Safety Tips for Cats at Sea

Before you set sail with your favorite cat aboard, follow these sailing cat safety tips.

By CatChannel Editors

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Cat on a boat
Cats are great seafaring pets, experts say, because cats are comfortable staying on the boat.
Why Sail With Cats?
Experienced sailors and boat owners say cats are a superior pet choice when choosing a boating companion: they enjoy closed environments and don’t have to leave the boat the way a dog might. Keep these pointers in mind when bringing your cat sailing with you.

Acclimate Your Cat to the Boat
Before setting sail, bring cats on board and spend the night at the marina to ensure that cats on boats are comfortable with their new surroundings. Bring the cat aboard in a carrier and take him to a closed area below deck. Then let him out, he says.

Keep Cats Onboard in Proper Places  
Although most modern boat motors are enclosed, cats can find small spaces to crawl into and removing cats is difficult. Always know your cat’s whereabouts, and never leave a cat on deck alone. Place a collar bell on your cat to track her movements.  

Prepare for Emergencies 
Lace strong nylon netting the boat’s lifelines to create an effective barrier. Also, train them to look for you in the water by performing drills.  

Practice drills with your cat by starting in the bathtub then moving to a swimming pool with a friend. Your friend should put the cat in the water and have the cat swim to you; you want your cat to trust you. When your cat’s in the water, call to him. Encourage him to look for you and come to you.

Safe Docking
Keep a large fishing net with a long handle on board. Don’t allow cats off the boat unless in a carrier or on a leash. Always keep an identification tag on your cat, even if he’s microchipped. You can also put an electronic flash drive with contact information in a plastic bag and attach it to the cat’s collar.

Keep Cats Comfortable
Seasickness Most cats will not experience seasickness. Talk to your veterinarian if your cat has nausea related to sailing and your veterinarian can prescribe Dramamine.

Sunburn Strong sun affects many cats. White, shorthaired cats are prone to sunburn. Put sun block on cats’ ears and noses to prevent any burning and create shaded places on deck.   

Fish Parasites Bring toys and catnip on board for your cat. Cats can also play with fish, but cannot eat it; uncooked fish carry parasites that can be deadly.

On-board Litterbox Try a “litter-free” litterbox lined with a plastic grass door mat cut to fit. To clean, remove the liner and flush waste down the marine toilet, then hang the mat overboard for a rinsing.

Cat Food Familiarize your cat with several brands of food before sailing, because your cat’s favorite brand might not be available at every port. Also, stock up on food or coordinate online shipments.

Prepare For Foreign Ports
Vaccinate your cat with everything that’s available a few weeks before you leave. Some islands require proof of a wide range of shots, vaccinations and parasite tests. Also, search the internet to look up the country you’re visiting; websites often explain what records and immunizations are required for a temporary import.  
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