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Cruising with your cat

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While there are some challenges faced when you take your furry feline out for a cruise, boating with your cat can actually be a safe and fun adventure for everyone. 

Take for example, Leah and Wayne Benner who when readying to leave Provo’s sugary sand beach. They wanted to grab a shower on their 41-foot Symbol cruiser before returning to the island for dinner. Tossing snorkel gear in the dingy, they pulled Chris, their seafaring cat, aboard and shoved off.

Chris the cat, however, apparently hadn’t finished his beach tour. Within moments, exhibiting a radical streak of feline independence, he dove overboard and swam back to shore.

It may not be their favorite pastime but, yes, cats can swim. This is great news for cat lovers who can’t imagine departing on that lifelong dream of cruising the Caribbean without their favorite feline.

Boating with pets presents special challenges, but the rewards are well worth the extra work.

What are those challenges? They start with preparing both the boat and your pet for life at sea. The Benners recommend giving your cat plenty of time to get comfortable on the boat before casting off on your big trip. Chris spent whole days on board helping Wayne get the boat ship shape. When the day came for a trial run, Chris was relaxed and ready, but for a longer voyage more preparation is in order.

Kitty comfort

  • Avoid seasickness –  Like Chris, most cats will head for the lowest, most stable part of the boat to minimize seasickness when seas get rough. A snug hideout, as low and centered as possible below deck, will be much appreciated.
  • Potty training or litter box? – There are books on training cats to use an onboard toilet, but if yours doesn’t quite get the hang of it, put his or her litter box low on the boat, out of traffic, and in a corner if possible. Securing it with a bungee cord and using clumping litter will save on garbage and avoid messy spills.
  • Cats at play – A scratching post is mandatory, even for a short stay. Sailors might want to build their own by covering the mast step with securely fastened carpet or hemp rope. Powerboaters can secure one of the commercially available cat scratch posts in a favorite place.
  • Healthy is happy – Be sure to stock enough of any medications your pet needs.

Don’t forget the paperwork

  • Rule No. 1: Apply early for clearance to enter any foreign port with your pet.
  • Except for Hawaii, which has specific requirements for pet entry, there are generally no restrictions on bringing cats into the United States. A rabies certificate is not usually required, but your cat should look healthy. Recent vaccination certificates can make border crossings easier.
  • The Bahamas require a health certificate signed by a veterinarian within 48 hours of departure from the United States. Timing the weather for a safe Gulf Stream crossing can make this a little tricky, so be sure to plan ahead. 

Now, sit back, bait your line, and prepare to share that fresh catch with your feline crew. Ah, life is good!

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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