Oh, Man, I Want to Buy a Boat!
June 27, 2014 5:16 PM   Subscribe

We dream of living aboard some day, and are wondering if that day can be today*. But we have cats. Have you lived aboard with cats?

We have two wonderful indoor/outdoor kitties, about 2 years old. They seem friendly and smart to us and are generally not afraid of water, though one will not willingly enter the shower. I have also read multiple liveaboard blogs where people keep their pets, though those are most commonly dogs. I'm concerned about living aboard with cats. (If we cannot liveaboard with cats, we will not liveaboard at all.)

My concerns are:

1. We've moved quite a bit, but never to live on a boat. How easily might the cats get used to it? Any special training/acclimation you had to do?

2. The marina that would be our first choice, the Shilshole Marina, specifies that pets hanging out must be on leash. I believe this means we cannot allow the cats to roam the docks.

3. If we keep them as indoor cats, what would be the minimum boat size in order to keep the cats happy inside? Or would that be impossible? We are currently looking at 27' boats, as the minimum size (for two), but would be willing to get a bigger boat if it means going on this adventure sooner.

4. If we are able to liveaboard at a marina that allows cats to wander, what would we have to do to make sure they're on deck when we head out? (They are currently smart enough to greet us when we come home, so I do believe this behavior is trainable.)

*Even if we decide it's possible to liveaboard, we'll probably research and save up for a year at least before making it happen, so I'm also happy to do suggested reading/research for it.
posted by ethidda to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My dad has lived aboard for years, and he had a live-in girlfriend that brought a cat with her. The cat was pretty timid, and I think she mostly stayed inside. The cat was fine, but she would hide whenever the engine was on. This was a fairly large trimaran, so there was much less rocking than in a single hull boat.

Here is a blog of a liveaboard, cruising family with a cat: http://maiaaboard.blogspot.com/

I put a cat on a leash with a walking jacket. She was a temperamental jerk overall, but liked going outside, so tolerated the jacket and leash. Note that it wasn't actually possible to walk her - more like follow her around as she did what she pleased.
posted by Safiya at 5:29 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had two cats in a teeny tiny studio apartment and they were quite happy, what with the toys, treats, and racing around from bookshelf to bookshelf. I got them as kittens, though, and I don't know how well a cat would go from roaming a huge space to being in a small one. My guess is they'd be fine with it as long as you keep their stuff, routine, and so on the same.

Cats can learn to be on leash but it is nothing like a dog on a leash. I once saw a Siamese on leash at Greenlake and he seemed very pleased with himself. It can be done but I think it depends on the cat.

There are loads of cat tracking and dog tracking devices out there now. I suggest you find some people who have them and see how they work, the distance, etc. You might like something like the Roameo (but much smaller - the Roameo is for dogs) - something not dependent on a network but rather dependent only on itself in a closed kind of system. You can see from the handheld unit where the cats are and if they are on the boat, and you could determine this no matter where you are, since it is not relying on a cellular network. Surely someone makes a thing like this for kitties.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 5:36 PM on June 27, 2014

You probably need to talk to the marina in question about whether the leash rule applies to cats. It may not. I know many, many live-aboard marinas where cats are wandering around, you just let your neighbors know you have cats, so they can check for you if they are about to take off and your kitty is not safely on your boat.

Training them to come to a whistle or other call is very helpful.

Some cats can live quite happily on boats. Are yours pretty adaptable? Do they handle change well? Are they super active or would they be ok if kept confined if you sailed somewhere? It may be an idea to rent a live aboard boat for a month or so to try it out before committing, if they cats' opinion of the situation are a make-or-break for you. Keep them inside for a few days before letting them roam, just like you would in any new place. Make sure they have good ID tags and are microchipped.

If you haven't already, you should check out Lynn and Larry Pardey's blog and video/book series. They have TONS of great info about the low-cost cruising lifestyle! They are such an inspiration to me :)
posted by ananci at 5:38 PM on June 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

We lived aboard for years. 3 of us on a 34 foot cutter. When we first moved aboard we brought our two spaniels and Morka our tabby female cat. The dogs did fine (one better than the other) and the cat seemed to be trying to adjust. One day she fell into the water while going onto the dock when a motorboat came by throwing a wake. I think that was the beginning of the end for her. It was clear how pissed she was as she climbed to the dock and shot down below. She spent about 36 hours in the forpeak anchor locker, then went ashore never to return. We discovered within a week or so, she found a nice home a few blocks up from the harbor. We left her there. Not everyone is a sailor. In our bostyard there were no oet rules. Dogs and cats came and went at will. A great time in our lives. I think boatyards like that may be a thing of the past. Some cats, like some people, take to living aboard. Others don't.
posted by txmon at 7:02 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

We recently downsized from a 2600 square foot house to a 1400 square foot apartment. (not quite the same as a boat.)

Our cats have always been indoor kitties and they seem perfectly happing being the spoiled, little jerks that they are in half the space they used to have.

Frankly, I'm thinking that as long as they have their people, pets, noms and cool stuff to watch, kitties are going to be perfectly fine.

I know this is a distinctly American viewpoint, but indoor cats live longer, healthier lives, and so do the songbirds and small furry critters outside.

I'll just climb down off my soapbox now.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:32 AM on June 28, 2014

I am on a boat, where I live, right now.

1) cats. We have many cats in our little boat community, it's common. Both indoor and outdoor cats. No one has mentioned any special acclimatisation problems.

I am in the UK on a 21m Luxemotor (this one) in a little group of 14 boats on a river, so the mooring issues are probably a little different. But feel free to meMail me any questions.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 10:26 AM on June 28, 2014

Thanks for all the great resources. I'll be reading up on them.

Ruthless Bunny: A 27' boat is probably maybe 150 sq ft in its cabin size. I would guess even the roomiest boat we'd buy would still be under 350 sq ft in cabin size. Boat cabins also often have a dearth of good windows, in case of capsizing. (We're interested in eventually going deep sea sailing.) So it's not quite the same situation as living in a smaller house. (Our house is currently under 1000 sq ft.)

I reread the mooring documents and they do say pets *of any kind* must be on leash when on the docks. If we decide to liveaboard with cats, I may try to leash train them (again).
posted by ethidda at 2:00 PM on June 29, 2014

« Older How can I get my six-year-old to stop licking his...   |   "Customer of Size?" Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.