Piff and Poof

Cats have been going to sea as long as man has, one of the reasons for cats being found on most every continent is the trading routes of humans.

Over the years we had met various boats with either dogs or cats onboard. Loving both species we had often thought of having pets onboard but as much as we loved dogs couldn’t see how we were going to fit one into our lifestyle. We had met boats with cats but they seem to be more rare and often the cats either chose to stay onboard or were restrained onboard.

One of our neighbours while wintering had lost his cat of 15 years and decided to pick up a replacement from the local cat shelter. We were taken along to placate the cat on the return journey. In the shelter there were 2 female litter-mates aged 7 months. Officially described as “black domestic short hair” they had been in the shelter for over 3 months as no one was prepared to take 2 cats. They are slightly smaller than average (1.6 kg each) which suits us on a boat. Also they entertain each other and seem to love the boat environment – all sorts of ledges, passage ways, stowage spaces.

this photo is a bit blurry to be sure, but have you ever tried to take a picture of a black cat without a flash?

The shelter we dealt with had spayed the cats and provided all inocculations (aside from rabies) as well as an identity chip in the scruff of the neck. What remained to us was:

  • come up with names (the identity chips only carry a serial number, not a name)
  • aclimatise the pair to their new home (the shelter recomended that they stay inside for 4-6 weeks before letting them outside)
  • arrange their rabies vacinations and the subsequent blood test (done 30 days after the vacination)
  • have their Pet Passports issued

Of course the first two priorities were litter box and food service. Although we probably will have to fabricate something specific for food, water and litter so that things aren’t spilt when the boat heels we started out with commercial plastic products. Internet information seemed to be everywhere and we quickly found out that cats don’t like plastic water bowls because of the smell. So stainless it was – that seemed to fit in with a marine lifestyle all right.

Initially we bought clumping cat litter (made with bentonite). To be honest it was a bit messier and smellier than we expected. Both of us had grown up with cats but they were all cats who had free run outside at night, neither of us had dealt with litter boxes before. Our local fuel and feed station suggested using pine litter which is pine wood dust pressed into pellets. Apparently one of the natural resins of pine neutralises ammonia, given that ammonia is the major scent associated with cat urine this sounded good. As we read more apparently bentonite (the main ingredient in clumping cat litter) also has a slight reaction with ammonia which increases the smell. As the cat uses the litter box the pine pellets break down into pine wood dust once they contact either urine or fecies. The unused portions remain as pellets and are too large to stick to the cat’s feet when they leave the tray.

We have noticed a major smell reduction and seem to use a lot less of the pine litter. The instructions say that the pine wood dust can be composted after any fecies are removed but we have not figured out where we can compost on Maringret yet. I guess there are still some things you can do better in a house than on a boat.

For names we decided to call them Piff and Poof. Piff and Puff (pronounced as “poof” in English) are the Swedish names for the two animated chipmunks “Chip and Dale”. Although nowhere as vocal as Chip and Dale, Piff and Poof seem to be able to get up to about as much mischief. From exiting their car carriers after coming “home” from the shelter, their personalities started to become apparent: Piff is curious and immediately started exploring; Poof is happy to eat and sleep – she immediately found a blanket to crawl under and went to sleep. Somehow not surprisingly Poof weighs 1.7 kg and Piff only 1.5 kg. If trouble happens it is usually Piff unless there is food involved in which case it is more likely to be Poof.

Piff and Poof are almost identical. The only distinguishing marks are that Poof has 2 or three white hairs on her chest and Piff has 2 white hairs on the back of her neck. Aside from the white hairs the cats are identical and completely black. Their coats are so lustrous that if the light shines the wrong way on them then the single white hairs dissapear into the gloss of the coats.

It was very interesting watching the two cats adapt and attach to their new home, there was almost a daily increase in confidence and trusting. They had basically spent 3 months with their mother (we presume) and then the shelter had them for 3 months. So in their first 1/2 year they had spent 3 months in confinement in a cat shelter which although clean, warm and safe was not a very stimulating environment for two young kittens.

rabies treatment

blood test

pet passport

  • Piff & Poof seem to view the Dickinson heater as television, we now refer to it as the “cat TV”

We will continue to fill in this page as things progress.


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