Can pets live happily aboard a narrowboat?
I was promoted to write this article as I was asked today whether living on a narrow boat was viable if you had a pet. The answer is yes it is possible, dogs and cats are the most popular choice of pets amongst boaters, however I have heard of people keeping chickens, rabbits and birds on their narrow boats.
Having a dog aboard is a great life for your dog there is always plenty of walks to be had down the towpath on the canal system, where you will be able to meet other dog owners. Free from the worry of road traffic your dog will have the freedom of being able to run around without the worry of cars. This said when you approach bridges it is wise to call your dog back in case they wonder up onto the road. If you do let your dog run free make sure they are used to livestock and birds and will not chase these animals.
As with all dog owners you should be prepared to clear up after your dog so that the path ways stay clean for everyone to enjoy. Care should be taken around the locks as they are very deep and have strong under currents, be sure your dog is under supervision or confined to the boat whilst navigating through the locks. it can be very hard to get dogs out of the canal if they fall in or go swimming because it is difficult to pull them out. This is why many dogs have life jackets with a handle on them see this link. You may need to over a ramp for your dog so they can get on and off the boat safely.
As with house cats it is advisable to keep them aboard for several weeks before allowing them to wonder outside. Please bear in mind that if you are cruising and wish to continue on your journey you may need to wait several hours before your moggie returns! Cats are able to get on and off the narrow boats with no assistance. When mooring it’s advisable not to moor near a busy road for obvious reasons.
Now onto the other more uncommon choices, depending on the type of narrow boat you own and your mooring facilities, you may be able to keep small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, fish and birds. You will need to access this on a boat to boat basis and decide if this is going to be viable. Some marinas do not allow residential moorers to have cats or dogs.
Let us know your experiences of living aboard with a pet.