The Very Expensive Swim

Posted in: Featured, The Ships Cat on Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

It was a normal night, eating dinner watching the telly. We hadn’t thought it odd that Fluffy wasn’t with us, as some of his favourite spots to curl up are at the stern of the boat where we can’t see him. Suddenly our neighbour Christine was racing down the dock towards Tygress calling my name in obvious distress. I got up on deck totally unaware of how drastically our night was about to change.

“I found him swimming in the water, I don’t think he’s going to make it” she said has she handed me a small, soaking and very limp bundle of fur.

“I don’t think he’s going to make it” Christine repeated as I was coming to the jarring relisation that the small, soaking and very limp bundle of fur was our precious boy. He’d gotten out while I was up having a shower and I didn’t even realise (we were to later learn that he had figured out he could climb the screen door). Christine’s concern was palpable and despite the whirlwind of emotions I was flung into it touched me that she was just as concerned for our boy as we were. She had saved him.

Christine had, through the sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time, heard splashing in the dark and went to grab a torch so she could see what it was. When she realised what was in the water,  it was her quick thinking and her quick actions that had saved him. He had barely enough strength left to climb the life buoy thrown to him. Had Christine not been outside doing her washing Fluff’s old body would have very soon tired, his little head dropping below the water more and more and he would’ve drowned a lonely death full of struggle and fear, in the dark. We’d never have seen him again. The thought is almost too much to bear.

“Ben, quick! He’s gone in, I think he’s going to die’ I called through the door as I fumbled for a towel in the cockpit. He’s so light and thin, oh my God he’s so limp. “We’ve got to get him to the vet now”. Ben dropped everything, nothing was turned off, the boat didn’t get closed up and Fluffy was bundled up in my arms and we raced through the marina to the car. It was the longest that walk has ever felt. It was long enough for the grief, the shock, the guilt and chest wracking sobs to hit. I was a wreck. I sobbed all the way to the vet, all the fear, shame, guilt and love came pouring out. Shame because how could we have not known he was in the water? How could we have not heard him? Guilt because we weren’t there to save him. Fear that we were going to lose him. So much fear.

It's a hard life!

It’s a hard life!

For some people pets are just that, pets, animals that they look after, feed and water and go through all the motions. But for the lucky ones, they’re so much more. They’re friends, our companions, furry parts of our hearts that run around outside our bodies. We are the lucky ones. Fluffy has been with us since just after Ben and I met and we knew forever was going to be a thing, that’s more than 13 years ago. There has only ever been three weeks of just Ben and Sarah because on the fourth week we brought him home from the RSPCA and everyday since we’ve woken to his furry face. I don’t know what it’s like to be us without him. And the fact that we might soon find out was terrifying.

We got to the vets just after another car pulled in and out jumped another woman with a bundled towel cradled in her arms. The desire to run to the door ahead of her was strong, but I resisted. The state I was in was all the staff needed to know and we were taken through immediately. I had to put him down on the bench, but I couldn’t let him go, they coaxed him away from me and pulled back the towel so they could have a look at him.  They took his temperature in a rather undignified manner, listened to his chest and got him wrapped up in something that might have been called a bear hug. Basically it’s just a piece of heated flexible piping they wrap him in. We were told he had hypothermia but was otherwise okay, no water on his lungs and a strong heartbeat. What followed was one of the worst experiences I’ve had as a pet parent at the vets. “How long was he in the water?” we’re not sure. “When did he go in the water?” we don’t know. “You didn’t know he was in the water?” we didn’t even know he was outside. They were necessary questions but boy did they really ram home the shame and guilt. More tears.

They kept him on fluids overnight and put him in a humidifier to bring his body temperature up.  They told us to go home and to call in two hours for an update but he should be fine. It was hard to leave him but he was already starting to behave more like himself. Tygress felt so empty when we got home without him. Cold dinners were left uneaten, the telly stayed off and we sat and worried about all the what ifs. What if he doesn’t come home? How can we live on this boat without him? What if it’s all my fault?. But when we phoned throughout the next 12 hours they told us that he was alert and very talkative and doing well for a cat his age that had gone through the ordeal that he did. We picked him up the following evening and never has a cat been more cuddled.

So what have we learnt from all of this? First, despite being over 19 years old he can still scale screen doors so we need to pull the companionway hatch lid closed fully when leaving the boat. The thrill night time exploration still calls to him. Second, we need to have something in the water for him to climb should this ever happen again, either a towel or a thick line. The thought of his terror while swimming around unable to get out makes me so sad. Third, how completely unprepared I am for losing him and just how lucky he is to be alive.  I don’t think Christine fully understands what a service she did for us that night and how deeply and forever grateful we are. To this day she still walks past looking to see him on deck and always asks after him when we see each other on the dock.

A few days after and he's sleeping blissfully on my yoga mat. Note the shaved little leg.

A few days after and he’s sleeping blissfully on my yoga mat. Note the shaved little leg.



The Ship’s Cute Kitty

Posted in: The Ships Cat on Monday, June 10th, 2013

We’ve been away in Bundaberg for the weekend, and flew back today, we’re both tired and I can’t string two sentences together. So I’m sharing with you and the rest of the internet some photos of our ships cat being adorable. The internet likes cats right?

This is Fluffy giving me his ‘you can’t ignore me’ look. His method is to sit directly in my line of sight, or on the keyboard, or on the computer or on whatever i’m doing at the time and stare at me until I relent and give him whatever he wants.

Serious cat is serious…and cute!

 It’s getting colder in the evenings so swaddling your pets in a nice warm doona is a must. For poor Fluffy resistance continues to be futile.

All rugged up!

 As soon as you move anything on the boat, or open a different cupboard or storage area Fluffy is right there to test out it’s suitability as a sitting spot.

Finding new spots all the time


Fluffy just hangin out in my clothes netting


Packed and ready to go!


Four furry little land legs

Posted in: The Ships Cat on Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Enjoying his walkabout

Our beautiful old boy has adapted to his new live aboard life really well and having him with us has helped us adapt to our new life too. Our boat became and felt officially like home after he stepped on board.

Leaving his old house has brought big changes for him.  BB (Before Boat) he was an inside and outside cat, he roamed free and far to his heart’s content. He could go outside to conduct his business with privacy and a modicum of dignity. He could have macho hair raising standoffs with the neighbourhood cats and he could escape his adoring, sometimes irritatingly affectionate humans to seek peaceful solitude under the hedge.

Those days for him are gone, to be replaced by a small confined space with different sights and smells and no nighttime adventures or free time outside. Then there is the indignity of having to poop in a box while usually being watched by me to make sure his aim is on target (and when it isn’t, a slight redirect by the tail).  Geez when I put it like that it sounds a little sad and mean.  It’s not really though.

We had to fight to be allowed to have him with us here at the marina at all.  When we told the office that we had a cat there was some grumbling and hesitation but in the end they relented so long as we kept him under wraps. There is a prejudice against cats among marina boaties which I’ve touched on in an earlier post.  And for five months he was content with regular patrols around the deck and chillin in the cockpit or under the tarp. But the day finally came, as we knew it would, when he realised he could get off the boat.

“Freedom here I come”

Fortunately I was on the dock to intercept him and I almost whisked him up into my arms and back onto the boat but then Ben and I looked at each other and thought “what the hell, let him have a wander”.  We had felt bad about having to confine him all the time particularly when he really wants to go out for an explore. (We suspect he’s aware of this guilt and tries to make us feel even worse by sitting on the top step watching outside looking forlorn)

At once he was alert,  his little nose to the ground and twitching taking in the new environment.  I was quite excited to share his first walk around, and he was such a good cat, he didn’t go racing off forcing me into futile pursuit. He walked very calmly at my side constantly looking up at me for reassurance, “Can i go here?” “What about over there?”. He sniffed mooring lines, rubbed his face against cleats and his body against utility posts. Cats do this to release pheromones from pores in their faces. By rubbing his little head on things Fluffy was making his surroundings feel more like home, making it a part of his comfort zone.

Land legs, he’s still got em!

Every now and then he’d sit next to a boat and look at me as if to say “Can I jump up on this” and despite me shaking my head no, he’d slightly adjust his position, calculate angles of approach and distances, assess the risk of landing in the the water, then look back at me, shift again and get swooped up at the last minute, all of his careful planning for naught.

Unfortunately, despite the fun we both had wandering around together, his little adventure on the dock has meant the end of his unsupervised time on deck. When he thinks he’s not being watched he makes a beeline for the stern of the boat, and despite his advancing years he’s still a quick kitty, keeping us on our toes! I look forward to the day, as I’m sure Fluffy does too, when we can let him have free reign of the boat, so that he can come and go as he pleases.