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Cats on Sailboats – How Safe Is It? Is the Trend Here to Stay?


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a tabby cat on a sailing boat

It’s not a secret that most cats don’t like water. Just a few days ago, my old wobbly cat, Aslan, had a litter box mishap and needed a bath, so I can personally vouch for just how much some cats hate water, even when that water is warm and provided in a jacuzzi bathtub. But what can I say is that while some cats are ungrateful for the care, other cats just legitimately don’t like water.

Some people really like to push the envelope when it comes to their cats, though. The increasing number of people who are training their cats to wear a harness and walk on a leash have managed to prove that many cats can do well in unusual situations, as long as they are set up for success before entering that situation.

One way that some people have started to push the envelope with their cats is by taking them on sailing trips, but is this safe or practical?

Is Sailing With Cats Safe?

Sailing with your cat can be safe, but it’s imperative that you take some big precautions to keep your cat safe and in the boat. The best starting point is starting with a cat breed that is known to commonly like water, like Bengals, Turkish Vans, and Maine Coons. Keep in mind that each cat is an individual, so you may still end up with a water-averse cat, even in a notoriously water-loving breed.

a cat on a boat
Image Credit: Simone Padovani, Shutterstock

What to Know Beforehand

There are multiple steps that you should take before your cat should even set foot on a sailboat, like verifying the rules of the marina or areas you’ll be traveling to and training your cat to wear a harness and leash, collar with a tag, and a lifejacket made for a cat.

If you’re planning to take your cat on your liveaboard sailboat, it’s extra important to verify rules and regulations because many marinas don’t allow pets at all or only allow dogs. Your cat should also be fully vaccinated and cleared by a vet before they go on your sailboat.

Other parts of keeping your cat safe on a sailboat involve getting your cat used to the boat itself, as well as the sights, sounds, and smells your cat is likely to encounter on your boat. Your cat should also be familiar with embarking and disembarking protocols. If your cat will be entering and exiting the boat in a carrier, they’ll need to be comfortable with the carrier. If you’re planning on walking your cat on a leash off and on the boat, they should be fully comfortable with this and should always be kept from having the opportunity to jump into the water or escape on the dock.

Why Is Sailing With Cats a Trend?

A large portion of people who take their cat on a sailboat also live on that boat. There are a lot of reasons that someone might choose to live on a sailboat, from a love of the water to differing living expenses compared to purchasing a home. Many people enjoy the companionship of a pet, and people who live full time on a sailboat may be more prone to loneliness than the average person, especially if they spend periods of time at sea.

Cats are considered by many animal-loving sailors to be a great option for a sailing companion. Cats are compact, often more so than dogs, so they’re a good size for the limited living space available on a sailboat. They also often require less exercise every day, at least not in the same way that many dogs require exercise.

I can personally attest to the fact that my American Bully, Eva, and my highest energy cat, Nutmeg, do not at all have the same exercise needs, even though both require moderate activity every day.

Cats often can get their excess energy out through activities like scratching, climbing, and hunting, all of which are activities that can be tweaked to be done on a sailboat safely. Don’t release mice on your boat or anything, but playing with toys often mimics hunting for cats, appeasing their instincts.

Cats also have less waste than dogs and are more likely to quickly learn to use a litterbox. Dogs can be trained to use a box or a pad, but it isn’t instinctual for them and may take time to train. Just keep in mind that any pet waste regulations in the area will still apply to waste from your cat’s litter box.

a siamese cat on the deck of a boat
Image Credit: ela_elarts, Shutterstock

In Conclusion

Assuming people continue to live on sailboats, then it’s very likely that the trend of having cats on sailboats is here to stay. People are looking for more ways to enrich their cats’ lives by taking them on adventures, and there are few things more adventurous than going sailing, especially for a cat.

Don’t expect to wake up tomorrow and have a cat that’s willing to be your sailing companion, however. Otherwise, you might have the same experience that I had while giving my cat a bath just a few days ago.

Featured Image Credit: Nikiforov Alexander, Shutterstock

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