If you already have a pet and are planning to move aboard your boat, the decision to include your pet or leave it behind is a hard one. We've known cruisers with cats, dogs, birds, sloths, turtles and monkeys. There's lots to consider. Each country we visited had its own rules regarding pets. It's easy to find out the requirements either on the internet, through cruiser's nets and threads and/or in cruising guides. Some animals, like cats and dogs, are relatively easy in most countries. Other, more exotic pets, may require a bit more planning.
The primary and probably only reason for having a pet aboard is the sheer pleasure of having a pet aboard, so logic flies out the window when you're making your decisions.
There are some real challenges, however, and it's important to consider them seriously before bringing your pet aboard.
- There are extra costs involved when checking into many countries with a pet. We paid anywhere from $10 to $50+ to have a “health inspector” clear Jelly in and out of a country. Sometimes they showed up; sometimes they didn't, but we were ALWAYS required to pay. Many countries also require an International Health Certificate which means locating a reputable veterinarian to provide one.
- Many times the pets need to be confined to the boat. For a dog used to a morning walk, this might be a problem. If we were at anchor with Jelly, it was easy. When we were in a marina, it was harder to confine her to the boat. David spent many hours devising cat-proof netting to keep Jelly aboard only to have Jelly sitting on the dock watching him finish up the final touches.
- Older pets may not acclimate well to the sailing life.
- Whenever you leave the boat for inland travel, you'll need to find either another cruiser or a trustworthy local person to tend to your pet. We have pet sat for other people's cats and other cruisers have cat-sat for Jelly. It wasn't always easy to find someone though for any extended time.
- In third world countries, dogs and especially cats, are not treated as well as they are in the US. It is sometimes difficult to find good quality pet food. In Ecuador, we ended up feeding Jelly tuna because it was significantly cheaper than cat food. Finding litter was also an issue.
- Some countries require “chipping” (pet ID implant) and quarantine (NZ and Australia) which we felt was unreasonable for both us and Jelly.
Do you have a pet aboard? What sorts of challenges have you faced? What advice would you give to people considering moving their pets aboard?
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