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October 09, 2022 12 min read

Keep Your Water Loving Kitties Safe 

Woman on a green bikini with a cat on a stand up paddle boardPhoto Credit @klaverflav

Who said cats don’t like water? There are plenty of water-loving kitties across the globe. You may already have one in your tribe that joins you out on your stand-up paddle board

Yes, you heard us right – cats on SUPs

Sure, you may get some odd looks to begin with. But if your adventurous feline friend wants to join in with the fun, then why not get them on board? Aquatic explorers are not just limited to paddle boarding dogs.

Safety is the main priority when your cat is out on the water with you. To keep them super safe, consider fitting them with a cat life jacket. A pet PFD will help them stay afloat and conserve energy if they fall off the SUP. Here is a round-up of all the information you need on the best life jackets for cats. 

What Is The Best Life Jacket For Cats?

Cat on an inflatable stand up paddle board

The best cat life jacket is lightweight, comfortable, and non-restrictive. There are a select few pet PFDs that are specifically designed with cats in mind. However, the majority double up as dog life jackets as well. 

Life jackets for small dogs are often the best choice for kitties. These PFDs tend to be lightweight, and designed like a harness. They are highly effective in keeping your cat afloat, providing that extra bit of buoyancy along with a grab handle to help them out of the water. 

Some cats will be more willing to wear a life jacket than others. Finding the best one to suit your cat could take time and multiple attempts to find the most comfortable option.

Should Cats Wear Life Jackets?

Despite common belief, cats are generally pretty good swimmers. Natural instinct makes them efficient in the water and some love a good paddle

Even if your cat is a strong and confident swimmer, a life jacket is a good idea and recommended if you are taking them into open water. This will give them a helping hand while swimming. However, not every cat will be happy wearing a jacket. It depends on your cat's temperament.

Do Cats Have To Wear Life Jackets On Boats?

Kitting your kitty out with a floatation jacket is entirely your choice. There are no regulations to state that you have to have your cat in a PFD whilst on a boat. After all, some cats may be reluctant to wear a life jacket.

Cats have a long history of maritime life, living in docklands and on ships traveling the seven seas. Nowadays, it is still a common sight to see cats hopping off canal boats or between harbors.

What Activities Require Cat Life Jackets?

Kitty-cat life jackets are not just limited to boats. There is a whole adventurous world that your favorite feline can explore with you. 

While cats generally have good dexterity, some can be clumsy. If you are fortunate enough to have your own swimming pool in the backyard, and also have an uncoordinated cat, then you may want to consider fitting them out with a pet life jacket. Just in case. 

Other activities where a cat life jacket could be useful include:

GILI Top Picks For Best Life Jackets For Cats (Read On To Find Out Why!)

Best Style
Gili pet life jacket PFD Blue
GILI Pet Life Jacket PFD

Info…

Where to buy: GILI Sports
Best Seller
Outward hound granby splash orange cat life jacket
Best Lightweight
Outward hound standley sport, Cat life jacket

Key Features To Look For In A Cat Life Jacket

Cat wearing a PFD on a stand up paddle board

There are a number of features to consider when buying a cat life jacket in order to maximize comfort for your feline companion:

  • Sizing
  • Visibility
  • Material
  • Buoyancy
  • Adjustability

Nail these and you will have one happy and safe kitty!

Sizing And Kitty Comfort

Correct sizing is important. Not only does it provide the best comfort, but it also ensures maximum safety. If the PFD is too big, your cat is likely to slip out of it. If it is too small, then it will restrict your cat’s movement and swimming capabilities. 

A comfy kitty is a happy kitty.Remember that motto when taking your cat out on a SUP!

Handles And D-Rings

Many pet life jackets will have D-ring points. These are designed for leash attachments, so your cat (or dog) does not stray too far. 

A top grab handle is also a common, and extremely useful, feature to have on cat life jackets. With a handle, you can easily snatch your cat out of the water if they are struggling to get back on the paddle board. 

Color And Visibility

There is more to color than simply style. Sure, you need to choose something that is going to look great and compliment your cat's eyes. Although, bright colors are often recommended to increase visibility while on water. 

Depending on where you are going to be paddle boarding with your cat, visibility is a great safety concern. If, for example, you are going out to sea, there are currents and choppy waters that could obscure sight. This is where bright yellow, orange, or red is great. And don’t forget the reflective piping for added visibility.

Quick-Release Straps

The straps, typically adjustable for sizing and comfort, will have buckle fastenings for a quick-release feature.

Quick-release straps are a necessary feature of any life jacket, whether it's for pets or humans! While these are safety accessories, there may be an emergency situation that requires a quick “escape” from the jacket – i.e. the user gets caught on a low-hanging tree branch. 

Durability

To get the best bang for your buck, durability should be a top consideration when buying a life jacket for your cat. Good quality materials and top craftsmanship will give the PFD a longer life as it keeps up with all the aquatic adventures. 

Buoyancy

Last but not least, buoyancy is one of the key features to look for in a life jacket. After all, this is the whole reason why to buy a PFD! 

Cats generally will not require a huge amount of buoyancy floats to keep them merrily bobbing along. Simple side panels will most likely be sufficient – similar to what small breed dogs require. Some pet life preserver jackets also have a neck float panel. This may not suit a cat particularly well and it could be too restrictive.

How To Measure A Cat For A Life Jacket?

white cats and a tricolor cat

Measuring a cat for a life jacket is not as difficult as it sounds. 

Assuming your cat is compliant, you need to assess its weight and some key measurements for size

Weight

More weight requires more float. 

Cats tend to weigh between 12-20 lbs, depending on breeding and size. This is similar to small-breed dogs, making the life jackets interchangeable. Check the guidance provided by the life jacket manufacturer to be sure it is suitable for your cat’s weight. 

Size

Size is determined by three factors:

  • Length
  • Chest circumference
  • Neck circumference

Length is measured from the neck/shoulders to a couple of inches above the base of the tail, along the length of the cat’s spine.

The chest circumference is the largest part of your cat’s ribcage. While the neck circumference is the lowest part, closest to the shoulders. 

Typically, pet life jackets suitable for cats will be listed as XS or S.

7 Best Life Jackets For Cats To Buy

We have done the research so you don’t have to. Here are the top 8 life jackets for cats available to purchase online!

(Best Style) GILI Pet Life Jacket PFD

GILI’s Dog Life Jacket Floatation Device isn’t strictly made with cats in mind. However, there is no reason why this doesn’t double up as an epic option! 

The grab handle is perfectly positioned to lift your kitty back on board when needed. The straps are fully adjustable to get the best fit possible, not to mention the choice of six sizes. And then we have the neck and shoulder cut, making it an ergonomic design for your cat to still move freely. 

Gili pet life jacket PFD Blue

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • 6 sizes
  • 2 color options
  • Rear zip pocket

What we like:

  • Super stylish in both the camo and teal color options
  • Durable materials
  • Comfortable both in water and on land

What we don't like:

  • Nothing! This is a great pet life jacket

The camouflage color is just awesome. We can’t get enough of this life jacket and we think every cat will look super stylish when proudly wearing this one from GILI Sports

(Best Seller) Outward Hound Granby Splash Life Jacket

According to Amazon, the Outward Hound Granby Splash Life Jacket is the most popular choice and best seller. This pet PFD is designed for dogs, however, it does come in sizes small enough to double up for our feline friends. 

There is a good amount of float in this life jacket. Visibility is great with reflective piping and the single grab handle is strategically placed in the center of the back. 

Outward hound granby splash orange cat life jacket

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • 5 sizes
  • 7 color options
  • Front neck float

What we like:

  • Adjustable straps with chunky buckles
  • Neck float suitable for new cat swimmers
  • Excellent visibility

What we don't like:

  • A few reviews suggest durability is a bit hit and miss

Questions about durability tend to come from dog owners of larger breeds. So, as a life jacket for cats, we think this is a great option!

(Best Lightweight) Outward Hound Standley Sports Performance Life Jacket

Outward Hound’s Standley Sports Performance Life Jacket is one of the most lightweight options available. It is made out of tough breathable nylon with quilted polyester to give the buoyancy needed while still being lightweight. 

Even though this is a dog life jacket, it is ideal for water kitties. The low-profile neck design is non-restrictive and will allow complete freedom of movement both on land and in the water. 

Outward hound standley sport, Cat life jacket

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • 5 sizes
  • 1 color option
  • Breathable mesh material

What we like:

  • Compact and petite design
  • Chest float panel to help distribute weight
  • Cheap option

What we don't like:

  • Lacks color choices

Lightweight and a fantastic option for aquatic felines looking for a (safe) adventure.

Paws Aboard Red Neoprene Life Jacket

If you have got a tiny cat, then this Neoprene Life Jacket from Paws Aboard is the obvious choice. With an xx-small size, you can keep the smallest of cats safe while out on the water. As this pet life jacket is so small, there are no foam panels. Instead, it uses the buoyancy from the neoprene to support your cat.

Paws aboard red neoprene life cat life jacket

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • 7 sizes
  • 8 color options
  • Breathable mesh underbelly

What we like:

  • XX-Small size is perfect for smaller cats
  • The Mesh underbelly allows for good drainage while in the water
  • Adjustable straps for the best fit

What we don't like:

  • No foam panels, it uses neoprene for buoyancy

Do make sure you check the size guide provided by Paws Aboard to get the best option for your cat. Either the xx-small, x-small, or small would be suitable for the average domestic cat.

Queenmore Lightweight Pet Lifesaver

Queenmore’s Lightweight Pet Lifesaver is both comfortable and stylish. It also does a pretty good job of keeping your cat afloat with the 600D Oxford cloth and EPE-filled body materials. There is a good amount of reflective piping and paneling which helps for visibility when your cat is swimming.

Queenmore dog life jacket swimming vest with leash ring orange

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • 6 sizes
  • 4 color options
  • Large reflective panel

What we like:

  • Lightweight and breathable materials
  • Sturdy grab handle on the back
  • Non-restrictive design 

What we don't like:

  • Buckles are not durable

This is a cheap and affordable pet life jacket that is worth considering. Be sure to check the size guide and not overload the smaller size to put pressure on the weaker buckles.

RUFFWEAR Float Coat

This Float Coat from Ruffwear is one of the best on the market, with a price tag that reflects that. If your budget allows, this life jacket is a good choice for durability, style, and fit. The materials used are hard-wearing and will keep up with all of your feline adventures.

Ruffwear, Float coat dog or cat life jacket for swimming

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • 7 sizes
  • 3 color options
  • Telescoping neck closure

What we like:

  • Closed-cell foam panels support a natural swimming style
  • Low cut neck/shoulder to give full movement
  • Good quality materials used

What we don't like:

  • Expensive price tag

Both in and out of the water, this float coat is fantastic. It supports your pets natural swimming style while giving them the extra support they need in case they tire. 

Malier Unique Wings Design Pet Flotation Life Vest

Looking for something that is both practical and fun? The Malier Unique Wings Design Pet Flotation Life Vest may just be the one for you!

The “cute” wings will make your cat fly through the water, keeping its head above water and looking good at the same time. All eyes will be on you and your catfish!

Malier dog or cat life jacket with unique wings design

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • 3 sizes
  • 1 color option
  • Unique wing design

What we like:

  • Eye-catching and one-of-a-kind design
  • Front float for extra support of your cat’s head
  • Bright color and reflective panels

What we don't like:

  • Limited sizes available

This life jacket is unique and may not suit every cat – or their owners. But, if you are looking for something different then this may be perfect for you.

Safety First: 5 Tips For When Your Cat Is Wearing A Life Jacket

Life jackets are all about safety. And that should be your main priority when taking your cat out paddle boarding

Here are some top tips to stay safe and make the whole experience enjoyable for your kitty:

  1. Make it positive for your cat
  2. Adjust straps to create the life jacket fit properly
  3. Choose a PFD to match your needs/cat’s needs
  4. Always supervise your cat and have eyes on them in the water
  5. Do not force your cat if they are hesitant

How To Encourage Your Cat To Wear A PFD

Some cats are going to rock their PFD right from the word go. But not every cat is going to be forthcoming to wearing a life vest. If your kitty falls into this category, then you are going to need some patience and careful encouragement to provide positive association and help make them feel comfortable. 

Encouraging your cat the right way from the beginning will make the whole process a lot easier:

  1. Introduce the life jacket to your cat at home
  2. Gradually introduce the life jacket on a boat/SUP with minimum movement
  3. Swim test – make sure they can swim freely
  4. Consistency and patience throughout the process

Pet First-Aid Kits

While we are on the subject of safety, having a pet first-aid kit close to hand while paddle boarding is a good idea. You can either carry this in a dry bag whilst on your SUP or keep it stowed away in your vehicle just in case of an emergency.

Some key items to pack include:

  • bandages – a roll of self-adhesive or crepe bandage (5cm width)
  • conforming/open-weave bandages (2.5cm width)
  • some non-adhesive absorbent dressings (5cm x 5cm) to cover open wounds
  • surgical sticky tape
  • a box of cotton wool
  • a box of sterile absorbent gauze
  • blunt-ended scissors, preferably curved
  • a thick towel

FAQ’S

🏆 Are cat life jackets a thing?

Yes! Cat life jackets are real and you can purchase them to keep your kitty safe for all the watery adventures. Many cats' life vests also double up as PFDs for small-breed dogs. These buoyancy aid jackets are interchangeable, you just need to double-check the measurements on the manufacturer’s sizing chart. 


👍 Do pet life jackets work?

Pet life jackets do a fantastic job of keeping your dog or cat safe while around water. Even if they enjoy swimming and are more than capable to stay afloat, a buoyancy aid provides that additional support in case they tire or get caught in a current. 

Pet PFDs are generally colored brightly making them highly visible which is great for you to keep an eye on them at all times. 


🏝️ Can you use a dog life jacket for a cat?

Small dog life jackets also double up for cats. Measure your cat according to the manufacturer’s size chart. You need a secure fit without it being restrictive on your cat's movement for water activities. Once you have found the right size, you will be able to adjust the straps to meet your kitty’s needs.


❓ What size dog lifejacket should I buy for a cat?

Most manufacturers will sell a ‘small’, some will offer ‘extra-small’ or even ‘extra-extra-small’. These will probably be the size life vest that you will need for your cat. However, it depends on their weight, length, and girth measurements. 


📦 Do cats like boat rides?

Some cats enjoy heading out on the water, feeling the ocean breeze through their whiskers, and soaking up all that adventure. It is important to not push your cat into water activities if they do not express interest.


📦 Can you take a cat paddle boarding?

There is no reason why you cannot take your cat paddle boarding. If your cat loves adventure and is confident to join you on a SUP, then get out there with them!

Abi Leach
Abi Leach

Surfer, paddle boarder, and ocean lover. She loves traveling and discovering new destinations all across the world. When she's not writing, she's exploring the outdoors and enjoying fresh air.


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