Life Jackets to Keep Your Cat Safe On the Water
Despite the stereotype that cats do not like water, cats have been on ships with sailors for thousands of years, providing companionship, pest control services and acted as a good luck charm.
In recent times kitties have been travelling with their families on boats on the high seas. Other kitties enjoy a leisurely ride on a kayak and even a stand up paddle board.
While some cats are very adept at swimming, it is ideal to ensure that they are protected from drowning. One way to do this is to use a cat life jacket or a buoyancy aid.
Why Should My Cat Wear a Life Jacket?
As cats are very particular about what they wear, it is no surprise that many kitties may not be keen to wear a life jacket – they can feel very restrictive and even feel like a strait jacket.
However, if you and your cat are doing any sort of water sport a life jacket will ensure that your cat floats if they fall in the water or jump in while attempting to catch that birdy. It will also help you retrieve your kitty from the water.
What Should We Look For in a Life Jacket for Our Cat?
Fit & Comfort
As with harnesses, a kitty’s life jacket needs to fit well.
If it is too loose, your cat may slip out of it while in the water and it may hinder their ability to swim. However, life jackets that are too tight may also hinder their ability to move easily.
To help choose the right fit for your cat, ensure that you check the manufacturers sizing charts and measure your cat while they are dry. If you can, take your cat to a brick and mortar store which stocks the life jackets and try them on in store.
While it may be tempting to purchase the bulkiest jacket as it may appear to be the most buoyant, if they are uncomfortable for your cat, they may not be the best option as your cat will not enjoy wearing them.
It is ideal to have a handle between the shoulder blades of the lifejacket so that you can easily pull you kitty to safety, if they fall in the water.
We also suggest practicing pulling your cat out of the water using this handle. This will help you act quickly in an emergency.
While straps may look ideal for life jackets, loose straps can also trip your cat. Ensure that all straps can be secured while your cat is wearing the life jacket.
It is also important to ensure that the straps are easy to use.
Neck Float/Chin Pad
Many pet life jackets have a neck float, which helps keep your cat’s head above water. While these may seem bulky, they are very helpful for your kitty.
A brightly coloured life jacket or vest will help ensure that you can see your kitty if they do fall in the water.
While they may not look the best in photos, our suggestion is that you purchase a life jacket with florescent colours like yellow, green, orange or pink.
How to Encourage Your Cat to Wear a Life Jacket
Introduce the life jacket to your cat at home
As with harness training, we recommend that you use positive condition when introducing the life jacket to your kitty. By this we mean, slowly introduce the life jacket to your cat and give them a treat each time. This will help create a positive association with the life jacket.
At first, introduce the life jacket at home. Place it near your cat and when they investigate it, give them a treat. Then place it on your cat (without fastening it) and give them a treat. Then fasten the jacket and give them a treat. Start with your cat wearing the jacket for short periods of time and slowly extend the amount of time they wear the jacket (and ensure they get a treat each time). It may take a few weeks for this process but it will help ensure that your cat has a positive experience with the life jacket.
Introduce the life jacket on a boat with minimum movement
Once your cat has progressed to wearing the life jacket for an extended period of time, it is time to introduce the jacket while you are on the water.
As a rocking boat may shock your kitty, we recommend putting the life jacket on your cat when the boat is in a calm area. Once again, ensure that they receive treats to continue the positive conditioning.
It would be a huge shock to your cat if the first time they had to swim with the life jacket on, was when they accidentally fell off the boat.
To help prevent the potential stress, encourage your cat to swim in a shallow calm area. This could be a bath tub or a pool. Be calm and encourage your cat. We also suggest that you try this activity in various areas, starting with a small body of water (like a bath tub) and slowly making your way to bigger bodies of water like lakes.
While it might be tempting to do so, do not toss your cat in the water or into deep water. This may encourage them to panic and they may associate the life jacket with negative experiences.
Consistency & Patience
These are 2 of our favourite (or not so favourite words) when it comes to training our cats.
Our behaviour needs to be consistent – use the life jacket whenever you are on water with your kitty, in a boat or any other water vessel. Follow the same with treats and this will help positively condition the life jacket in your cat’s mind.
And, this process may take time and will need patience from us – the human.
Note: We recommend that you do not let your cat swim unsupervised.
What Cat Life Jacket Should I get?
Just like life jackets for humans, the fit of life jackets for cats are not the best. Many are made for dogs so many not be long enough.
However, there are a few options available for you.
For New Swimmers – Outward Hound Standley Sport High Performance Life Jacket
The Outward Hound Standley Sport Life Jacket in XS is popular amongst catexplorers who are new to swimming.
In saying this Outward Hound designed the Standley Sport Life Jacket for experienced doggy swimmers. Meanwhile the Outward Hound Dawson Swim Life Jacket was designed with novice dog swimmers.
However, the Standley Sport Life Jacket appears to be more suitable for kitties as it has more clips that can be adjusted for our kitties.
The Standley Sport Life jacket also has:
A handle on top that makes it easier to pick your cat out of the water
A neck float to ensure that their head stays out of the water
However, as it has been designed for dogs who are experienced swimmers, it does have less buoyancy than the Outward Hound Dawson Swim Life Jacket.
For More Experienced Swimmers – Top Paw Neoprene Reflective Dog Life Jacket
The Top Paw Neoprene Reflective Life Jacket is very popular amongst catexplorers who are seasoned to water activities.
The Neoprene material & the adjustable clips means that the jacket fits well. It is known for allowing your pet to move around. However, it may not float as well as the Top Paw Reflective Life Jacket.
With this in mind, we recommend that this lifejacket is only used by catexplorers who are used to being around water.
The Top Paw Neoprene Reflective Life Jacket also has:
A handle that makes it easy to pull your cat out of the water.
Comes in multiple colours.
It is important to note that the Neoprene Life Jacket does not have a neck float (which helps your cat keep their face out of the water). It also does not have a ring for your cat’s leash, so they will need to wear a harness underneath.
Salty Dog Life Vest by Petego
The Salty Dog Life Vest by Petgo has as a chin pad/neck float which helps keep your kitty’s head afloat. It also has a handle between the shoulder blades which helps ensure that you can pull your kitty out of the water in an emergency. The life jacket comes in 3 colours – camouflage, orange & yellow.
Baltic Pet Buoyancy Aid life jacket uses clips rather than Velcro, which makes it easier to put on your cat and is ideal for cats who are scared of the sound of Velcro. Furthermore, it also has a handle so you can lift your cat out of the water in an emergency. It also comes in bright colours and has a reflective fabric, so you can see your cat at night. However, it may not be the most comfortable life jacket for your cat. It is rated highly for dogs though.
The Paws Aboard Neoprene Life Jacket is the most popular life jacket in the Catexplorer Community. It is lightweight and appears to be comfortable. However, it does float as well as other foam life jackets. It also does not have a chin rest. In saying that, it does have a handle on the back for you to pull your cat out of the water during an emergency. It also dries very fast.
The Ruffwear Float Coat is also a very popular life jacket used by the Catexplorer community.
It may be a little stiff, especially at first. However, it fits kitties well.
It is on the pricier side, but is durable and well made. It also have a neck float to help keep your kitty’s head up in the water. There is a handle on the back for you to pull your kitty out of the water during an emergency. Unlike some other life jackets, it has flotation on the underneath and on the sides. It uses clips, rather than Velcro, for fastening, which makes it ideal for kitties who may be scared of Velcro. We also like that it has spots for you to put your cat’s name, a water light (if you are swimming at night), and ID tag and even a hook for a leash. However, we do not recommend that you leash your cat while swimming, as this may be dangerous.
Outward Hound’s Granby Ripstop Life Jacket is also used by members of the Catexplorer community. It is not too bulky and is comfortable for the kitty. It also has a neck float which keeps your cat’s head up. It does have Velcro connections to fit the jacket, but they are under fabric so they do not get caught in fur and are reinforced by clips on the top. It has a handle which enables you to pull your cat out of the water in case of an emergency. They also come in bright colours.
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