How to Take a Cat on the BC Ferries

If you live on Vancouver Island, or the Lower Mainland, chances are you’ll someday want to take the BC Ferries to travel. Good news, it is fairly simple to take a cat on the ferries, (if you are driving your own vehicle). Keep reading to find out more.


Pet Policies

There are no pet fees. There is no need to do anything special with your booking or upon arriving at the terminal. However, you will need to think about what to do with your cat during the duration of the ferry.

For more information on the BC Ferries pet policies, click here: https://www.bcferries.com/travel-boarding/travel-with-pets

Note on Pet Policies:

At the time of writing this post, the owners of the instagram account a.cat.named.fig are trying to make a change to the policies regarding parking on the lower deck. During the summer months, it gets very hot in the lower deck, and it is unsafe to leave pets unattended there for the duration of the ferry ride which could be close to two hours. Cats are not allowed in the indoor area, and the pet room is not suitable for cats, so there is no choice but to leave them alone in the hot car. A few people have also emailed BC Ferries asking for change.

Update – Sept 28, 2022 – BC Ferries has decided to pilot a new policy that allows pets on the upper open decks. This is only for the Sunshine Coast (Earls Cove) – Powell River (Saltery Bay) route at this time. (More info can be found here)

Pet Area Room
Pet Area Room

Where to Bring Your Cat

The following options are available with a cat:

  • Driving: You can stay in your car with your cat (On Upper Deck Only). This is the least stressful for your cat as they are in a familiar environment and you are with them. You can also make sure its not too hot or cold during the ferry ride. This is my recommended option.
  • Driving: You can leave your cat alone in the car (on both Upper and Lower Decks), and head to the indoor passenger area. Pets are not allowed in the passenger area. If you are leaving your cat alone, remember to open the windows slightly for airflow.
    If parked on the Lower Deck, you will not be permitted to return to your car until the end of the journey. Make sure your pet is comfortable for the duration of the ferry ride.
    If parked on the Upper Deck, you can return whenever you want. Usually I will use the washroom and return in a few minutes to stay with my cat for the rest of the trip.
  • Passenger Area: This is not technically allowed but often no one notices a cat inside a backpack. If your cat is very quiet in their backpack, you may be able to sneak them into the indoor passenger area.
  • Pet Area: A pet room is located on the upper parking level, but this is a small room that many dogs will be in, and I do not recommend bringing your cat there. Not suitable for most cats.
  • Outdoors on Parking Level: You can take your cat to the outdoor areas, but it is usually very windy. Not suitable for most cats.

Summary of your options:

Stay in CarLeave Pet in CarIndoor Passenger AreaPet AreaOutdoors
Walk On
Driving (Upper Deck)✔*
Driving (Lower Deck)✔*
*Only if you leave your pet in the car

As you can see, you have the most options when Driving and parked on the Upper Parking Deck Level. You can only do this if you have a ferry reservation, so I highly recommend you reserve your ferry sailings.

Getting On the Ferry

Boarding BC Ferries with a car
Before Your Trip

The most important thing to do is to make a reservation. A reservation guarantees that you will be parked on the Upper Parking Level which is the best option when you are with a pet. A reservation should be made from two weeks before your trip (for long weekends in summer) or a few days before your trip (for weekdays in off season travel). I usually try to book a week in advance.

Arriving at the Terminal

You are asked to arrive 30-60 minutes before departure. If you miss the 30 minute window you may be denied boarding and have to wait for the next ferry. There have been reports of people getting denied if you arrive too early as well. You will first go through a ticket collection booth, then be instructed to park in a designated line, waiting to board. If your cat gets bored during this waiting period, you can let them out to walk around.

Sailing

You will be directed to park your car in a specific lane, and you’ll need to pull forward close to the car in front, so that more cars can fit.

Upper Vehicle Parking (Deck 4)
Passenger Area

The Passenger area has seating, washrooms, and a restaurant. You are not allowed to bring pets here as per BC Ferries pet policies.

Indoor Passenger Seating

2 thoughts on “How to Take a Cat on the BC Ferries

  1. I sail Duke Point Tsawwassen and last time (Dec 22, 2022) I heard a guy bring up to the chief steward that he reserved weeks in advance and didn’t get a spot on the upper car deck. She clarified that reservations _do not_ guarantee a spot on the upper car deck. Apparently they try, I’m sure most drivers want the upper car deck, but they have to consider other things like balance and deck space.

    I’ve also taken a cat as a walk-on, twice. The pet room isn’t so bad in warm weather, but it’s too cold in the winter despite the space heater. I put a towel over the crate to help calm the cat, but dog owners seemed to feel obligated to leave the room for us. And if you’re travelling alone with your pet, you won’t be able to use the washroom or get food. It is a crappy way to travel.

    Like

  2. Oh, and as a foot passenger you need to let the staff know you’re travelling with a pet because you have to board via the vehicle deck like the passengers with bikes. Though that’s based on my experience a few years ago.

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