27 Jul

The Cat’s Meow

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I may have mentioned that there are three crew initially aboard the Never for Ever. There’s myself (Bruce), Leslie and Artemis. No, Artemis didn’t have weird pro-pantheon parents; Artemis is a cat. She’s part Rag Doll, part Norwegian Forest Cat and all over odd. She’s six and a half and recently lost her life-long companion Samantha. We just never considered leaving her behind.

But what do we know about cats on boats? Well, actually nothing. We’d seen one at anchor on Tumbo Island and there’s a few internet boat cats out there of moderate fame but not a lot of solid resources. Dogs seem to be the boaters’ pet-of-choice. There are a ton of them around and we’ve even met a few. And dog advice just doesn’t translate well to cat advice.

But after a little research and a few more discussions, we decided that we couldn’t leave Art behind on our adventure and set out to transform a life-long indoor cat to a boat cat. Luckily we had started letting her out on our upper balcony a few years ago when we moved to the condo, so she was at least fairly used to street noises and smells. Her only traveling though had been to the vet and back and that had been pretty sporadic. So we borrowed a soft carrier from Pedro the Lion (a neighbour cat) and proceeded to take Artemis out for long walks in the park. We also broke out her old harness and leash and let her walk jingling around the house. We had already decided that — aboard — a belled cat was a safe cat.

There was also the small issue that the boat was 1200 miles away and that was a pretty hefty trip for a beginner driver. So we took Artemis for a few short drives. There was little bit of pathetic mewling but, that really didn’t suit her and overall, it went pretty good if the drives weren’t too long. Then we took Art off to the vet to get her shots all up to date (we have intentions of visiting the U.S.) and get any advice from him he could offer. He was very encouraging; he agreed with most of the reading we’ve done that cats are very resilient. It was starting too look like this wasn’t an impossible mission.

A little research suggested switching her litter to pine pellets to try and keep the tracking of litter to a minimum. She didn’t mind the change and kept on with her business as usual. The pellets have a bit of a pine odour that some might find too strong, but since she didn’t mind, neither did I.

Anyway, as these things do, the day of departure arrived. We reserved the back seat for luggage and cat, bought a small litterbox for the floor, added a small food and water dish and arranged everything for the cat’s comfort. We had debated getting a hard carrier but in the end decided as we weren’t taking it on the boat, it was just an additional expense that wouldn’t do much more than the soft one in terms of safety or comfort. So we loaded up the truck with all our worldly possessions — or at least the ones we thought we would need for the next several months — and then loaded the cat in the carrier and the carrier in the truck and headed off at 4 a.m. for the 12 hour plus drive.

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The early morning start was partly because we wanted to arrive in Vancouver during the daylight and partly because we thought driving straight through would be easier on Art than trying to overnight in a hotel. It was a good idea in theory. The problem is you wake up tired and never actually recover. I think Artemis was the only one to get any real rest for the next few days as she proved once again that cats are tougher then humans.

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The first 3 hours on the road were filled with pathetic mews sporadically drifting out of the cat carrier on the back seat. Leslie tried putting the carrier on her lap but that just made Art more anxious to get out as she pressed her nose against the mesh trying to muscle her way to freedom. Eventually we stopped for a break and a driver change and I decided to let Art out under the strict policy that the back seat was her domain and the front seat verboten. The theory being it would be less stressful to the cat and the slight chance of an accident was worth risking for her (and our) mental health. After some pacing, and bit more complaining about the quality of the accommodations, she eventually settled down atop the pile of luggage where she had the best views and spent the majority of the next 8 hours sleeping with one eye squinked open. Occasionally she would sneak up and retest the “not in the front seat rule” but eventually she gave up.

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After we arrived at Granville Island, Artemis was given the run of the cab as we hauled everything down to the boat This actually seemed to make her madder and she huddled in the foot well of the drivers seat. But eventually it was her turn and a quick ride down the docks in her carrier found her introduced to her new home.

When I mentioned Artemis was half Rag Doll I really meant it. She is the most floppy, mellow cat you are ever going to meet. She gives Freida’s cat a good run for cat most like a handbag. And that means when we let her out on the boat she flopped down on the settee and gave us the look, before having a great big bath and the settling down to catch up on her sleep. The new digs were entirely a non-issue. And that pretty much set the tone for the next couple of days.

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She was still pretty edgy, but that is mostly general nervousness. We introduced her to a few cubbies and since the dining room table is currently down, the space below makes a terrific cat cave. But generally she is out and about and demanding scratches and attention. We spent 3 days at the dock and it rained quite a bit so she was generally inside catching up on her zzz’s. But when we went out into the cockpit we carried her out with us, all duded up in her harness complete with bell. She was nervous at first and stayed up near the hatch or ducking back down into the boat, but after the second or third time we were out, but left her below, she eventually decided she wanted to be where her people were and came up the companionway on her own. After that she just got braver and more accomodating.

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I took her into the dinghy for a little float and she took it fairly well but you could see she would rather be on the bigger boat. The complexity of the physics involved in launching herself upwards off a floating object seemed to escape her, so I made sure I handed her back aboard rather than letting her jump as she seemed prepared to do. She also came out on deck when we  renamed the boat. Her being named after a greek goddess and all we figured she deserved her own tot of champagne (thanks Earl).

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Eventually it came time to fire up the engine and cast off. Leslie went below to be with Artemis when I fired up the big noisy diesel. It didn’t seem to bother her outwardly but you could tell she classed it under just an other indignity to endure! She hunkered down in the back cabin for a while until I moved her forward, letting her know that it was quieter there. Crossing the Strait of Georgia took about five and half hours, motoring all the way (except for an abortive attempt at sailing as we passed the north edge of Gabriola Island) and she hung out mainly on the floor in front of the v-berth the whole way occasionally hiding in one of the cubbies below the mattress. After we had anchored we did discover she had been sick, but since hairballs are a semi-regular occurrence with her, it was hard to tell if the motion got to her or it was her usual intestinal cleanse.

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Now at anchor, the boat rules currently consist of no kitty on deck without a harness and a supervisor. No clawing anything but approved and supplied clawing surfaces. And no kitties on the transom. This has, of course, made the transom irresistible. She’s literally toeing the line every time I turn to look. But a few gentle swats and constant reminders have seemed to at least made the rule clear. She’s a pretty smart cat. Absolute obedience is another matter entirely. As I said, she’s a pretty smart cat.

So here we sit at anchor for a few days in Nanaimo Harbour. She’s settling in fine and eating well so everyone is happy. And now we will wait and see what the next phase of the adventure brings.

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