Boating Adventures | "Skipper the Boat Cat: Deciphering Cat Behaviors" | by Vicki Totten

A Moment of Calm
Our adventures with Skipper the Boat Cat continue to amuse and confuse me. Of course, I could also say that about so many things in my life. But as it pertains to Skipper, I last wrote about how comfortable Skipper was on our boat and how differently he behaves in Rockport than in Austin. I thought it was because he just loved living on the boat. But some of his recent behaviors have me wondering if it’s just that he loves living in Rockport, regardless of whether we are staying on the boat or in our Rockport house.

Skipper always travels with us to Austin and Rockport. To help with this, we recently discovered Feliway pheromone spray, which was working great. It mimics the Mother’s pheromones and helps to calm cats down – as crazy as that sounds. The prescription drug we had been giving him made him act really loopy the day after he had it, so we were just happy to find an alternative. Skipper had been calm and content on our last several trips to and from Rockport – just by us spraying the car and his carrier ahead of time. It was truly like a miracle. Unfortunately, however, just like the miracle “herbal” medicine I take to help me sleep sometimes, miracles don’t always last.

When the "Miracle" was Working

During my last trip to Rockport, it was just Skipper and me. I had been really nervous about how it was going to go, but I needn’t have been. He meowed for about the first 15 minutes, but then was calm and quiet for the remaining 3 hours of the trip. A piece of cake. Well, not so fast. Did I mention that miracles don’t always last?

Chillin in Rockport

On the trip back to Austin, I followed the exact same procedure as before. I sprayed the car and his carrier about 15 minutes prior to the trip, just as the directions say to do. I then put his harness and leash on him and put him in the carrier next to me. I made sure to put something under the carrier to elevate it so that he would have a clear view out the window and of me. So, when he meowed for the first 15 minutes, I wasn’t worried. I figured he was about to settle down. Then when 15 turned into 30 minutes, I thought to myself, it’s ok. He is just taking a little longer than last time. When 30 minutes turned into an hour, I knew I was in trouble.

A Walk in Palmetto Park

He spent the entire trip complaining and scratching to get out of the carrier. I even tried putting him into a larger carrier and in the backseat – but then he just tried repeatedly to flip the carrier onto the floor. The commotion the little Houdini caused during this particular effort forced me to stop the car and re-evaluate. In desperation, I took hold of the leash and allowed him to roam free in the car. I know this was risky and probably ill advised. I was, however, desperate. When he is calm, he just lies down and goes to sleep on his blanket on the middle console. This time he paced and complained until I finally had to put him back in the carrier. At one point I even pulled into Palmetto State Park to let him walk around with me – thinking maybe he needed to go to the bathroom or just needed to run off some energy. While he seemed happy to be walking around, as soon as we got back in the car, he resumed his earlier complaints – which did not stop until we drove into my driveway in Austin. Once we arrived in Austin, he immediately acted as though he had never seen me before in his life. Can cats hold grudges, I wonder?

At Home on the Boat

A few days before we left Rockport, I had taken him over to the boat to pick up a few things. As soon as I opened the gate to our long dock, he began tugging on the leash in order to make me run down the dock behind him until we got to the turn where our boat is docked. Before I could unlatch the gate to go aboard, he had jumped on the boat and stood waiting impatiently for me to get the companionway door opened. Once we were aboard, he settled down until it was time for us to leave. At that point, I picked him up and sat him on the dock so I could lock the companionway door and gates. I then had to repeat this sequence several times. Every time I would set him down on the dock, he would immediately jump back onto the boat. He was clearly not ready to leave. I ended up having to carry him down the dock to the car – with him complaining the entire way.

So, he doesn’t like to leave our boat in Rockport. Nor does he like to leave our house in Rockport. Is it possible that his complaining in the car has more to do with where we are leaving than where we are going? When we are in Rockport, he is almost always within sight and wanting attention and to be held and loved on. When we get back to Austin, he is aloof, out of sight, and resistant to being held or petted.

Trying to Hide in Austin

Assuming that this theory about his behavior is accurate, until I can come up with another solution, I’ll again be giving him the prescription drug before our next trip. I am just grateful that it is Rockport where he wants to be instead of Rockport being the place he wants to leave. I can, after all, relate to that sentiment.

Vicki and husband, ceramic artist Stan Irvin, are both retired professors who have discovered the joys of Rockport and living part-time on their 33' sailboat, while exploring new sailing destinations and adventures.

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