If you've been following us for a while, you'll know that we once had a ship's cat aboard … Jelly. Actually, Magellan Louise Lemay Lynn is her full name, but that was much too long for a gray-nosed kitten, so we simply called her Jelly. We adopted her the day she was “street legal” from the local SPCA in Clear Lake, Texas when we first moved aboard Nine of Cups. She lived aboard with us until 2007.
People ask frequently if having pets aboard is a problem. The answer: Yes and no. Cats are easier than dogs, I think. They don't need to be walked and they're usually litter-box trained, so you don't have to teach them to poop on a faux-grass mat on the foredeck. We had friends who toilet-trained their two cats, but we never attempted it. It was sometimes a challenge finding litter, so we stockpiled it when we could find it. Stowing the litter stockpile was always an issue. Food was pretty easy … canned tuna was cheaper than commercial cat food. Jelly never developed a taste for fresh fish, so we never had to share our sushi. See our previous blog post on Pets Aboard for more specific information.
Leaving the boat for more than a day or two was always difficult since we had to find a cat sitter. It was not always feasible to find a fellow cruiser who could help which meant it was necessary to find a trustworthy local. Since we love inland travel, this always posed a problem. We know some friends who took separate vacations so that one of them could always stay aboard with their kitty. We love Jelly, but apparently not quite that much.
Checking into foreign countries with a pet is a definite issue. We had to make sure Jelly was always up to date on health checks and vaccinations, which meant taking her to vets who sometimes didn't really see the value in having a cat as a pet. We had to declare Jelly with health officials each time we entered a new country and there was usually a fee involved … whether they checked her out or not. Some countries required advance notice of a pet on board. The added expense to our cruising budget was significant. Our intention to visit New Zealand and Australia was a deciding point in leaving her with my mom since chipping and a long quarantine were involved.
The positives about having Jelly aboard? She was wonderful ... a fun cat, a good companion and an amusing crew mate. She was a member of the family and slept with us in our bunk. She kept birds off the deck … unless they were too big, in which case she ignored them. She could smell land long before we could see it and would pace back and forth in the cockpit like a big cat signaling we were about to make landfall. She could hear our dinghy approaching and would wait impatiently at the ladder for us to board so she could greet us. We've got a hundred Jelly stories. Leaving her with my mom was a hard decision, but in retrospect, the right decision.
Lots of folks who met Jelly have asked about her since then. For a 13-year-old kitty, she's doing very well. She's still sassy, but very sedentary and definitely less playful and energetic than in years past.
Swallowing the anchor was an easy transition for her. She moved in with my mom and the two of them became good friends. Mom fed her and emptied her litter box. Jelly sat on mom's lap in the evenings and snoozed. She slept at the foot of mom's bed every night. When Mom moved recently, Jelly came to live with Lin. Since we, too, have been living with Lin, we've had the chance to renew our relationship and it's been sweet. When we leave to go back to Australia, she'll be in good hands.
Jelly's got her own page on the website … check it out.