August 15, 2015

Cats on Board

Every so often I get a letter in my inbox asking about Charlie the cat. Usually people want to know if he’s still with us (yes!), what sailing with a cat is like, what documents he needs and how we manage to care for him. If pets aren’t your thing—skip this post. But if you wonder what it’s like to sail around the world from a feline perspective, read on.

Like the people on the boat, Charlie the cat is now halfway around the world (though he did fly part of the way). But between him and Travis the cat we’ve had pets onboard in a lot of different countries. Which means we’ve been clearing cats in and out of countries and looking for (but not necessarily finding) cat food and kitty litter in a lot of interesting places.

Care and Feeding of Fluffy

Currently we’re stocking up on food and supplies for our last leg to South Africa. Over the next three months we’ll be in places where the population is quite poor, as in ‘not always enough food for the kids’ poor. Places like this usually offer up meagre basic supplies for us, but when it comes to the needs of Charlie the cat, he’s out of luck.

So because the Seychelles actually has cat food and kitty litter we’re making sure we buy enough to last until we reach the next country that has cat food and cat litter (we’re pretty confident South Africa is a good option). But it’s not always easy to determine where we’ll find it. When we were in Indonesia we discovered that while lots of people had cats as pets the idea of actually feeding them was pretty strange. It wasn’t until we reached Bali, with its expat population, that we found (expensive) food and litter.

Fortunately we knew Malaysia also had pet supplies in the expat zones—so we only bought the basics of what we needed (which turned out to be a cat food Charlie really hated) and as soon as we were in Malaysia we stocked back up. By the time we were in the Maldives we were running low again—I had read a couple of expat blogs that indicated I’d find food and litter but we never did. So we set off from the Maldives without much litter. Charlie was also rapidly losing weight because he was stuck with the terrible Indonesian food he hated

During our month in Chagos Charlie was happy that a lot of fresh fish scraps came his way—this supplemented the yucky food. We also used beach sand for litter—and wished again that Charlie had been bright enough to figure out how to use the astro-turf litter box that other cruisers have great luck with. Here in the Seychelles we were able to find him food he likes and have a choice of lavender or strawberry scented kitty litter—truly odd stuff.
Which brings me to the main characteristic cruising cats should have—they need to be willing to eat almost anything and use any litter.

Sea Sick Cats and Other Perils

In most respects Charlie is a great boat cat. He’s super cautious—so unlike Travis the cat we’ve never found him on the foredeck trying to catch flying fish while we’re underway. He’s never visited other boats while we’ve been in marinas—and left on sailing holidays with them. He also hasn’t tried to catch sea birds or fish straight from the ocean—requiring us to fish him out of the sea 20-30 times. And Charlie the cat has never bitten or attacked anyone at all—including officials, which we think is good.

The only thing that Charlie the cat does that concerns us is he gets seasick on the first day of a passage. So now when we head out—he doesn’t get breakfast. And if he looks sad and starts to pant or drool we get a rag handy. Other than that he’s pleasant to have around—he’s sweet and cuddly and moderately playful. For those who knew Travis—we think of Charlie as our reward for having given a good home to a devil-cat.

Clearing In to Foreign Countries

Charlie was micro chipped and given a big fat file of impressive looking paperwork when we imported him into Australia. We covered what was involved in bringing Charlie into Oz in another post—so this is more general. Most places don’t really care about Charlie. We don’t hide him away—but we only bring him up if we’re asked directly if we have a pet onboard. Then we pass along his paperwork for perusal.

One complication we’ve found is that while countries may want up to date medical records it’s hard to find places to take pets to get their vaccines updated. For the last several countries just the volume and official-ness of the paper has been enough. But we’re quite sure with the Caribbean, US and Canada coming up that it’s time for Charlie to visit the vet again soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Animals can be great companions and entertainers, but I often wondered about the complication animals bring to traveling and the paperwork they need. Thanks for the post.
Well when you get to South Africa, there will be vets a plenty, and kitty litter and kitty chow to choose from I am sure.