By Daniel Quagliozzi
This weekend I went sailing on the San Francisco bay with some friends. We set sail from the docks of Sausalito and braved some choppy waters, taking on the powerful bay waves. I truly felt small among the vastness of the bay and somewhat helpless against the tides. Thankfully we had an awesome and capable captain.
While we cruised the bay, I couldn't help but think about the people living in the boats scattered around the shores and docked at the port of Sausalito. There were quite a few boats that were being lived in. Maybe it's a sign of the times? Possibly the economy? Talk about cramped quarters! It's got to be interesting to live that lifestyle, but I couldn't imagine living anywhere without a cat. Who says you can't have a cat, just because you live on a boat?
And then...I saw him, a nimble black and white cat scaling the deck of one of the boats docked in the harbor. He seemed well adjusted and content, just like any cat you might see sitting in the window of someone's house. He knew his boundaries and stayed within the lines. Yet still, I wondered what it must be like when the boat set sail. All the rocking and shuffling about was enough to make me a little queezy. What must it be like for a cat? For centuries, cats stowed away on ships and made their way across the oceans, landing in foreign places. Cats adapt, plain and simple.
Coincidentally, we received an email about cats on boats this week:
We adopted our adorable cat from the SF SPCA. We have special circumstance in that we live on board a boat. I have heard that in order to train a cat to stay on board you should toss them into the water the first time they try to get off the boat. I do not agree with this and certainly don't have the courage to terrify our beautiful new baby in this cruel way. My question to you is; how do we train her to stay on the boat and not get off onto the dock? She is an indoor cat, but we would like to allow her the freedom of the decks and flying bridge, if possible.
I would agree that tossing your cat in to the water would be the wrong thing to do. That would only serve to heighten anxiety towards you and the environment in general. I would fit her for a harness and get a nice long leash. They sell thin, lightweight leashes in various lengths. This way she can explore and be safe at the same time. Of course she will most likely lay flat on the ground when you first put it on, that's normal.
Rather than thinking of her like a dog on a leash, think of the leash as just a life line. Keep it slack and don't pull her. Coax her over to you with food or toys. All cats respond differently with a harness but give it some time and keep it positive. Other than to create a barrier of some kind, there's no real way to keep a cat from roaming onto a dock. They don't respond the same as dogs and don't have the same group social needs. Cats explore.
Management is your best option.