I'm not an expert on cats at all. But thanks to a reader, I now have answers for a couple of the most frequently asked questions, including the best way to store their food.

Cat Aboard!

There’s a bunch of dog info here on The Boat Galley, mainly because we have a dog — it started with storing their food (yes, a galley connection!) and proceeded from there.  But then, I started getting some questions about cats on boats.  Unfortunately, I have virtually no first-hand knowledge there, since Dave is allergic to cats.

But thanks to Krissy, I can now answer a couple of the most frequently-asked questions — including storing their food (again — a galley connection!).

I’ll start by saying that lots and lots of boats have cats aboard.  Perhaps more full-timers than weekenders (since cats are relatively easy to leave home for a weekend), but I’m positive that more of the boats we met in the Sea of Cortez had cats than dogs.  So if you’re wondering about the general feasibility of taking your cat on your boat, it’s certainly possible.

You obviously know your cat and have a feel for how he/she would do aboard, but in general cats seem to like the life.  If you are heading to foreign countries, be sure to check out the requirements first.  Cats are allowed many places where it’s difficult to take dogs (often you can self-quarantine cats whereas you can’t with dogs), but make sure you know the regulations and have the paperwork in order.  New Zealand and Australia are, to my knowledge, the hardest countries to bring any animal to — and while it’s possible with cats, it’s also very expensive.  You can read one cruiser’s story of getting their cat into New Zealand here.

So now, on to the two things that Krissy passed on to me.  First is storing dry cat food . . . it needs to be put in airtight plastic containers.  Even the bags that haven’t been opened need to be in airtight containers, because of the humidity in a marine environment.  Airtight storage is also important to prevent bugs (and other critters — yuck!) from taking up residence right in the middle of a food source.

And she pointed out an important fact that I’d never thought about (see, I told you I didn’t know much about cats . . .).  Litter is designed to absorb moisture very quickly.  And that means that it will pick it up just as quickly in the bag as in the litter box.  So not only does the cat’s food need to be in airtight containers, so does the litter.  She added, “This is especially true of wheat, corn, pine or other plant based litters as they are prone to be lovely feeding grounds for bugs.”

UPDATE:  Since writing this, I got a recommendation for a good litter box option.

Bailey-Boat-Cat-and-TBGCFor more info on the realities of having a cat on board, you may want to check out these blogs:

monkeyfist_badge_artAnd for a huge collection of “Cat Aboard” blog posts on all sorts of sub-topics, check out the links from The Monkey’s Fist.

I’m sure there are tons of other good, informative sites for felines on board.  If you know of one, please leave a note in the comments.

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  • Bailey Boat Cat on Facebook
    Posted at 08 April 2013 Reply

    Thank you for the mention!

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 08 April 2013 Reply

    But of course, Bailey! You’re the only feline blogger I know!

  • Renee Klapper
    Posted at 08 April 2013 Reply

    We have a 1 yr old neutered cat that we plan on moving aboard with hopefully this summer! (when the house sells! We will be listing it in July, please send the FAST selling God our way!) We have taken him on many trips with us for a few weeks at a time. Knowing we would eventually end up back at our land based home after a trip we weren’t too concerened. What I would like to know is what does everyone else use for cat litter? We plan on cruising the Carribbean for many years, where I’m sure litter as we know it will not be available.

    • Krissy
      Posted at 09 April 2013 Reply

      I can’t say for certain given my inexperience, but I hear in place you can’t find cat litter, check the auto parts store or mechanics. They carry “oil spill” clean up stuff that is basically unscented clay cat litter. I heard this info from another cruiser. I hope that is helpful?

      • Renee Klapper
        Posted at 09 April 2013 Reply

        Thank you it is very helpful, I would have never thought of that!

    • Nolan
      Posted at 19 January 2016 Reply

      The best free “kitty litter” i’ve heard of is… sand. Free and it can be disposed of once you reach open water.

      • Carolyn Shearlock
        Posted at 20 January 2016 Reply

        However, it has salt water in it. Most people that I know who have used it found that they had to rinse it first with fresh water, and that took too much water to make it practical.

  • Steven K. Roberts on Facebook
    Posted at 08 April 2013 Reply

    Good points – thanks! And my kitty, Isabelle, thanks you.

  • Krissy
    Posted at 09 April 2013 Reply

    Thank you for the mention! I got your package, looking forward to buying your book this summer too!

  • The Monkey's Fist
    Posted at 14 April 2013 Reply

    Carolyn, there are tons of “cats aboard” posts linked on The Monkey’s Fist: http://themonkeysfist.blogspot.com/2013/01/cats-on-board.html

  • Stephanie Kershaw-Marsh
    Posted at 10 June 2013 Reply

    We have two cats on board and we’re currently training them to use the toilet – no more cat litter! There are loads of ‘how to’ clips on youtube if anyone is interested. I think we may have a problem getting them to flush though!

    • Debbie L
      Posted at 24 July 2013 Reply

      We have just moved aboard with 2 cats, I used the Tidy cat breeze system in our home and now on the boat. it has a hard litter pellets (so no dust or litter tracks around the box). It allows the urine to pass through to a absorption pad that is underneath. You can scoop the fecal very easy. I add litter pellets as needed only a few times a month. I change the pad once a week or as needed. It really has cut out the litter box smell. I don’t have to worry about litter clumping with the humidity on the boat.

      • Susan Parker
        Posted at 13 October 2016 Reply

        @Debbie L. We have two cats on board and currently use pine pellet litter. I’m very interested in the Tidy cat system. Their web site says you should have three systems for two cats. How are your’s doing with one system?

        • Cheryl Bular
          Posted at 13 October 2016 Reply

          One system has been good for our 2 cats. Stock up on the pee pads because u won’t find them outside the USA. The pellets have lasted over a year tho.

  • Annie
    Posted at 01 August 2013 Reply

    Our 2 cats are quite different, and were first “trained” in an RV b4 taking on a houseboat. Once on the RV, or houseboat, they became identical misbehaving twins.
    -If you sit on it, it will no longer belong to you.
    -If you sleep on it, it will no longer belong to you.
    -Wherever you put their food dish, it will not be acceptable. Hunger strikes begin.
    -They will refuse to drink any water from the no-spill container. Instead you will have to dropper feed them water several times a day. Cats who drank quite nicely on their own,will now both claim to be helplessly thirsty every hour on the hour.
    – Formerly scrupulously neat cats who would not dream of kicking litter out of the litter box at home, will now apply a new coating of wheaty flooring to your RV or boat. They will go in the litter box, and not “go”, just kick out the litter.
    -They will turn up their nose at treats. This because cats refusing treats is known to be an “uh-oh, maybe they really are sick” event, and will bother you enough to return them home. Once home, they will pilfer and carry entire treat bags under some remote furniture, tear it to shreds and eat the entire thing, because, they won.
    -If you take them to shore, and return, they will see the boat and if you are not prepared – will run full speed- following the land to UNDER the boat into the water – not jumping up onto the dreaded boat. So you have to jump in, find them asap and fish them out. However, it is true, at least for us, cats can swim without being taught.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 01 August 2013 Reply

      Interesting . . . pretty much all the cats on boats that we ever came in contact with seemed perfectly happy and didn’t have particularly unusual behavior. But maybe behind closed doors . . .

  • Karen Meyers Haver
    Posted at 12 July 2015 Reply

    Thanks for the links

  • Georgina Moon
    Posted at 12 July 2015 Reply

    We have a cat on board – she even has her own Facebook page – search for Ketch Kitten ….

  • Dana
    Posted at 12 July 2015 Reply

    I also wrote a review for the Tidy Cat Breeze in my site! Love it!

  • Dana Brooks
    Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

    i live aboard w a cat and use the Tidy cat Breeze. just had a big scare when he wandered off. wednesday, rabies shot (for Canada) and microchip

  • John Perry
    Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

    Training (in progress) the cat to use the heads. The plan is to remove the amount of litter and then the blue bowl over a few weeks. So far, so good.

  • Kimber Jo Strasser
    Posted at 13 July 2015 Reply

    Thanks for the info. Cat aboard here as well.

  • Larry Golkin
    Posted at 17 June 2016 Reply

    We did the Loop twice with 2 cats aboard. They’ve seen gators!

  • cheryl
    Posted at 17 June 2016 Reply

    It’s so important for cats to drink enough water. We use an IV bag drip on deck .

    • moyia clark
      Posted at 19 June 2016 Reply

      Cheryl tell me more about this. We are leaving with our cat soon and she will only drink from the faucet. Thanks.

      • cheryl bular
        Posted at 19 June 2016 Reply

        Ahoy Moyia,

        Our cats lick from the tubing of an IV bag we hang on deck. It slowly drips all day. We have a water maker so fresh water isn’t an issue. Our daughter is a Vetrnarian and thought this was a great solution.
        fair winds

  • Barb France
    Posted at 17 June 2016 Reply

    We are liveaboards and have two cats on board and they love it. People are always surprised to see them. They do well cruising except in rough water but then they hide until it’s stable again. The moment the engines shut down they know it’s “coast clear”! We truly enjoy having them onboard!

    • cheryl bular
      Posted at 18 June 2016 Reply

      Also as livaboards we have 2 cats who never leave the boat. They were “barn” cats we brought aboard at abt 6 weeks… People are always very surprised to see cats enjoying this lifestyle. When we sail in rough weather they want to be near us and curl up in the cockpit. The secret is to adapt them when they are very young.

  • Joy Brewer
    Posted at 18 August 2017 Reply

    I HAVE A 17 yr old cat and want to take him aboard as we cruise the Bahamas this winter. He is healthy and layed back. What besides vet , shots, and suggested chip ,would be the legal requirements for a cat that won’t leave the boat? Any advice ??? Just one slow healthy old boy. Shinjuku

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 18 August 2017 Reply

      You should get a pet permit and declare the cat on your arrival in the Bahamas even if you think he will never leave the boat. I know several stories of people who suddenly had to fly out (and wanted to take the pet with them) of the Bahamas or pets that needed to see a vet . . . and hadn’t been declared. Caused all sorts of problems and fines. Easier to just check them in.

    • Cheryl Bular
      Posted at 18 August 2017 Reply

      Good friday morning Joy. Is this the first time aboard for your cat? We cruised with our 2 liveaboard cats for over 20 years and yes we still have one! As a veterinarian i was able to provide the required certificate of good health and rabies vaccine . Customs never asked for more paperwork.

  • Stuart Dutton
    Posted at 11 December 2017 Reply

    Meredith Wright

  • Harm Ellens
    Posted at 12 December 2017 Reply

    FB Group Sailing and Cruising with Pets is useful

  • Debbie Graves
    Posted at 13 December 2017 Reply

    Also Yachty Pets

  • Mark Haney
    Posted at 14 December 2017 Reply

    Teach the cat to use the head (no joke) – no need for a litter box. Best thing for our live aboard cat family 🙂

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