Pets on Board: Living with Dogs & Cats on a Boat


We get a lot of questions about what its like to live with dogs/cats on board. Having two dogs on board with very different temperaments, an older cat and a kitten… we have a little bit of experience, although we would never presume to be experts on the subject, here is our perspective:

Q: What kind of paperwork/preparation do you need to do to take your pets to other countries?

A: The only place/experience we have as of yet is taking them to the Bahamas. Patrick wrote a post about the process here:

Preparation for Taking Pets to the Bahamas (Well before you plan to leave the US) 

Q: How did your dogs/cats deal with the changes of moving aboard?

A: Well, compared to the nearly 30 hours in a car on the way there, I think the boat seemed like heaven to them! Seriously, the cats especially hated the entire car ride. HATED it. Every chance they had to get out of their kennels, they were out. Elephant, our older cat was just miserable and angry the entire ride. Whenever she was awake (even with the anti-anxiety and motion sickness medicine from the vet) she was growling and making the most godawful angry sounds. Tempest, the kitten was a little more adaptable. She didn’t seem to mind the car ride as much, but then again, she’s not quite as old and cranky as Elephant. She did start getting pretty antsy to GO and MOVE by the time we hit Florida.

The dogs LOVE car rides, but apparently not 24+ hour car rides. Tiberius especially seemed to be expecting every stop to result in a nice long hike through muddy trails, dry trails, mountain trails… ANYTHING other than a parking lot and MORE riding!

Once we got to the boat, things were much easier for all of us.

Elephant pretty much immediately found a corner in Paris’ bunk and went to sleep.

Tempest prowled around for a while and explored before curling up in the kennel she so studiously avoided in the car and fell asleep for hours. We thought this was cute, only to find out that she was just recharging for making lots of chaos all night long. She alone sounds like a herd of elephants (ironic, eh?) running and stomping around deck for half the night. Yes, this sweet little kitten, who likes to sleep in the sail cover all afternoon:


Tiberius was a little anxious at first. His herding instinct was going crazy with this new space, and the kids all choosing to go in different directions. He spent the first two days whining at the kids, trying to get them to stay away from the edge of the boat, freaking out if they jumped in the water, but quickly learning that this was his new home. He curled up with Abyni in her bunk that first night and was happy as a clam.

Cinnamon… well, she was a neurotic mess back on land. She seemed to calm considerably on the boat. We were not expecting that at all, but she actually seems happier on the boat than she ever did on land.

Q: What about going to the bathroom? How do you deal with that?

A: The cats have a litter box. The dogs generally go to shore. Patrick likes to take the dogs to shore so they can not only go potty, but so that they can get some exercise. Tiberius is a high energy dog and being stuck on the boat for more than 24 hours tends to make him antsy beyond belief. He has DONE it, many times over the last 5 months, but he obviously doesn’t like it. When they can’t go to shore, they are supposed to go on this nice piece of astroturf that we got for them… you’ll notice I said ‘supposed to’. For whatever reason, probably our own inconsistency ~ and trying to find a good spot to put the stupid thing (the front deck would be ideal, but Cinnamon can’t get there without human help and the back deck is so small and the turf keeps getting washed over board because we can’t seem to find a good way to stick it down, since we don’t want to do anything remotely permanent until we find a good spot). Anyway, its our fault more than anything. At the moment, we will put Cinnamon on the front deck if we’re on a longer passage/can’t get to shore and she’ll go there. Because she can’t get there on her own, though, there have been a few accidents (right outside our portlight, “AHEM, MOM, DAD. I NEED TO GO POTTY!”)


Q: What happens if they fall overboard? Are you afraid of losing them during a passage?

A: Well, thus far Tempest is the only one who has fallen over when no one was watching. She’s fallen over three times and climbed back up the fender (so we always keep a fender out for that purpose). Both times we didn’t hear her fall or know she had fallen until she came back soaking wet. The last time we were ALL 6 sitting on the deck, we had just seen her over by the surfboard and a couple of minutes later she was back on the deck, soaked to the skin. She’s obviously a pretty good swimmer, so since we keep her under wraps during a passage/in bad weather, we’re not terribly worried. If you have a pet that you’re concerned about, you can always add netting around your lifelines. We’ve considered this, but aren’t sure how much good it would do, since we don’t have lifelines around the whole boat anyway.


Elephant isn’t a rambunctious kitten anymore, so I don’t think she’s even come close to falling anywhere. She doesn’t run around, much less around the edges of the boat, so we’re really not concerned about her.


Both of the dogs have fallen in once or twice, but only when its time to get in the dinghy and they get a little too overeager and jump for the dinghy before its close enough to the boat. Other than that, the dogs are both pretty careful when they’re near the edge and they can both swim well for quite a long time (which we know because they jump out of the dinghy well before reaching shore when they go for potty breaks.


We’re not worried about when we’re actually sailing because we keep all of the pets below deck or they are right beside/in the lap of their human.


The cats stay on board, but the dogs go to shore. They love digging in the sand, playing fetch, chasing lizards and whatnot. We generally choose uninhabited/empty beaches and take ‘doggy bags’ to pick up after them. If we go to ‘people beaches’ the dogs are on leashes.


Also, Tempest is quite the writer. Once Paris and Jazz went back to land, she started writing letters back home. She has a page Dear Paris, The Tempest Papers where we keep track of her letters and photos (she’s a bit of a salty sailor, so you probably have to avoid this page if salty language offends you)

Any other questions I should add (assuming I have some answers)?



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