Last Updated on November 28, 2021 by Jenny
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Some people believe that cats can’t swim. That’s not true – broadly speaking most cats are able to instinctively swim if they need to. But at the same time, many cats will do everything they can to avoid needing to swim in the first place. Every cat is different, but some just don’t like the water. Yet others can be taught to like it if you’re gentle in how you introduce them to it.
However, if you’re someone who spends a lot of time on the water and you want to take your cat with you, you should still invest in a life vest. Life jackets for cats can help to make sure your kitty stays safe in the water, giving you peace of mind while you enjoy your boating trip.
All products featured on the site are independently selected by the editor of Floppycats, Jenny Dean. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. You can read our full disclosure at the bottom of the page.
🌊Is a Pet Life Jacket Real?
Yes, a pet life jacket is a real thing. A lot of pet owners like to take their pets to the lake, or on a sailing trip. However, not every pet is the strongest swimmer. It’s not uncommon to see a dog life jacket designed to help keep a younger pup’s or older dog’s head above the water. But you can absolutely buy a flotation device for your cat too.
It’s a good thing too because cats will try to get out of the water as soon as possible, and that can sometimes cause them to thrash around. A pet life vest is therefore important when you’re on a larger body of water where they don’t have easy access to a shore because your cat is more likely to exhaust itself.
Do Cats Need Life Jackets?
It’s wise to buy a cat a life jacket if you’re planning on taking them near any body of water that they can’t stand in, or that doesn’t have easy access to an edge or short on all sides within a couple of feet.
That includes a pool. They will likely be OK in a pool as a cat can swim and will be able to escape, providing the sides aren’t too high from the water level. But it’s better to be safe.
However, you shouldn’t let a cat wander near a pool unsupervised, just as you wouldn’t a child, even if they have a life jacket. Practice safe, responsible pet ownership and keep your cat away from the pool when you aren’t around.
And when you’re traveling on a houseboat along a river or boating on a lake, you absolutely should use a life jacket if you’re planning on taking your cat with you. With steeper banks, it can be hard for a cat to escape the water, and a life jacket can make it much easier to handle them.
Do Cats Like Being on Boats?
Asking whether all cats like being on boats is like asking whether all people like being on boats. Every cat, just like every person, is different. Some would absolutely detest spending any time on a boat. Other cats will be calm and relaxed. And many cats can be gently trained to be OK on a boat.
There are two elements to consider when thinking about being on a boat – the proximity to water, and the motion of a boat on the water. You can get your cat used to water at home in a shallow bathtub, and if they hate it then you know that boating probably isn’t the life for them.
In terms of the motion of a boat, you can also gradually introduce this over time too. You should avoid taking your cat onto the ocean if they’ve never been on a boat before – the current and tide will mean your boat moves around a lot, and your cat could well get seasick.
Instead, try a river or lake first, to get them used to calmer waters. If they cope fine and you do want to take a boating trip out where there’s more active waters, then you know they’ve got some experience, although you should closely monitor them to make sure they don’t get distressed. If they do, have a plan B for returning to shore if you can.
If your cat does get seasick, and it keeps happening, then it might be best to consider keeping them on land in the future. If that’s not an option, discuss anti-sickness medication with your veterinarian.
Cat Life Jacket Options:
If you try to search online for a cat life jacket, you’re unlikely to find too many options. Dog life vests are a lot more common. But they’ll work fine for a cat as long as you choose one that’s the right size for your feline.
You need to make sure that it is:
- Easy to see – if your cat struggles in murkier waters you want to be sure you can find them easily
- Easy to pick up – many have a handle or hook, so that you have no trouble lifting them out of the water as they swim
- A good fit – this doesn’t just mean tight – it needs to be close-fitting but it can’t restrict their movement. If your cat can’t swim because of the life jacket, then it’s no good.
The Queenmore life jacket comes in a number of sizes, so make sure you find the one that’ll best fit your cat. It’s made from a breathable mesh and a floating polyester so it won’t constrict your kitty. Choose from a range of bright neon colors that are very easy to see in the water, and it even has a cute shark fin design too. The nylon handle is sturdy and can easy cope with the weight of your pet as your lift them out of the water, ensuring it’s safe to use.
Purchase on Amazon.
This life jacket from Outward Hound also comes in a range of colors and sizes, with various easy-to-spot bright shades that you can choose from. It has two handles to make it easier to grab, and it comes with an extra flotation cushion for your cat’s head. This helps them to keep it out of the water, so they can breathe a little easier as they swim. The ripstop material is flexible on land but has plenty of buoyancy when in the water.
Purchase on Amazon.
This is a simple option for a cat life jacket that has a padded interior to make it extra comfortable for your pet. Another interesting feature is the UV patch, which lets you know if the UV levels are too high and could cause your cat any skin damage. As with the other options, it comes with a sturdy handle and is available in neon green or orange for extra visibility.
Purchase on Amazon.
If you want a little more flexibility with your life jacket options, this Haocoo choice is available in nine different variants and seven different sizes, although many of those are suited to larger dogs. It is another option with a front float to keep the head elevated, while the mesh fiber material is quick-drying once you lift your cat out of the water.
Purchase on Amazon.
This more stylish option for a pet life jacket has a fish scale design. These scales are reflective, with high-visibility reflective strips also making the jacket really easy to spot at night if you need to. The special EPE pearl cotton foam is extra buoyant while the cloth material is resistant to tearing, so it’ll last longer.
Purchase on Amazon.
Will Cats Jump Off a Boat?
If you take your cat straight onto a boat with no preparation, and it moves around a lot, there’s every chance your cat could panic and then jump off the boat. They likely won’t jump into the water if they know what’s waiting for them, but if they’re spooked then they could easily jump before they realize.
Can You Put a Cat on a Boat?
You absolutely can take a cat on a boat with you as long as you’re properly prepared.
Firstly, make sure you have a life jacket and that the cat is wearing it at all times. Even if you’re on a large boat with a below-deck area, there’s no guarantee they won’t make a dash if the door is opened and suddenly find themselves slipping overboard.
Secondly, because your cat could end up in the water, you might want to pick up a ladder to hang from the side of the boat, so that they have a way to climb back up. It can be a metal ladder or a rope one, so just find one that works for your cat if you intend to have them on a boat regularly.
Don’t forget that you’ll need a litter tray for the time you spend on the boat. It’s best to get a covered one because it means your cat can have a little privacy in this new environment, and it also stops any waste from falling out when waters get a bit rougher. You don’t want to be dealing with clumps of litter and other waste sliding around.
Finally, think about securing any loose items on the boat. Things sliding around on the water might only give you a bump if they hit your leg, but if they slam into your cat they might do a little more damage, and they’ll certainly give your cat a fright. Keep loose items secured so that your cat stays safe.
Can a Cat Live on a Houseboat?
A cat can live on a houseboat with you, but there are a few things you need to consider. Firstly, a cat will likely prefer to have their own private space for their litter tray – will your boat have enough to accommodate that?
And indoor cats can be plenty active – so you need to make sure there’s enough space and stimulating toys to keep them engaged and entertained. If your cat is an outdoors cat then a houseboat doesn’t have to stop them. Houseboats can have cat flaps too – just make sure that you’re safely moored so that the cat can easily reach the shore, and that you aren’t near a busy road.
Stories from Floppycats’ Readers with Cats that Love the Water:
If you’re planning on taking your cat near water, a life jacket can definitely help to keep them safe. Make sure that there’s an easy way for your cat to climb out of the water too if you can, otherwise stay close and be ready to pick them up by the handle.
Remember that boats have a lot of movement, so take your time introducing your cat so that they don’t get spooked. As long as you’re careful and look after your cat, you may be able to get them comfortable around the water, but not every cat will be. Don’t force it if they clearly don’t want to be near it.