I have sailed with a dog for 17 years and with 3 cats for 7 years now. For dogs
, the life vest is a good idea. For cats, forget it.
Why for dogs
: easier to see them plus you have something to grab, even with the boat-hook if needed. Also, dogs tend to like it.
Why not for cats: they hate it so much that they rather die. All cats can swim. Make sure they can get back aboard and they will try everything except the thing you put overboard
for them to use. If you have no swimming platform you need to do something of course.
Also, while underway: lock them up inside. Even if they always find a snug corner to sleep when underway, keep locking them up. One of our cats (the male) decided to explore the foredeck just as we were hit with 40 knot
winds and horrible waves. We risked our own lives to get him back. Lock them up.
: no harnesses, tethers etc. Let them roam around and do their job. The only time we lock them up at anchor is when they start catching too many birds.
One of our cats fell overboard (well, tried to jump back but found her claws didn't work on fiberglass) within an hour of coming aboard. The male cat took 5 years to try the experience. When one cat died and we got a new kitten we did the swim & get back aboard thing countless times. She now jumps in dinghies that come alongside etc. without fear. The others never do that.
We found that the main reason they go overboard is fishing
from the swimming platform. They only just can't reach that fish
, crab or squid but try it anyway. They are back aboard in a flash and we just need to clean up the salt water
mess inside the boat.