Pets are a common sight at our marina. We have both cat and dog owners, but on our pier, dogs outnumber cats 9-to-1.
I'm not sure why we have so many more dogs than cats. I once read, "The Internet is full of cats because dog people go outside." I'm not sure if that's the real explanation, but it seems odd because you would think cats would be more conducive to life aboard.
I'm a lazy pet owner. I love my dog, but when we're at home, all I have to do is let her outside into the backyard to use the restroom. When she's being annoying? Let her outside. When she starts running circles around the house like a crazy person? Let her outside.
When we're on the boat there's no escaping her and no easy solutions. When she has to go out it involves a 15-20 minute walk, no matter the weather, and both dogs are extremely picky as to where they poop when on a leash. And because walks are much more exciting than sitting on the boat, they constantly bug me for walks all weekend.
While taxing of my patience, walking is simple enough when we're at the marina. We have yet to take them on an overnight trip, which requires them to either go on the boat or to ride in a dinghy to shore. I'm sure Tex would love to poop on the boat. He poops on the carpet all the time. It's one of his favorite activities along with barking in your ears at night.
Our friends took their schnauser with them last year, and despite puppy pads, astro turf, containers of dirt, etc., they just couldn't get him to relieve himself on the boat. He went three long days before he finally gave in to nature, and even then, after recieving loving pets and treats for pooping on the boat, he was still reluctant to ever do it again. They ended up having to dinghy him around to find some type of land for him to use twice a day for the rest of their trip. Plus, he was very prone to skin infections.
The tradeoff with a cat is that I can't stand the smell of a litter box, and the kitty litter ends up everywhere. I've been reading about some cruisers attempting to train their cats to use the toilet, but I haven't seen any posts on that in a while.
While our dogs love sailing, I don't think I'd want to take dogs or cats cruising with me. The question keeps coming up, "What do we do if Tex goes overboard?" (For some reason, Mary never worries about Dixie going overboard. I don't know if that's because she loves Tex more if she just knows Tex is the only dog stupid enough to fall overboard.)
We usually keep a lifejacket on him just in case, but we can't really tie him in because he constantly tangles himself around everything.
So what is the MOB drill for a 5 pound dog? Does one of you jump in after him? Do you turn on the engines, turn around and try to fish him out with a pole before he disappears? Do you just keep going and chalk another one up to Darwin and the circle of life? FRED!
But seriously, as we spend more and more time on the boat, we've definitely got to set both a MOB plan for the dogs and we've got to set an emergency first aid plan for them as well in case something happens in the middle of the night when we're anchored out hours from anywhere.
Hopefully once we've got a plan in place, Tex will be able to sleep better at night. Oh man that's cute.