If I were to put a percentage on how many cruisers have pets onboard, I would put it at close to 50%. Yeah, that surprised me a little bit as I thought the number would be much less. People do love their animals. The number one pet to be found onboard would be dogs, followed by cats and bringing up the rear would be birds. One boat we saw in Miami had parrots on board with large outside cages situated over the dinghy davits.
Having cats on your boat is fairly easy to manage. Providing a litter box in a location that is both convenient and that mitigates any odor is probably the hardest part of the whole process. For us, the box is in the port head inside the shower area. Our Lagoon has two showers but since there is only the two of us we don’t need the extra shower area. If guests come aboard for an extended stay we move the box outside to the cockpit. The head area also has two opening hatches for odor control, even though we’ve never had a problem with odor because Michele cleans the litter box everyday. The box sits on one of those pads that trap litter that gets on the cats paws when they exit the box. After the box is a small rug that further traps any stray litter. We don’t keep the box in the cockpit because I don’t want a litter box close to where we eat. Just sayin’..Also, during inclement weather if you don’t have a proper inclosure for your cockpit, you have to move the box inside to keep it from getting wet. And that’s what works for us regarding cats. Of course, if you take your cats or any other animals outside the US, consult the website Noonsite for all the info you need regarding bringing pets into a foreign country.
Ahh, the dog. Dogs can be a little more complicated then a cat. The biggest reason? Dogs don’t crap in a box! If you can’t train your dog to go potty on a training mat while they are on the boat, then your cruising plans must be altered to accommodate daily trips to shore. Passages of more then two days are not possible if your dog will refuses to relieve themselves onboard. Even on the ICW there are very long stretches with no suitable place to land. The marshes in Georgia and the cypress banks in South Carolina come to mind. We were fortunate in that it only took two weeks for Gidget to learn to use the pad. Here’s what we did…We bought the largest pad that would fit on the boat and every day Michele would take Gidget and introduce her to the pad. For the first week she sat on the pad just fine, no pee, but she looked good sittin’ there. Since we were at a marina at the time Gidget still had her walks off the boat to relieve herself. During these walks Michele carried a few paper towels with her and when the dog peed she placed the towels under her to, uh, collect a sample. The towel went into a ziplock bag to preserve the sample. After a few days of collecting, the towels were rubbed onto and into the mat in order to give the mat a scent. Another couple of days of bringing Gidget to the mat and she got it! Now the only time she has to leave the boat is for some exercise. In our boat this is how we separated the litter box from the rest of the head. Here you can see the pad that traps most of the litter that gets stuck to their paws.The cat hide-a-ways…Here’s the training mat that Gidget uses and crazy as it sounds, at least one cat uses it too! In this pic you can see I have tied a line to the pad. I drilled holes into both the pad and mat and using a bowline connected the line. One end of the line is clipped to the boat. When it comes time to clean the pad, I unclip the line, pick the mat up over the lifelines and dip it into the water several times to rinse it off. It drains for a minute or so then gets hauled back over the lifelines. Really simple. The pad has withstood 20-25 mph winds, but over that it starts to move around a little. To keep it in place in high winds I rinse it and place a full gas can on it or if it’s really blowing I’ll move it to the cockpit.Training “session”…Happy campers…
Hope this helps……Until then….