A Boat Cat With No Water

Friday January 18,  2013

We’ve now had Georgie for about two months, and she seems to be settling into boat life pretty well.  Even if she’s now a boat cat on a boat with no water.

Neither of us had been cat owners before, but after our dog passed it left a fuzzy little hole in our hearts that needed to be filled.  A dog was at the top of Matt’s list again, but we’ve heard horror stories on customs and quarantine on dogs and thought it would limit our travel destinations.  So we left, animal free, with the constant begging from me to get a cat. They’re small, easy to care for, and never need to leave the boat.  I didn’t even think I was begging or nagging too relentlessly, but with the help of some friends while heading down the ICW we wore him down enough that over Thanksgiving weekend we went to a no-kill animal shelter in St. Mary’s Georgia ‘just to have a look’.  We knew it was over as soon as we stepped up to the property housing 207 cats, and two hours later we had Georgiana in a pet carrier and on the way back to the boat with us.

We’re still getting used to boat life with a cat, and she’s still getting used to a life with just two humans, but here are some of the things we’re learning along the way.

  • It took us three attempts to finally get a litter box that works for us on the boat.  The first one we knew was going to be temporary.  It was an open plastic container that we had laying around until we could do some damage at a pet store.  The second one was a hooded litter box with a flap to keep the smell out.  Two problems were (with that model at least), Georgie could not push through the flap, so part of it was always open, and it dragged so much litter onto the floor each time she went in and out.  The third (and hopefully final) solution was a tweaked Rubbermaid container with a lid.  We purchased a 20 quart plastic storage container that had a lid with a nice deep lip and a hole wide enough for her to get in and out of with ease was cut at one end.  This allows her privacy and us not to have to see everything she does in there.  It keeps the smell out and also keeps 99% of the litter in the box or on the lip.
  • She’s more vocal than our dog ever was.  I haven’t been around too many cats in my life, not as much as I have dogs, but I’ve always remembered cats as quiet beings.  Not ours.  Luckily it’s not the kind of ‘howling and keeping you up all night’ kind of noise, but she’s definitely trying to communicate with us.  A lot.  I’ve gotten to the point where I think I have them figured out, and they seem to fall into four categories.  1.  Feed me.  You will know when her bowl is empty.  She won’t wake you up in the morning, but as soon as you’re out of bed she’ll let you know that she’s hungry until there’s food in her bowl.  Don’t even think of trying to feed yourself first.  2.  Let me outside.  We think it goes something like this in her mind, “This boat is so god-awful small.  I’ve checked out every nook and cranny that you’ll allow me to. Please let me out where I can at least watch what other people are doing”.  If it’s a nice day the companionway is open anyway and she can roam as she pleases, but on the few cold days we’ve had here she has to let us know she wants out herself.  3.  I’m bored and I’ve already played outside.  This cry usually comes later at night after we’ve closed up the boat to keep the bugs from getting in.  Her bowl still has food in it, her litter box is clean, so I can only assume she wants attention.  We’ll pull out a few of her toys and either she’ll go crazy chasing after her laser pointer or the plastic ball with a bell inside.  4.  Still have not figured this one out yet.  I’ve gone through steps 1-3 and she’s still meowing at me.  I keep telling her that with no options left I’m going to take it to mean “Please pick me up and swaddle me like a baby”.  So I do for the thirty to sixty seconds it takes for her to wrestle her way out of my grasp.  Then the meowing stops and she ignores me for a good thirty minutes. If you’re bringing a dog on your journey, there’s been studies on how CBD can help calm them down. You can read about the benefits of CBD for dogs at chron.
  • We don’t know what she thinks about water.  And not what’s in her bowl, but the stuff that’s supposed to be keeping our boat afloat.  The first ten days we had her, we were very leery of letting her up on deck because we weren’t sure that she didn’t know to not jump off.  “What’s that stuff down there?  It looks fun…I should pounce on it!”  So we mostly kept her below deck and when we did let her up we monitored every move and even had to try and stop her from jumping from the cockpit into the dinghy which was hanging on davits.  Then, luckily for her, and unluckily for us, we encountered a bit of bad luck which has now had us sitting on the hard for six weeks.  She can roam the deck all she wants and has the good sense to know that a 15 foot drop is not good.  Let’s just hope that sense stays with her when we get back in the water.  (No, we’re not putting netting up on our boat)
  • She gets lost on our boat.  Easily.  Cats really are curious creatures and she loves to try and get into every nook and cranny possible.  She has an affinity to try and jump into our bathroom cabinet each time it’s left open.  Our garage (aft cabin) is her playroom, and she ends up in places when we don’t even know how she got there.  One afternoon we realized we hadn’t seen her in awhile but didn’t think much of it.  Then, while both of us were sitting on our computers, we heard a scratching noise coming from the space that holds Matt’s clothes. Sure enough, I open the lockable latch and she comes tumbling out.  A few hours earlier I had noticed Matt’s clothes had spilled onto the floor, shoved them back in and closed the latch without ever seeing her.  This is not a big space and it is full of clothes.  She had to have already been so nestled in when I started putting the clothes that fell to the floor back.  Then just today she went missing but we could hear little “Mew, Mew” coming very faintly from the aft cabin.  After tearing it apart and not finding her we took our search to the cockpit and found her inside a lazarette.  Which had never even been opened!  We’re still trying to figure that one out.
  • Her favorite spot to sleep is on my pillow.  If I’m lucky, it’s way off to the side and I can still turn from side to side without ever running into her.  The past few nights though, she has been situating herself right in the middle.  If I try and slide her to the side she just get up, pace in a few circles, and drop herself down right on top of my head or face.  I think I’ve finally outsmarted her and found out that if I let her fall asleep first and then slide her down off the pillow on to the bed, she’s too tired to care and will just stay there.
  • She’s a pretty chill girl.  She’s taking to life on the boat very well and did great for her one and only sail with us.  While cruising over 3-6 foot waves she slept nestled up in the v-berth and even stayed there when we started slamming on the bottom and was completely calm while being shoved into a backpack for a possible evacuation.  She doesn’t mind when we pick her up and toss her out of the way to get to a part of the boat, and if the sun is out you better believe she’s on deck rolling around and soaking it up.  Even though she hasn’t visited them yet, she’ll be the perfect island girl, relaxing outside in the warm breeze and eating up fish scraps.

There’s plenty of other things we’re continuing to learn about her each day.  Like how if we let her out and close up the companionway she’ll come pawing at it when she’s ready to come back in.  Or that she likes to greet me when I come up the ladder by waiting at the top rung and nuzzling her face against it until I giver her a nice good scratching.  She’s definitely different than a dog, much more independent, but she’s the perfect pet for us on this trip and we’re loving her companionship.  We’re watching her grow up before our eyes, but I can’t help but hope she’ll hold on to some of her kitten tendencies.  Like kneading us with her front paws, that’ll always be my favorite.

No matter how many times I tell her certain areas are ‘not for kitty’, she just doesn’t listen.

“Gotcha, sucker!”

Flashing for beads.  Such a naughty girl.

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