Cat on a Boat - Training, Gear and Tips to Sailing with a Cat

Cat on a Boat - Training, Gear and Tips to Sailing with a Cat - OutdoorBengal

Cats are perhaps the last animal you'd imagine bringing on a boat. Because it's generally accepted that cats hate being near water.

Well, cats not only make great companions aboard a boat, but they also have been doing this for centuries!

In this article, I'll discuss the feasibility of keeping cats on boats, hygiene, dealing with the litterbox, the possibility of seasickness, safety, and some of the steps you can take to make your boat more suitable for cat companionship.

Can You Take a Cat on a Boat?

Many sailors keep pets on board because they are entertaining, efficient, caring, and loving. Of those, many of them are cats because they can be happy in smaller spaces, they have great balance and they are smaller (so you also need less space for food storage).

Keeping a cat healthy and happy on a boat can be quite simple if you remember a few basic steps. Also, not all boats will keep your cat equally happy, so we are also going to cover that later in this article.

You should be able to take your cat with you if the vessel is equipped with the necessary facilities for their comfort and protection, including enough living space, enough ventilation, a constant temperature, a secure enclosure, and a place to do their needs, aka a clean litter box.

Cats on Boats History

With the age of sailing ships, where rodents constantly threatened food stocks, cats became an indispensable part of the crew and thus spread around the globe with European travelers.

Sailors would bring cats of all fur colors along on ships to prevent mice from getting into food stores. This led to a group not particularly known for being warm and fuzzy, pirates, to develop lore about cats bringing good luck.

A cat deciding to wander onto a ship was seen as a sign that fortune was smiling upon you and the cat leaving was seen as a bad omen. Many pirate wives would keep cats around as they believed that owning a cat would ensure their husbands would return home safely.

While contemporary sailors still appreciate a fine mouser bringing them luck, they also appreciate the feline companionship of their cat commodores.

Sailing Around the World with a Cat

Spending the day sailing the water on a boat in the sunlight can be one of life's greatest pleasures. I consider my cat a family member, and in the same way, I take her with me when I travel by plane, it is only natural for me to also take her with me on sailing trips, particularly when talking about a multi-day trip as the alternative would be to leave my cat behind, with someone.

However, a few things to remember before deciding to bring cats along for the ride. You want your cat to feel secure and at home on your ship, so make sure she has everything she needs to become used to being around water.

Of all the ways I can travel with my cat, I consider sailing one of the best ones...

Lisa Clark has been sailing around the world on a fiberglass boat with her cat Amelia since she adopted the abandoned kitten in November 2013.

Lisa Clark Sailing around the world with a cat
Photo via Instagram: @captainlizclark

Why are There Cats on Boats?

Ship cats have been a part of many different types of ships throughout history, including those used for business, exploration, and even warfare. There are several reasons cats have been brought aboard ships, but the most common is keeping rodents in check. Vermin on ships can damage ropes, timber, and electrical cables.

Some sailors think a cat's sharp vision might guide them to avoid a shipwreck at night.

Can Cats Liveaboard Boats?

Many live-aboard families choose cats as companions. Cats are great sailing pets, much better than dogs. Cats have a lower activity need, and many may adjust well to life aboard a vessel with less attention and special care than a dog. Cats have long been a part of ships due to their adaptability and entertaining companionship.

As mentioned earlier, living with a cat on a boat is possible, and many cat lovers are doing it. However, here are some things to consider if you want to bring your cat with you on your boat:

I would like to separate the cat´s needs into 3 big groups:

  1. Food & Water
  2. Entertainment
  3. Health & Hygiene

Food Aboard

 Cats are not very good at drinking water, they absorb most of the hydration through food. Particularly on a sailing vessel, cats will get dehydrated food will just make matters worse.

Consider switching your cat to a wet diet when on a boat, so in case they are not very regular at drinking water, they still have a healthy hydration level in their bodies.

Regarding food, if you leave the dock, consider always packing enough food for 10-20% more days than you are going out. Things happen and you should ensure that your cat can eat throughout the trip.


While cats need less activity than dogs, they still need mental and physical stimulation. 

Try to provide an environment where your cat can thrive, with enough scratching, climbing, and hiding spots. Usually, boats don't lack those, but satisfying your boat will help keep your cat healthy and your boat intact.

Health and Hygiene

See a vet before you go to ensure your cat is healthy enough to travel.

Another safety consideration is leaving your cat roaming around the boat. If the boat is underway, the cat should wear a harness or a lifejacket and attach it to a lifeline, so in case it fell on the water, it'd be easier to get back up. When not underway, those measures are still recommended, but if the cat is walking around without a harness or a floating device for cats, there should be always someone paying attention to the cat.

    Just like humans or dogs, cats may become seasick. They will likely prefer some time alone, so let your cat go through the process without forcing them to do anything in particular. If they throw up, add extra liquid to their meal to avoid dehydration.

    Cat symptoms of sea sickness include:

    • Frequently licking their lips
    • Lip smacking
    • Vomiting
    • Drooling a lot
    • Making sounds of pain or anguish, such as whining
    • Yawning
    • Anxiety, boredom, or a sudden lack of activity

    The sea sickness medicine Dramamine is safe for cats to consume, speak with your veterinarian before administering it to your cat.

    Bengal Cat on a Sailboat

    Sanitation of Sailboats with Cats on Board

    Boats are usually small spaces that clutter quickly and can get dirty with ease. Luckily, they tend to be equally easy to clean.

    A liveaboard cat doesn't have to mean a messy space... unless you need to fit a litterbox!

    Managing the LItterbox Aboard a Sailboat

    Regarding the litterbox, it's important to have a clean litterbox always available to your cat. We use flushable (biodegradable) litter so that we can dump it overboard (always according to local regulations). We use World's Best Litter and are very happy with it!

    Try using a very tall litterbox so that the litter stays inside. Top-entry litterboxes work best for sailing environments, although some sailors have built-in litterboxes into a cabinet, for extra coolness.

    Do Cats Like More Sailboats or Motorboats?

    Cats in general enjoy smooth rides and mild noises, which does not sound like a motorboat at all.

    If you are at a point where you want to buy a boat and you want to take your cat with you and you don't know if you should get a sailboat or a motorboat, the answer is, get a sailboat. Not only because they are classier and cooler, also because of sailboats:

    • Have displacement hulls that cut through the water instead of jumping waves, making them a more comfortable ride.
    • They run on wind vs. engines, so you and your cat can enjoy navigating with almost zero noise.
    • Sailboats have more vertical space than motorboats, giving your cat a natural playground to play on.

    I Took My Bengal Cat on a Sailboat Circumnavigation Trip

    Let me tell you about when our two cats and I explored Long Island with nothing but the sun and the breeze.  Leaving Santos, we entered the dark hours of nighttime sailing before we knew it. The cats enjoyed exploring the boat, and after 36 hours of nonstop sailing, we arrived at Harihan, the most beautiful spot in the world, to do absolutely nothing. Coy and I became snuggly monsters and realized why we weren't ready for the storm.

    To ensure our safety and the stability of the anchor during the storm, we had to go outside. To recharge our batteries, we stopped for a little rest. Coy and I went for a stroll on the beach on day four after deciding to take a day trip there. The approaching storm made us think it was time to go back so we could adjust the sails.

    On the fifth day, we were all pretty tired, so we took turns being captains, and the cats chose a rocky place to live. Before we knew it, another beautiful sunset and day had come and gone.

    The storm finally arrived when we thought it would never come. After arriving back in New York, everyone on the crew agreed on one thing: we needed a holiday from our holiday.

    Prepare Boat for Sailing With a Cat

    One of the most important things to do before setting sail with your cat is to prepare the boat. The process includes ensuring your sailboat is secure for cats by "cat-proofing" it.

    How do You Cat Proof a Boat?

    Before bringing a cat on board, you must take steps to cat-proof your sailboat. You should "cat-proof" your boat by getting rid of or blocking your cat's access to any places that could be dangerous.

    Be careful first to close up any holes leading to the bilge. Most sailboat bilges are damp, unclean, and cramped, which creates problems.

    Cats are known to eat and damage electrical panels and wires, so it is important to secure them.

    Your cat will be fine there if you keep the rest of the boat open, safe and accessible. Protect cabinets shut, and consider installing netting over deep cubbies to keep your cat from becoming tangled or stuck behind a panel or bulkhead.

    Keeping a Cat Safe While Sailing

    Cat safety on a sailboat is simple. Temperature, water, and the natural environment are the most important problems. Here, we'll discuss some of the special considerations that must be made for your pet when living aboard a sailboat.

    • Teach your cat to swim. You want to make sure it can swim if it falls overboard.
    • Cat life jackets: Using a specific cat life jacket is an excellent start. In an emergency, these lifejackets would also come in handy.
    • Leashes and harnesses allow your cat to enjoy the sailing deck safely. A leash is often fastened to the railing or the stay wire on liveaboards. Your cat will have twice as much room to roam when they are on a leash and harness.
    • Climate and Temperature: The same temperature rules apply to sailboats and cars. The boat should never become too hot, especially if you have a cat. Maintain comfortable temperatures within the ship by turning on the heat and air conditioning.

    Conclusions on Boating With Cats

    Sailing with cats gives company at sea, bonding possibilities, and many chances for images of beautiful adventure cats enjoying the yacht life. Having a cat aboard your boat can put the wind in your sails.

    Stay Wild, Stay Safe, We'll See You Outdoors!

    Albert & Mia

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.