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How To Go Kayaking With Your Cat – Purrfect Paddling!

Nicola Burridge
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Kayaking with your feline friend can be a fun adventure, blending the tranquility of nature with the companionship of your beloved cat. 

Before you jump in paws first, it can be important to ensure your cat’s safety by acclimating them to water, providing a secure buoyancy aid, and gradually introducing them to the kayak environment.

Want more tips on how to take your kitty kayaking? Read on.

> How to go kayaking with a dog

Is It Safe To Kayak With My Cat?

It’s important to paddle in areas that are safe for your cat.

I recommend that you avoid paddling in an area with predators. Alligators, in particular, can be dangerous for everyone, not just cats. But cats can be more of a target because of their size. 

I would also avoid the ocean because of the risk of sharks and rough waters that could cause you to capsize.   

Does A Kayaking Cat Need A Life Jacket?

I recommend that all cats (and dogs) wear a life jacket or buoyancy aid while paddling. Most dog life jackets come in very small sizes that can be great for cats.

Baltic is one brand that makes a cat-specific life jacket which can be more suitable than some of the dog PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices). 

Putting a life vest on a cat is not going to be the easiest thing in the world. If your cat is used to wearing coats or sweaters then you’ll probably find it’s easier to get your cat used to the PFD. 

It can be a good idea to place the life jacket on the floor for your cat to check out in their own time. Let them sniff and get used to it before putting it on. 

Remember, when it’s time to finally put the PFD on your cat, do it several times before your adventure. This will give your cat time to get comfortable wearing it before they have to adjust to being on the kayak. 

Are There Certain Breeds Or Types Of Cats That Are Better Suited For Kayaking?

Cat Swimming In A PoolPin

When most people think of a stereotypically normal cat, they think they hate water. But many cats actually do like water. 

There are some breeds of cats that are more likely to enjoy being in and around water than others.

Most cat lovers will have heard that Maine Coons, for example, are known to love water. However, not all Maine Coons will. Turkish Vans and Bengals are also known to like water.

However, if you have a house cat that has never been outside, then they might be less attracted to water and may actually be terrified of it. 

I know that many house cats can be nervous of the outdoor world in general, so I don’t recommend taking a house cat paddling without any prior outdoor experience or training.

What Equipment Will My Cat Need For Kayaking?

In addition to a PFD, your cat should also have a harness and a shorter leash for water sports. However, do not attach the leash to the kayak. 

Attaching the leash to your kayak can be dangerous in the event of a capsize as your cat would be trapped to the kayak and unable to swim to safety.

Cats like familiarity and routine, so it can be a good idea to bring along your cat’s travel crate or a backpack that’s large enough. 

Most cats will love the added protection and shelter that they can get from their crate, especially in new locations. A travel crate or backpack can provide a safe space for your kitty to watch the world go by while they’re on the deck of the boat.

A backpack or crate can also protect from the sun and can help to stop kitties from getting wet from paddle splashes or spray.

Remember to bring a towel, just in case your curious cat gets too curious.

Adventure Cat: How To Prepare Your Cat For A Kayaking Trip

The key to a successful kayaking trip with your cat is to take one step at a time. Don’t rush into it or your four-legged friend could become scared.

Even if you have an adventurous cat, it’s best to give them sufficient time to get comfortable with each new experience before they’re fully immersed in it with no escape route.

Know Your Own Kayak

Before you embark on a kayaking adventure with your feline friend, the first thing you should do is get used to kayaking on your own. Learn some skills and develop your paddling technique so that you know how to control a kayak. 

You want your cat to feel comfortable on the water so it’s important that you also feel comfortable and stay calm. Otherwise, your cat might sense your nervous energy, which can make them more likely to feel anxious and potentially jump off. 

Let Your Cat Sniff And Explore The Kayak On Dry Land

This is an important step in allowing your cat to feel comfortable on the kayak. The first time you introduce your cat to the kayak, do it while it’s in your home or your backyard. Let them sniff it, walk on it, and fully explore it at their own pace.

You can hide little treats in various spots on the kayak to encourage your cat to explore. The treats act as positive reinforcement rewards so that your cat will begin to associate being in the kayak with tasty treats.

It can also be a good idea to introduce your pet to the rest of your kayaking gear during this time. Lay it all out so your feline friend can check it out in their own time.

I’d suggest you do this a few times before you hit the water. Make sure your cat is fully comfortable with the kayak and the gear. 

As your cat becomes more comfortable with the kayak, you can do a couple of trial runs with your cat wearing their PFD while they explore the kayak on land. Do this before you plan any trips on the water.

Gradually Introduce Your Cat To The Water

Take your cat to the water where you plan to kayak.

This could be your local lake or river. Let them go walking around the lake to get used to the sights and sounds of that particular environment before you introduce the kayak into the mix.

I’d recommend taking your cat to the water at least a couple of times. This can make the paddling location a little more familiar to your cat when it’s time to launch.

Stick To Calm Waters

Just like if you were paddling with dogs or children, it’s best to stick to calm water and good weather. Flatwater lakes and slow-moving rivers can be ideal spots.

A sit-on-top recreational kayak that’s designed for flatwater conditions can be more suitable for kayaking with cats. These types of kayaks will tend to offer more stability on calm lakes and flatwater rivers than kayaks that are designed for moving water. 

A canoe can also be an ideal boat, as long as you’re comfortable with paddling a canoe.

Take A Short Cat Kayaking Trip

Cat in a canoe exploring the lake at day timePin

When you think your kitty is finally ready to start kayaking, make it a short practice trip. Remember to offer treats as rewards to maintain the positive reinforcement training

If you think your cat is comfortable, paddle for a short time close to shore, avoiding the middle of the lake, then head home. 

If your pet appears uncomfortable or distressed, turn back to shore immediately and try again another time. It’s important that you don’t scare your cat from ever wanting to try again so don’t force these adventures. 

Help Your Cat Feel Safe And Comfortable On The Kayak

Familiarity is key when it comes to helping adventure cats feel comfortable. 

If your kitty has a favorite toy or blanket, bring that along with you. These items can be put inside their crate or backpack, so they have somewhere they feel safe.

Once you launch from the lake shore, open the door of the crate. Most pets will come out and explore in their own time, or they can stay in the shelter if they feel more comfortable. 

Don’t forget the treats for rewards.

Common Questions About Kayaking With A Cat

What Precautions Should I Take When Kayaking With My Cat?

Always make sure your kitty wears a harness and leash so if they jump off you can easily pull them back on board.

You should also avoid whitewater and other dangerous conditions.

Is It Important To Train My Cat Before Going Kayaking?

Yes, it is very important to train your cat before going kayaking. This helps them to get comfortable with the activity so that you can both have a relaxing time. 

Without training, kayaking could frighten your cat, which can be dangerous for both you and them. 

How Can I Keep My Cat Hydrated And Fed During A Kayaking Trip?

Bring your cat’s water bowl so they have access to fresh drinking water. 

Bring their food bowl if you’ll be on the trip during your cat’s meal times or overnight camping. Dried pet food (kibble) can be easier to work with than wet food when you’re on the go. 

Now You’re Ready For A Purr-fect Kayaking Experience

It’s always exciting to have your kitty join you on outdoor adventures. But you need to make sure it’s fun and safe for cats too, not just us humans. 

Hopefully you’ve discovered some great tips on how to introduce your cat to kayaks.

Let us know about your feline adventures. Was your kitty scared or brave the first time they took to the water? 

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