Unfortunately, many more cats are being injured on our busy roads than ever before, and there is no way of ensuring their absolute safety, other than keeping them confined permanently indoors, or outdoors in a cattery. Given the frequency with which road accidents happen to cats, it is important to know what to do should you be at the scene of an accident. It could make the difference between life and death for the cat.
Cars are a hazard to cats, and felines should be discouraged from the habit of sitting on or under them. Cats have no sense of danger about cars, but rather find them an attractive environment to be in.
A cat is most likely to be hit by a car as dusk falls. Although its eyesight is adapted to function under conditions of low-light intensity, when it crosses the road at night it is very likely to become momentarily blinded by the headlights of passing cars. It can’t see the approaching danger, and a driver would probably be too close to slow down or avoid the cat.
If the cat is left lying in the road after being hit by a car, the first thing to do is to move it to safety without delay. However, whatever you do, it is important not to attempt to examine the cat when it is still in the road. While it remains here, both you and it in are in danger.
If the cat is conscious, bear in mind that it will be in a state of shock. In such circumstances even the most good-natured of felines is likely to bite and scratch. Therefore, when you pick up an injured but moving cat, gently restrain it by the scruff of the neck. By doing this the cat is less likely to be able to turn its head and bite you.
- Wrap the cat in a blanket before taking it to the vet if it has been injured or shocked in an accident.
- Even if a cat that has been hit by a car does not appear to be badly injured, it should always be examined by a vet. There is a risk that the cat maybe haemorrhaging internally, and it might die if this is not detected.
- Feeding birds by the roadside puts cats at risk. They will lurk between vehicles in the hope of catching an unwary bird and, instead, may be run over.
- Cats have no road sense. If a cat is hit by a car once, this will not make it any more wary of traffic in the future.
If the cat is unconscious, then improvise a stretcher, using whatever is at hand. A coat or a piece of strong cardboard will do. Try to enlist the help of another person. The cat will be lifted up and moved more carefully if you each take hold of an end of the `stretcher’ rather than if you try to move the animal on your own.
To encourage the flow of blood to the cat’s brain and to prevent possible brain damage, keep its head very slightly lower than its body. However, try to move the animal as little as possible.
Whether the cat is conscious or unconscious, it is important to keep the cat warm and quiet. Confine a conscious cat – simply wrapping it in a blanket will help – and put an unconscious one in a box with a blanket over it. It is vital that the cat is taken immediately to the nearest surgery for treatment.
Are there guidelines to follow when moving an injured cat?
It is important to keep its body level. Cats may rupture their diaphragm (the partition which separates the chest and abdominal cavities). Lifting the cat carelessly can cause the body organs to press on the weakened or torn tissue.
My cat’s skin was grazed in an accident. Will the fur regrow?
It usually does, although it depends on the nature of the injury. Skin grafts can help in some cases.
My cat has lost a leg because of an accident. Can he have a good quality of life with just three legs?
Cats can manage with three legs. Losing a hind leg seems to create fewer problems than losing a foreleg, but he will need to adjust his balance.