August 20, 2015

Caring for cats onboard...

This post has now been added to our sidebar:

Stuff We Have and Use [and Do...]

Please read that version of this original post as it will be updated over time...


Original post: [20-Aug-2015]

Helping Landlubber Felines Convert to Life Afloat

How did we make sailors out of the two cats who adopted us over the years?  (11 and 4 years old. See their bios in our Crew Manifest.) 

I have considerable experience from the past raising a cat on a boat [he loved to travel in boats, automobiles, airplanes, etc. as a consequence] but little experience helping landlubber felines adapt to life onboard. 

We found some books written by a cruising Veterinarian who goes by Capt'n Dr. Dave

They helped guide us through the process with our feline crew.

Boat Litter Boxes
Our cats were used to clumping litter in large, enclosed litter boxes. Cruising with a cat in times past I've used everything from washed beach sand to potting soil [basically whatever I could get while cruising...]

This time around, we didn't want to store the weight and size of clumping litter needed to cover several months at a time. And remember it is actually a liability on a boat: it isn't waterproof and could potentially clog the limber (drain) holes in the bilge, not the mention what it might do to the bilge pumps...

And we especially wanted to eliminate the odors, airborne dust [I have asthma] and tracking of crunchy sand sized particles in the boat... Therefore, we shifted our 2 cats over to the TidyCats Breeze litter system in early 2014 [months before they became sailors] and have no regrets. [Nor do they...]
The Breeze litter system is often offered for $20 including shipping in the US. And the expendables [absorbent pads and ceramic pellets] are like ink for a cheap printer; we shop carefully each time for best deals. Sometimes that takes a few days as prices fluctuate often- like airline tickets. [The pads and pellets are 30-50% cheaper than good clumping litter- and don't take anywhere near the storage space. More below...]
The only scooping required is for solids. Liquids pass through the ceramic [i.e., non-adsorbent] pellets to the absorbent pad, below.
The Breeze eliminates dust and tracking because the litter is waterproof, ceramic pellets, and the [reversible] tray that holds the absorbent urine pad makes changing the 'diaper pad' painless. If you don't let solids accumulate, the box is odorless [unless you allow the urine pad to become over saturated...]
With 2 cats, we end up changing the pads on 2 litter boxes about weekly... [i.e., 1 pad/week/cat give or take...] The pads hold a lot of liquid and don't drip or leak [again, if not over saturated...]  when we fold them in thirds for disposal. There are cheaper, third-party pads available, but we have found they don't hold nearly as much liquid- necessitating more frequent changes- so they aren't really cheaper...)

In the near future I plan to modify a pad tray by drilling a drain hole with a short pipe underneath [that would fit into a shower drain...] I will position that drain hole over the shower drain [which has an isolated sump pump, and is flushed regularly with the fresh, soapy water from our showers...]  eliminating the need for pads when the litter box is located in a shower pan... Watch for updates...
Odors? None- as long as you:
  • Clean the solids out daily or per use
  • Don't let the urine pads get oversaturated
    • We have found that 7 days from 1st urination is about max before odors begin...
  • Keep enough pellets in litter box to completely cover the bottom
Cost comparison?
We find this system is 30-50% cheaper than good clumping litter if we shop very carefully [Prices are all over the place...] 

Since we converted to the Breeze litter system, 6 months worth of supplies for 2 cats have run between ~US$70-$90 every 6 months from Amazon [including shipping.] We find the pellets last 2-6 months, and in a pinch you can soak them to clean/sanitize and recycle them back into use. 

We have read of others using wood litter pellets [e.g., cedar] and small plastic balls [e.g, Airsoft balls] with purported success. We haven't tried this, and wonder if the wood pellets might soon become urine soaked and smelly, and whether the small spherical balls might be difficult to walk on and dig holes in? [for the cats...]

Storage requirements?
Storing 6 months worth of supplies requires about the same amount of space as 2 weeks worth of clumping litter... and is much lighter overall. That is another big win for us. 
This means by ordering ahead, we can carry 2+ year's worth of litter products for 2 cats in less space than 3 months of clumping litter would require... and the litter is waterproof...
Here is what we buy: [The best pricing we have found- and they fluctuate. Please share if you find something better...]

How did we get the cats to adapt to the new litter boxes? 

We put the Breeze litter box next to their old litter box and stopped cleaning the old box during the transition period [but always keep the new box spotless...] It took about 3 days before they stopped using the old box, at which time we replaced it with a 2nd Breeze litter box...

We always keep litter boxes well separated from their [and our...] food and water... We accomplish this on the boat by keeping one litter box lives in the master head shower [temporarily relocating it to the master cabin sole when using the shower] and the other in whatever location isn't in frequent use at the time; typically alternating between the forward head or forward cabin [when no guests are aboard] or sometimes under the lower settee table, laundry/work room, etc. They learn to look for it- which is good prep for travel off the boat [based upon my past experiences traveling with a cat....]


  1. Any updates on the drain hole into the shower sump?

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for asking. I haven't revisited that project yet... [It seems 'near future' wasn't as soon as I had intended at the time...]

      I still plan to experiment with this approach and will write it up on the permanent version of this blog post available at:

      I'm guessing that project will be relegated to this coming winter at this point...

      Please let us know if you beat us to it...

      Cheers! Bill


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