Keeping your pet comfortable on board is not that different from providing for another crew member. Make sure they have comfortable and safe access to places to eat, sleep, and eliminate. At least with pets you don’t have to figure out what drinks they prefer! Our dog adjusted quite easily to life on board, I hope yours do as well.
Food and Eating
Eating was no problem for our dog. She didn’t get sea sick so I have no real advice there. Ginger is believed to have some effect on settling tummies. Ginger snaps are often suggested as a good prophylactic snack for people – they were very popular for Willow, as well and she would steal them if anyone left them out. So even if I can’t recommend ginger snaps for pets, Willow does.
Food Storage for your Pets
Any airtight container (clickclack, Oxo, Tupperware, etc) that works for your food and matches the size of the pet food bags you like to buy will work fine. I have a fairly water tight plastic container with a screw-on lid that holds about 8 cups of kibble. Before leaving I made up many back-up bags of kibble into vacuum-packed bags that held the same 8 cups. That way when the plastic container got close to empty I could open the next vacuum bag and dump it all into the daily-use container that I kept in the galley. We also feed our dog much of the same foods we eat so the kibble was for backup meals or when we had onion-filled dishes that would not be appropriate for a dog. (Onions are poisonous for dogs).
For drinking water we found a bowl that is very hard to tip over and placed it just behind the toilet in the head. That way if one of your pets does knock it over it just flows into the bilges. There are several types of these bowls available in pet stores – the one we used is inexpensive and worked well – it’s called the Water Hole and has a removable lid that helps keep the water from splashing out.
If you can train your dog to do his business on a scrap of artificial turf or some other easily washable surface, do it. Then you can punch a hole in this material, tie a rope to it, and tie it to your stanchions. When your dog is done, throw the whole mess overboard to rinse (when out at sea).
I didn’t get around to that, but Willow held out for a day or so and then used the foredeck which is the right place on our boat. A bucket kept near the mast made it easy to wash down after tossing the large pieces overboard. Once she tried to pee in the cockpit well – I made a loud startled noise and coaxed her up to the foredeck. She then realized the cockpit wasn’t acceptable.
When the weather was very rough, she occasionally used the head floor to do her business. As our floor is also the shower which drains to the bilges, this was ok too. The poop pieces I just placed in the toilet then rinsed down the floor with fresh water and a little vinegar. You could use bleach, but for urine I wouldn’t bother – it’s sterile anyway.
Lee clothes are good for pets, too. Willow sleeps with us at home so she slept with whoever was sleeping on the voyage as well. She quickly learned how useful a lee cloth is for keeping you in the bed when the boat is heeling.
If you don’t want your dog to sleep with you, or your sea berths don’t accommodate another being, I recommend putting a lee cloth on the last foot or so of a settee or someplace where your dog can cuddle in and get some sleep without being thrown about the cabin.