We took 3 cats with us when we moved aboard. Our biggest worry was a long intercontinental flight to get to the boat but the cats, who stayed in the luggage compartment, were unaffected by it.
Two of the cats were big friends (male and the female kitten of the 3rd cat) and the other one was not too impressed with that friendship. Many cats merely tolerate each other, which is fine, it's their way.
We always let our cats roam free except when we lock up for the night. It's a choice and we believe they have a better life that way, although many cats are content with staying inside. That is the nice thing with cats and which is never possible with dogs
they can just fall overboard
but normally it happens as part of their adventures, like during catching fish
or squid. The male managed to stay dry for about 4 years and then he decided to walk over the steep grade transom while it was wet, slipped and went swimming. He went around the boat faster than I could follow with the dinghy
and then let me put him back on the swimming platform where he stayed ready to jump again for another swim. All very macho. Even the fresh water shower
, which is normally a drama, was taken like if it's everyday's business.
We have a knotted rope
at the stern so they can climb out. They don't use it of-course; the rubber flap over the engine exhaust
One cat, the youngest fell overboard when we were on the hard
. This happened during new years and we think it was the fireworks. She broke her back on a boat stand. That is the tough side of letting cats roam about. After that we kept them locked up with new years eve.
We also keep them locked up during sailing, after we learned that they will pick the height of a storm to come and and go to the foredeck to check it out. We risked our life to get him back inside.
At a marina, they establish their territory and patrol it diligently. They also steal food
from other boats and we once had a guy yelling at us because a cat took his bread and he demanded we pay him $2 for a new bread. It only adds to the fun and stories
We got a new #3 cat while anchored at Isla Margerita. She became big friends with the male but the grouchy female didn't want anything to do with her. We taught this cat (Obi Wan Kenobi, the one that died was Yoda...) how to swim and she would jump in and out of the dinghy
, come along for a ride, catch fish
all the time but never went for voluntary swims. I have seen cats that grow up aboard boats who do that incl. swimming over to other boats etc.
Then there was a French boat with a cat named "Cat". He went missing in the jungle of Panama
. The folks were searching for months, put out trails of cat food
from the jungle to their boat etc. (our cats followed those trails the wrong way all the time
) In the end they gave up and left. Months later we were on the hard
again and the grouchy female (Pasja) went missing (we were down to 2 cats now). That is not unusual, but we reported it to people so they know. The next day they come and get us because they found the cat... well, it was Cat, the French one (back to 3 cats). Barely alive I might say, with wounds and a harness that was half out and grown into his skin. We decided to try to save him so started draining and cleaning
a big abscess, cut the harness away, wash, give anti-biotics etc.
A day or so later Pasja shows up again, so now we have 4 cats. But I found an email
address of the French owners so sent an email
out and waited. In the mean time, there were people volunteering to take Cat if the owners wouldn't report. We liked that because we decided 4 cats is too much. There was this one girl that really wanted it badly... but then we got an email back from the owners... they would sail back and collect Cat. We were back down to 3 cats. But the girl was heartbroken so we offered her a cat from us (Pasja who didn't like the other two so much) and she was happy with that. We were back to 2 cats now.
Then the male cat was old and sick and really at his end. We had to put him to sleep which was the toughest thing that happened since we went cruising. We were back to one cat, Obi Wan. She was not happy alone and we gave her to the daughter of a local guy we know here in Panama
, where she is happy and catching lizards all day. So now we're at 0 cats!
We still see Pasja and Obi Wan Kenobi now and then and they still recognize us
I hope this story explains a bit how it is with cats aboard: go for it!!
Here's the cat named "Cat" sick and wounded:
but getting better: