Boating With Your Pets 101

Making Your Boat Pet-Friendly

Just as you pet-proofed your house and garage, you'll need to pet-proof your boat. Assume that your pet can -- and will -- get into trouble. You can't foresee everything, but you can train yourself to look at your boat as a cat or dog might. What smells interesting? What has fascinating moving parts? What looks or smells like food? Where's a good place to hide?

You'll need to install a litterbox for your cat. Attach it firmly, and use shock cord to keep it secure. Make sure to use clumping litter; the non-clumping kind can create big messes in choppy waters. However, you should keep the clumping litter well away from the bilge pump, which can get clogged [source: Drummond].

For short trips, you may not need to have a bathroom area for your dog. It's a good idea to have one on longer trips, however. You can use newspapers, or you can invest in a dog toilet. This is typically a small patch of synthetic grass attached to an absorbent, anti-microbial base [source: Animal Planet]. Your dog can sniff around just as it would on a walk. Needless to say, unless you want the phrase "poop deck" to take on a new, literal meaning, you'll still need to have a large supply of plastic baggies handy, as you would on a walk. Everyone on board will thank you.

You'll also need to make your pet boat-friendly. Give your pet a chance to get used to the boat. Weeks before the planned trip, start making visits to the boat -- either in the dock or on the trailer. Take a tour of the boat with your pet carefully leashed or harnessed. Let your pet sniff around, explore and get used to being on the water.

As you're getting your pets acclimated to the boat, you can also help them get used to their PFDs. Read on to learn all about them.