I’m not sure how many cats have sailed around the world—my guess
is not that many. Even Charlie the cat gets a “*flew across the Pacific” added
to his official circumnavigation certificate because of the way we
opted to import him onto Australia
But now that all of us (including Charlie!) are back home in
solid land here’s a recap of having him aboard.
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.
Between Charlie and Travis the cat we’ve crossed two oceans,
sailed over 40,000 miles and had pets on board in over 30 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
Both our cats came aboard at young ages. We found Travis as
a starving kitten in Mexico
and he never really became a tame cat. He dove overboard to catch fish over 35
times (and required rescuing), sneaked out on deck during bad weather to catch flying fish, helped
himself to our guest’s rum drinks, once stowed away on another boat for a
holiday, broke into numerous boats, marred a good number of paint and varnish
jobs and gave us the reputation of being the worst pet owners ever.
Charlie came aboard at a year old and completely redeemed
our pet-raising credibility. He was nice to visitors, was a great night watch
companion, didn’t realize he could actually get off the boat and roam the docks
at marinas until our last stop in La Cruz, was never that fussy about food or
had medical problems.
It may seem counter-intuitive—but for sailing cats, nervous
home bodies may make the better companions.
Care and Feeding of Fluffy
Unlike North America—with its
wide variety of pet food choices, cats in the rest of the world seem to subsist on
Whiskas or Purina (and whatever they catch and kill for themselves). Charlie had
a bad experience with a bag of Whiskas going moldy—so he mostly ate Purina.
A couple of times I tried to stock up on healthier (less
filler) options—but be aware in the hot humid environment aboard a boat, even
sealed bags of food don’t keep that well.
Charlie ate lots of fresh fish when it was available and,
unlike 20-years ago when Travis was aboard, we found kitty litter often enough
that we never ran out. Typically though we bought enough food and kitty litter
to last until we would reach to a country where we knew we could get more.
One thing that did surprise us (which shouldn’t have) was
how much more water Charlie drank. Especially when we had sailed into the
Southern Hemisphere but some odd biological signal told Charlie it was time to
grow his winter coat in October—he was really thirsty then.
Sea Sick Cats and
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 were underway. And he only learned about visiting
other boats when we got to La Cruz (bad kitty). He did catch a couple of bats
over the years—which made us glad we kept his rabies up to date. But he never
showed any interest in rum drinks or beating up our guests—including officials,
which we think is good.
The only thing that Charlie the cat did that concerned us was get seasick on the
first day of a passage. So 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 him a good home.
Clearing In to
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 without potentially exposing them to other pets with
illnesses you don’t want to encounter. He did see vets in Australia and South Africa for updates. But for most
countries just the volume and official-ness of the paper was enough and even
though we got him his updated vaccines and a health certificate in Mexico neither the US
Shedding and General
Charlie was an excellent boat cat—and other than the Australia importation
bit he was affordable to have aboard. For reasons known only the universe
Charlie shed way more than the extremely fluffy Travis. Part of it may have
been he never did manage to sort out his winter/summer coat schedule and seemed
to always try and grow a winter coat at funny times. The result though was our
boat often seemed hairy inside. But, if you like pets you learn to tolerate it.
We also found that it was pretty easy to find him pet
sitters when we wanted to go places (lots of sailors crave kitty time). He does
fairly well on his own for up to two nights. But in hotter weather is was
important to have someone checking the boat’s temperature and making sure he
had enough water.
For the record it turns out Charlie is also an excellent
road tripper. He loved the hotel rooms on the trip up to Canada and was
pretty patient with his box time. Let me know what else you like to know!