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Houseboat Pets - animals like cats and dogs enjoy living aboard house boats?

by Gilly
(From CA, now in FA)

Houseboat Pets - Do animals like cats and dogs enjoy it?

Houseboat Pets - Do animals like cats and dogs enjoy it?

We're looking at houseboat pets, and do animals like cats and dogs enjoy living aboard house boats? The reason we ask is, my fiance and I are considering buying and living on a houseboat in the Florida Keys.

We're really excited at the prospect of the new lifestyle, however we/I have a (very well behaved) 6 year old, 50 pound shepperd/mutt and 3 dog-like cats. Is it ridiculous to think the 5 of us could live happily on the water?

And what about hurricane season? We would live in a rented live-aboard slip, as the houseboat we are considering does not currently have a motor. We're pretty green at this (however we are both familiar with boats and water, and have surfed our whole lives), but we're adventurous and want to give it a go....

I'm looking for advice from anyone who has it! Has anybody here lived on a houseboat, with pets? Known someone who has? What should we expect? Is it do-able? Or fair to the animals?

Thanks for any help, Gilly.

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Reply - Answer
Well Gilly, welcome to the houseboat forums, and glad to hear that you want to bring your cats and dogs with you on your houseboat adventure.

Now, possibly my opinion is a little biased, since the picture above is of one of my dogs (don't laugh, she's a poodle) who goes everywhere in the boat with me. We actually have two dogs (both poodles, I know, my wife wanted poodles) and they love living on the boat.

They love the water, swimming, fishing, taking the afternoon snoozes in the sun, and they both sleep like babies on the boat, even in bad weather.

As a matter of fact, in my next life, I'm coming back as a poodle, as they have a great life, no payments, no worries, daddy takes them fishing all the time, and some nights they get to be rocked to sleep with us on our bed. I don't know about you, but it sounds like the "good life" to me :)

Now before I lose my "macho manly image" with my readers, I have to say that I have had many dogs and cats, big and small,
and they all enjoyed the boating life. I think it has to do with the energy and karma that is transmitted from the owner/master. If you're comfortable and not nervous around boats, neither are they.

Now from a safety point of view, even though my dogs love to swim, and are great swimmers, I always throw on their life jackets, since in the dinghy, they tend to casually walk around the exterior of the tubes as I am flying around the lake, this way, if they fall in unexpectedly, there's no panic.

The life jackets go on around the houseboat, since we are the last dock/slip at the end, and I find that if they jump in the water, they can't get back out, since the docks and boat freeboards are too high, so they seem to just go round and round swimming looking for a way out, and if there is one nearby, they would swim endlessly until there is somebody to pluck them out.

And for some reason, dogs and cats always seem to want to get out of the water, in the general vicinity where they went in, which isn't a problem if they went in via the shore, but not when they go in by jumping or falling off a dock.

Like I previously said, they have a great life, and my wife spoiled them at PetSmart, she bought them special non-spill bowls, a boat dog house, special steps to get up on the bed, and my wife also got them some great water toys.

As you can probably tell, my opinion is a little biased, since I love our dogs, and they truly love living on the boat, I am however also curious as to how other houseboaters experiences have turned out with their pets? If you have pets other than cats or dogs of course, do tell us about it also.

Lastly, hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their houseboat pets or animals experiences on board. Feel free to use the "Click here to post comments." link found near the bottom of this page.

Thanks again for sharing, IAN from all-about-houseboats

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Comments for Houseboat Pets - animals like cats and dogs enjoy living aboard house boats?

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Your pet will love being wherever you are...
by: Doc Williamson

and you know that's the truth. Don't concern yourself about your pet on a boat, RV or if you're homeless & living out of your car.

Your pet just wants to stay with you. I have a life jacket for my 19 lb. dog & she gets excited when I ask, "Do you want to go outside." She sits patiently while I put on her life jacket.

I have a bad knee & can't walk over 100 yards without excruciating pain, so I can't walk her. What I did was buy a 30x36 plastic kennel/cage liner & put an Astro turf like product with holes in it so her pee would drain in the pan & I could easily pick up her poop. She adapted to it in one day.

Raelette loves to go on long walks & I have a few friends that come by just to take her on them, they love her too. Whatever your pet is, they'll be fine.

4 dogs on a houseboat?
by: Debbie

Hi all... I'm thinking of retiring to a houseboat with 4 dogs...3 chihuahuas and a Doxie. Is this possible? Are there any rules or regulations on how many dogs a houseboat parked/slipped can have?

I am looking for a place with at least 2 bedrooms or 45'. Would that be big enough for this many dogs? Very new to my next adventure.

Thank you, Debbie.

Pets & going potty on houseboats
by: JILL

I have a 80lb black Lab & we are new at houseboating, I need help on how to get him to go on potty on something on the back deck of the boat.

The boat is on a buoy in the middle of the lake & we don't plan to move very often. Please help! Thanks, Jill

2 cats and 1 human on a 33ft power boat
by: Anonymous

I am in month 3 thus far with 2 cats on a 330 Sundancer, which is a 33ft powerboat.

The cats seem very content. Cats seem to adjust quite well to whatever living space. We had an 800sq ft apartment before. They still have their territory issues, but their individual territory is smaller.

I use two auto feeders and two spill proof water bowls.

It is winter so they are in the cabin except for a short excursion onto the outside deck. I think in the warmer months I can leave the boat open and they will venture about some.

I haven't noticed any motion sickness issues.

I have taken them out under full power (two 454s roaring) and they hide under the bed pillows and under the aft bed, but they are fine once we stop.

The motion sickness would seem to be pretty bad below deck but they haven't thrown up and seem fine when I check on them, just the noise and vibration that are unsettling.

I have two of the Breeze litter boxes in the aft bed area that I clean out every couple of days.

Cats do fine on boats.

Last week I had to take one to the vet for an ear issue, wax and bacteria, and he jumped in while I was taking him ashore. He ended up in the 40 something degree water.

He swam fine and came to me on the boat when I called him whereupon I scooped him up and dried him off. Cats can swim. I would make sure he can get back on your boat or onto the shore (declawed cats struggle with any slight climbing).

In my reading, there are exploits of cats on ships for hundreds of years to catch mice, that's my concluding thought on the viability of cats on boats.

by: Britt

Hey you guys, My boyfriend and I just bought a 29ft Bayliner Contessa that we are planning to move into in 6 weeks (after we make it a functional living space for 2) but we have a 2 yr old kitty named Lyle who is FULL of personality and curiosity.

In our current home, which is on a busy street, Lyle begs to be let outside and when we are home, we let him wander. The most nerve-wracking thing about living permanently on a boat is how to transition a housebound cat to a boat bound cat.

Some specifics:

The boat will be moored at a incredibly animal-friendly marina in Southern California where weather is not really an issue.

Lyle doesn't seem to like the water, but he LOVES the sun and outdoors space. Should he be indoor/outdoor? Or should I let him get used to the boat before I let him wander the docks?

My concerns lie with motion sickness (anyone have an animal that experienced this?) and also litter.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks, Britt.

Tom & Otis on 37 foot houseboat
by: Tammy

Our two boys, Tom (a border collie) and Otis (a bichon-poo) love our houseboat. They wear life jackets when out of the cabin unless we are all together relaxing!

They love long walks around the marina visiting with other dog boaters! They enjoy swimming at the dog beach and don't even seem to mind being hosed down on the dock! They sleep well too.

If we lived on the boat full-time (currently summer only) I would want a plan for what to do if we had to evacuate due to weather. Most shelters don't allow pets.

Just sharing our thoughts, Tammy

Helping Dogs Adjust to the LiveAboard Life
by: Dana

We're finally about to embark on our liveaboard life. We're purchasing a 56' 1987 Three Buoys SunSeeker for my husband & me, our teenage daughter, our housebound 8 yo cat, 14 yo golden retriever, and 2 yo mutt.

The cat won't be a problem. Neither should the golden retriever who was born with an aversion to going outside & has trained herself to only eliminate during morning & evening walks.

The 2 yo, however...she poops & pees all day long. Outside to be sure, but we have to figure out the best way to handle her constancy, especially since we can't be home all the time. Any recommendations? Thanks -- love this forum!!! Dana

Houseboat Pets - house cat on a boat - help!
by: Anonymous

I love my cat greatly. At the moment we live in a two bed house, which is a bit small. She refuses to go outside at all and although I feel marginally guilty that she stays in all the time.

It's nothing to how I feel when she is panicking and distressed at being outside. In 6 weeks time I'm moving onto a very small narrowboat.

I'm very worried she will still refuse to go out and will end up spending her whole life in one overstuffed room. What to do?

Houseboat Animals - our dogs love the boat!
by: LeeAnn

We have 2 Rottweilers and a Havanese (little dog like a shitzu.) They all love the boat. The Rotts have been coming out with us since we started houseboating in 2007.

They can tell when I am packing for the boat and run out to sit by the truck so they don't get left behind. The Havanese is only 7 months old so this is his first year on the boat. He took to it right away and loves it too.

We take the boat out every weekend and park on our favorite beach where everyone loves them and lavishes attention on them.

Houseboat Animals - the He/She Bird
by: Russell

We used to think Atty was female. A vet said he thinks Atty is Male. Confusing, this bird sex thing. Atty is now nearly three years old. We went to a pet store with Atty and there were three Grays there. Atty started cooing and talking to one of them. It was a female named Suzie.

Atty would growl at the other two if they got to close to the female. We may be wrong but that sounds like male behavior. I growl when guys get to close to my wife too. Must have rubbed off on Atty.

Houseboat Temperature - Warm Gray
by: Russell

Our Gray, Atty, has been at home wherever we are. On the boat in winter is a problem because even with central heat we have had power outages. Luckily none have been very long and we use the kitchen stove or run the generator to power the central heat as a backup. Our two forward cabins are very easy to heat when needed.

A Gray is a tropical bird and as such needs to be kept at a fairly steady temprature year round. Our solution was to head south for the colder months, good excuse, and only head north after the summer has effectively grabbed hold of the environment. There has been a few times over this past winter that we awoke to tempratures inside the boat in the 50's.

Atty would get out of his cage and come over to our bed and my wife would put him under the covers with us. He is potty trained and has his own personal potty sitting next to his cage. Talk about a spoiled bird! Atty is short for Attitude.

Aside from the weather aboard another thing you have to be very careful of is the neighbor's CAT! Any cat! The Gray is a powerful fighter if cornered and can remove a paw, nose or eye in a flash but if the cat is successful in catching your gray it could also be killed or seriously injured.

Keep an eye out and keep a sprayer of some kind handy. A strong water spray will discourage most cats but still be on the watch for them. If you do get a cat constantly harassing your bird you will have to talk to the owner or do whatever is necessary to protect your bird. I have a cup that has a cat on it with a rope around it tied to a big rock. The caption is "Teach your cat to swim".

My cat lover friends think it's a bit vulger but I will do whatever it takes to protect my bird in his own home. If I take him outside I run the risk of whatever is out there and we accept that risk. But, in my home I will defend him with extreme prejudice.

Okay, cat lovers, I know, I'm a meannie. No, I like cats and even bred Siameese for many years. They are very smart critters and will learn without being injured to stay off a boat. I used a watergun at home to train my Siamese to not climb the curtains or stalk the parakeet.

My kids lost their first parakeet to one of the cats before I found something the cats understood. The watergun was a great training device. Having your cat squirted with a watergun or water bottle is preferred to getting it injured.

Wet cats dry off, reguardless of how many lives they think they have, dead or injured is much more serious than wet. I won't let my bird or wolf chase your cat if you keep it on your own boat. I'm sure you love your cat as much as I love my animals so let's just keep them apart. Okay?

Question for Russell about Congo African Grey
by: Anonymous

This question is for Russell or any other person who has experience with birds on boats.

I was very excited to hear that you had a Congo African Grey parrot on your live aboard boat! I am thinking of saving money and moving onto my 25-foot sailboat with my CAG. I live in Southern California.

My main question or conern is how to keep him warm enough in the winter. I have an electric space heater with a thermostat, but several people have cautioned me against leaving it turned on while I am not on the boat in case of fire.

How do you keep your CAG warm enough?

Thanks! Sunny So Cal :>)

Moose the Aqua Dog
by: Anonymous

I've taken my yorkie (moose) out on my friends Beneteau sailboat a bunch of times, and the little guy is normally terrified of water but he loves being on the boat, probably becasue he catches on to the fact that we're having a good time so he decides to have a good time too.

Houseboat Live Aboard Pets
by: Anonymous

We have been live aboards for 6 years ...... and have two bichon frise (girls).... they are both pee pee pad trained, and love the boat.

Since they are both small (9 lb and 14lb), they love to run from one end of the boat to the other playing ball. They love to go in the dinghy, but wear lifejackets. They love the boat and are very comfortable with their "retired" lifestyle.

We have had a couple of OOPS ........ someone fell overboard ......... usually a missed step when jumping off the boat to dock ........ we wear harnesses on both, and the boat hook fetches them back.

The girls love to swim as long as we are in the water ...... they love going in the dinghy.

We also had a canary for a few years ........ he sang constantly ...... loved the sound of the water especially when we went through locks.

I would recommend pets on board ...... we have friends that have their cats on board and never had a problem. Since cats don't need to be walked, they can be easier than dogs to have on board.

I have been told that be careful when your small dogs are swimming ........ BIG FISH like little paws .......

Reply - Answer
Thanks for sharing your live aboard pet story with us.

IAN from

Houseboat Pets and Animals
by: Russell

Don't let anything discourage you from having your pets. I went for 9 years without an animal because we traveled across international borders.

I know other boaters who had pets traveling all over the islands but since we had no animals I never asked them about travel restrictions.

Now, we went ashore for about a year and a half. During this time we got a Congo African Gray parrot. She is sitting on my shoulder as I write and watching for spelling errors.

We have had her aboard our houseboat for about four months. The only problem we have had is the local hawk. We can't take her up on deck because this resident hawk has swooped down at her twice.

Other than that we let her have the run of the living room and she wanders into the galley whenever she hears the pots and dishes. She is potty trained and returns to her "potty" from wherever she is on the boat to do her business.

That is unless she is mad at me. This morning I trimmed her nails and cut one a bit to short and it bled quite heavily for about half an hour. I finally grabbed a box of cornstarch and made her stand in it.

The bleeding stopped in seconds. Then she was mad at me and decided to forego one of her potty breaks. Okay, I guess I deserved that one.

Cats do very well on boats. Dogs require a bit more attention and walking also helps. I knew a couple who had three huge dogs aboard a sailboat. This was a mistake. The boats living conditions were less than desirable.

As for getting a live aboard slip in the Keys. I would do some serious checking into that. Take NO ONE'S word on any availability.

If you do not hear it from the very person who has the slip, don't believe it. Don't send money without going down and physically seeing the slip and owner.

Most of the marinas were destroyed in the "05" hurricane season and have not been replaced. Most were sold to investors and are no longer operating.

Faro Blanco is no longer there and several others are also sitting empty. I have heard of people renting slips, trailers and houses that are not there or that the renter didn't own.

My daughter had someone offer her a house for $1,000 a month. They said for her to send the first month and a $500 security deposit to them at their South African address.

I told her not to do it because she didn't even know them. When she refused they offered to drop the price and the security deposit if she would send $600 within three days. It was a scam.

Check with the local tax office to see if the person is the real owner or at least their representive. A real home owner will not mind you checking them out.

Just a thought... Russell

Reply - Answer
Well Russell, thanks a million for the great information on pets, dock slips, and property. And by the way, you should enter your Congo African Gray parrot in a "spelling bee", she'd win first place :)

IAN from

Birds on Liveaboard
by: kat

Hi Russell - wonderful to finally stumble upon folks that have their bird on board. I have a very precocious caique parrot named Pogo.

We are planning on purchasing a catamaran in the near future and was wondering what's the best set up you have for your birds? Do you have your CAG clipped or fully flighted. Also, do you recommend a harness for them as well?

Understand that I'll have to spend time harness training them and potty training him, but other than that, do you (or anyone else) have any more tips for living aboard with a feathered friend?

Pets and Boats
by: Lindy

We live year round on board our 42 foot Tri Cabin Trawler with our Papillon pup, Max. He is now over a year old and has lived on board since he was 8 weeks. We have never had any problem with him being on board.

He has an artificial turf area on the stern for going potty. He kayaks with us and loves to go ashore in the dinghy. He has never been sick in rough seas. We also have a Russian Tortoise who roams the deck when weather permits.

We keep up-to-date health certificates for both pets on board for international travel.

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