Sunday, May 5, 2013

Do Cats and Boats Mix?

It's taken me a week to write this post. 1) Because I'm still freaked out about what happened. 2) Because I'm still trying to convince myself that I'm not a bad cat parent.

One week ago, Tigger fell in the water at the dock. We don't know exactly what happened because we didn't see it, but we think he sneaked through an area that wasn't zipped all the way and ended up on the swim platform. From there, he probably just stepped right off into the water. Seems crazy, I know, but really why would he have any concept of the fact that he would be surrounded by water? He's lived on land his entire life. I did research the day after it happened and this is not uncommon.

(People have asked us if we ever brought the cats on the boat with us before buying this boat. While that seems like a fun idea - just think about the preparation needed for that. It's not like bringing a dog on a boat. Not only do you need food for the cat but also a litter box which is a whole other story.)

Let me back up and say that we thought we had done everything possible to prevent the cats from falling in. There was one area of the boat that was a problem and gave the cats access to trouble:
This is our "front door."
We proceeded to create a pretty good barrier to the opening (it is held down with strong Velcro):
Like I said, I think we left one of the zippers up just enough for him to climb through. We do regular, short interval cat checks whenever they are outside of the cabin. We went looking for Tigger and couldn't find him anywhere. Doug stepped onto the dock, called his name, and heard Tigger cry. My heart stopped once I realized that my poor baby was in the water.

We found him under the dock. Doug saw his face briefly but I only saw his paw reach around the floating dock supports. We couldn't get to him until we unscrewed three dock boards. His head was dry but the rest of him was soaked. Any of you who know Baltimore Harbor water will understand when I say that I immediately brought him into a shower. Doug then showered him again using shampoo.

This also happened to a previous boat neighbor of ours. They found their cat two days later on a board underneath the floating dock. I'm still cursing myself for the fact that it happened but I'm grateful that we found him so quickly. I could never have slept knowing that my baby was out there somewhere.

He's been fine all week and (hopefully) he has learned his lesson. I'm thinking about putting both cats in life jackets and dumping their paws in the water on a nice day so that they both learn quickly. I know this was inevitable but I really didn't think it would happen within a week of moving in. Tigger has lost one of his nine lives thanks to his curiosity.

In other cat news, we took them out for their first cruise this weekend. This time they both wore their life jackets. The sound of the blower freaked them out a bit. (For non-boating readers, the blower moves air through the engine compartment so fumes from the fuel are quickly dissipated.) The sound of the engines freaked them out even more. I sat with them in the cabin while Doug started everything and tried my best to calm them. They stuck close by me and I kept petting them to reassure them.

I had to leave them in the cabin to help get the boat out of the slip. Once safely away from the dock, they were allowed to explore. Their curiosity was a blessing this time as they both joined us at the helm for the ride.

We only took a short ride to the Key Bridge and anchored for about an hour. All in all, a good trip. I'm confident they will be okay for our Memorial Day trip. One small problem, Latte, the little stinker, managed to wiggle out of her life jacket twice. Cat life jackets are a little difficult because they are sized correctly when they seem to be too tight. But, if you've ever seen a wet cat you know how much body mass they "lose" when wet and it all makes sense.

They have since both recovered from the trip and are fully enjoying their life in the sun:
We do keep them in the cabin (with lots of awesome, closed windows) when we aren't around so there is no worry about either of them falling in when we aren't there.

Any tips on keeping them from traveling to other boats when we are rafted up (other than keeping them fully enclosed)?


  1. I'm so glad Tigger is now safe. Just a couple of ideas, neither of them ideal but maybe a combination of something might work:

    Invisible fencing

    This came up on a site that talks about sailing with animals:
    While docked, rig up a self-rescue system, such as a coiled line or carpet strip hanging into the water at each corner of the boat, to make it easier for an overboard cat to climb back on. A fishnet with a long handle is also helpful in scooping up a drenched cat or small dog. "

    I'll keep thinking... Melanie

    1. Melanie -- Thanks. I've also seen the self-rescue system idea. We may have a bit of a careful trial and error period ahead.

  2. That whole experience sounds awful! I'm so glad Tigger's back safely aboard... and the life jackets look great!

    1. Thanks Amanda. While they don't like them, I think the life jackets look kinda cute.

  3. Poor Tigger! So glad you were able to hear him meow! They look funny in their life jackets, as if to say ... But Mommmmmm!! :) I'd do the same thing though! I loved the pictures of them lounging in their chairs too!

    Thanks for sharing and if I think of anything to help keep the cats on board, I'll let you know!

    1. Yes, I think they look cute, but they rarely look happy in the life jackets. Fingers crossed that we don't need more ideas on how to keep them on board.

  4. What a story! I could visualize the entire thing.... I'm glad the cats are safe and sound now, and enjoying the sunlight on the boat.

    1. They really love the sunlight and views from the boat.

  5. Oh my heart dropped when I read this. I'm so happy to hear he is okay. I know that scared you to death.

    1. My heart dropped enough for the both of us the day it happened but he seems fine now.