Spending an afternoon relaxing out on the water is a great way to spend your weekend with family. But what about the family members you usually leave at home? We’re talking about your pets, and specifically your cat. Many people don’t realize that cats can enjoy boating just as much as people, provided you take the time to acclimate them to the marine environment.

At Norfolk Marine, we know pets are valuable family members, so we’ve constructed this list of tips for boating with your cat to ensure you and your fluffy friend have a great time together on the water. If your boat needs any maintenance ahead of your voyage, call up our service department so we can get you taken care of!

Prepare For The Car Trip

Your first step on getting your cat to the boat will be getting her in the car to travel there. Unless you live dockside, you’ll probably have to ride with your cat in a carrier, and most cats don’t take well to this. Taking her on short trips in the car with a comfortable blanket in her carrier and some treats for encouragement can help your cat to get used to car travel. It can help to let your cat sniff around the car before you hit the road. Stop often to provide your cat with water and a chance to use the litter box. Don’t feed her while the car is in motion since it might make her sick.

Gather Supplies

Collect everything your cat will need to feel comfortable and safe on the boat. You should get your cat a life vest, first and foremost. A small dog’s life vest will likely work well for a cat, and you can get these at camping and adventure stores using your cat’s measurements. Make sure the vest fits him without sliding off and doesn’t restrict his shoulder movement. A harness and leash will be necessary for all times your cat is not on the boat.

Pack your cat’s favorite bed, their normal food, plenty of drinking water and some toys and treats. You’ll also have to find a place to securely put a litter box on your boat, which could mean cutting a hole under a bench or allocating a particular cabinet to the purpose. Secure everything so that it won’t spill while the boat is in motion.

Get Your Cat Used To Water

Cats swim well even if they don’t necessarily love water. You should make sure that your cat can stay afloat and paddle in water, and that she is still able to do this while wearing a life vest. A small pool in your backyard or shallow body of water can be used to test this out while you monitor and protect your cat. If your cat flounders a lot or is too frightened to swim, she may not be ready to ride on a boat, so this is a good test.

Introduce Your Cat To The Boat

Just like you acclimated your cat to the car, you’ll now have to get him used to the boat. Let him roam around your moored boat on a leash, sniffing everything, and use a gentle, encouraging voice. Pet him and play with him while you sit on the boat to help him develop a positive association with the boat.

What If Your Cat Goes Overboard?

If your cat goes overboard, you’ll want to stop your boat and either get in the water or reach over to grab the handle of your cat’s life vest if she’s close enough. If she can paddle, try to encourage her back to the boat by calling her name. Have something that your cat can climb like a fishing net or a ladder so she can be pulled back onboard.

General Cat Boating Safety

Make sure that you always know where your cat is when you’re on your boat, since cats can get stuck in strange places and you don’t want to injure your cat if he’s behind a door as you close it. Keep your cat in her carrier or securely leashed while on shore. Provide a quiet place on the boat for your cat to rest and hide out if she needs to. You’ll also want to take your cat to the vet to ensure she’s in good health and that she has all her immunizations and records updated, especially if you’re going on a trip that crosses borders.

If you haven’t yet become a boat owner, you’ll want to come into our Norfolk dealership to see our selection of new and used boats for sale. We have several styles available for activities ranging from fishing to cruising, so you’re sure to find a boat that meets your needs. Norfolk Marine serves the cities of Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Hampton, Virginia.