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Old 10-09-1999
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Sailing with Cats

We have two declawed cats that have adjusted very well to being on the boat as long as the engine isn’t on and the boat isn’t moving. Every time we take them on short trips, they get sick—should we force the issue and keep going or should we turn back whenever this happens?

Sue and Larry respond:

Sounds like you've had quite a time with your two cats. There's no question that it is tough for cats to adjust at first to boats when it is not their normal environment. But we believe they will adapt.

We would definitely recommend that the cats be allowed in the cockpit. One reason they may be getting sick down below is because they are anxious about where they are and where you are. The only time one of our cats was sick on board was when we shut them in the forward cabin one night while we were sailing offshore.

As for falling overboard, make sure you have a long-handled fish landing net handy. We know cats with just their front claws removed can still climb self-rescue nets and we're certain a scared cat with no claws could do the same thing, providing the holes in the netting are large enough for a cat paw to grab.

About getting them calmed down, we believe that having them in the cockpit with you, perhaps in a favorite basket, will do the trick. You say they’re very scared of the engine noise. Try to negate that by feeding them only when the engine is on. It sounds like they just need more time on the boat, and no, we don't think you need to turn back. Give them time to find their sea legs.

Sue and Larry

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