own, especially since all cats have different personalities. But in general, you’re going to want to take these snippets of wisdom with you when you set sail:

Never Leave Them Out of Your Sight

Curiosity could very well kill the cat especially on a boat. Since cats like to explore by nature, they could get themselves into dangerous situations if left unattended.

Make sure they’re always within view when you’re on board and underway. If you ever find the need to do something that you can’t take your cat with you to do, keep them in their crate until you get back.

Keep a Leash Handy

Your cat should never be without a leash when you’re out in the open water. Tethering them to your wrist or to a central element of your boat should prevent them from accidentally falling overboard.

It also helps to get a leash that attaches to a body harness or vest instead of a collar to add an extra layer of safety.

Visit your Vet

There’s no harm in consulting with your vet before you set out on a trip. Depending on your cat’s needs and your vet’s orders, you may have to consider buying some anti-motion sickness medication specifically for your cat in order to keep stomach pain and nausea from boiling over.

Your vet might also be able to provide you vital information for safety that could save your cat’s life down the line.

Offer Comfort

If there’s anything or anyone on board that can really keep your cat from getting anxious, it’s you. See to it that you really take cues from their actions and body language, and make sure there’s no shortage of comfort and petting.

Some cats prefer being locked in a gentle hug while they’re still getting used to the conditions on a boat just to know you’re there for them and that everything is fine.

Don’t Forget Essentials

Your cat’s needs don’t take a break when you’re on a boat. Living on a boat with a cat means providing all of their needs right where they can access them. Set a safe space for a small kitty litter box and some food that they can come back to when your boat is parked or docked.

Make sure you find a secure place for it all in storage since aggressive waves could easily toss them around and make a mess.

All Paws on Deck!

No one really talks about cruising with cats, but it is possible with some practice. If your feline isn’t a natural sailor, you can get them acclimated to the conditions on your boat and out on the water so they feel more comfortable next time around.

And while boating with cats might take a little extra preparation than boating with a dog, it’s definitely a rewarding experience to have your best buddy on board for snuggles and cuddles whenever you want them.