Before you head out on your boat with pets, they should be wearing ID tags with your contact information, including your boat’s permanent location and slip number, a cell phone number and the number of a relative or land-based friend. If your pet has an ID microchip, make sure this information is included in your pet’s registry profile.
Regardless of your pet’s swimming ability, a sudden dunking can cause panic. So make sure your cat or dog wears a personal flotation device, available at most boating stores for $20 to $80. A brightly colored life jacket with a handle on top will make your pet easier to see and retrieve. Get your pet used to wearing the PFD before setting out.
Teach your dog basic safety commands, such as stay, sit, on boat, off boat and, the all-time favorite, "Do your business."
Get seasickness medication for your pet if necessary. Some of the same medications used for humans also work for pets; however, please consult your vet before giving any medications.
Always carry your pet’s rabies vaccination certificate and health records when away from the boat.
If you plan to venture to foreign ports, check the regulations well in advance. Many countries have quarantine or health laws that apply to animals.
Introduce your pet to the boat gradually. Start by spending time together when the boat is docked.
Practice swimming and rescue drills with your dog. Train the dog to paddle to a swim platform or ladder, where it can be helped on board.
Make it easier for an overboard cat to climb onboard by rigging a self-rescue system, such as a coiled line or carpet strip hanging into the water at each corner of the boat. A long-handled net can also help you retrieve a cat or small dog.
Consider your deck’s traction. Bathroom throw rugs or outdoor carpet with non-slip backing can provide a temporary solution for any slippery areas.
Provide steps or ramps if your pet has trouble navigating companionway ladders.
Make sure your pet has a shady place to sit on deck (fiberglass gets hot), and secure the water dish. A large one kept half-full will spill less underway.
A piece of artificial turf or a box of sod can work as a bathroom substitute for your dog when landfall is not possible. Get the dog used to going on the artificial turf at home before moving it onboard.
Cats can use an anchored litter box onboard, or you can train them to use the head. This requires tremendous patience, but it can be done.