Why Panic is Never an Excuse to Leave a Cat in the Road
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Accidents happen. You could be doing everything right and still; a cat can spring from nowhere and blindside you. Perhaps they were spooked, maybe your headlights confused them or they simply made a grave error when timing their road crossing. Whatever the reason, how you respond to the event thereafter can be the difference between life and death, closure or a lifetime without answers.
However, an animal ended up in front of your car, shock and panic is quite a natural reaction. You did not expect to find yourself in this situation and are likley feeling a myriad of emotions all resulting in one overriding state - panic.
But panic is never an excuse to drive away
Apart from putting your own life at risk while driving in shock, you are almost certainly sealing an animals fate when you flee the scene, leaving them to die a slow and painful death, when they may have survived with urgent care. 75% of cats involved in road traffic accidents survive – so the odds are good if you do the right thing, you will be saving a live instead of ending one.
If you prepare and arm yourself for such an occurrence in the same way you do fire drills in the office, you will be less likely to make a bad decision if you unfortunately fine yourself behind the wheel of a car that’s collided with a cat.
Driving Away Does Not Make it Go Away
In the moment, it might be tempting to think that if you simply keep going, you can pretend it never happened. Particularly if there were no witnesses and perhaps you convince yourself that the cat must not have an owner if it’s wandering around or something similar that makes the pill easier to swallow.
Sorry to burst any proverbial bubble, but we have yet to meet anyone who has knocked down a cat then fled who is not haunted by that decision many years later. Each and every person who has hit a cat and run are tortured by thoughts of, ‘what if.’ What if I stopped, would they have survived. What if they were everything to a lonely pensioner? What if, what if, what if…
On the other hand, we also have many discussions with drivers who did stop and help. The vast majority of those instances the cat survived and even when they didn’t, they found not anger from the family of the cat, but appreciation and gratitude for doing everything in their power to help give their animal a chance or, at the very least, offer the family closure and save them a lifetime of wondering.
This Situation is Not Just Affecting You
One may drive off because they are too overwhelmed to face the reality of what’s happened but whatever agony you are (rightly) feeling, remember that if you drive off, do not think that you are doing anything other than leaving an animal to die a slow and painful death. Human beings are not the only ones who suffer and again, when you consider that 75% of cats involved in a road traffic accident survive, the chances are good the cat you just hit is not going to have a swift clean ending when you speed away.
Additionally, one way or another, someone will be left to pick up the pieces. Even if you’re not fond of cats and can’t understand others loving them yourself, there will also be another person, or even people, on the receiving end of this incident when you drive away. Whether it’s a person walking their dog down the street in the morning, the local binmen on their rounds or the child on her way to school who finds her cat dead.
What to Do if You Hit a Cat While Driving
Firstly, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so. Usually, this is not an issue as cats are much more likely to be hit in a residential area so taking the time to stop and assess the situation will not be putting anyone at risk.
Second, once you’re able to safely stop the car and put on your hazard lights, take a few deep breaths and calm yourself as much as you can. Remember, however awful you are feeling, there is a cat who’s going to be in real trouble and they need you.
If the road is busy, wave to other drivers and get them to stop as well so you can safely get the cat out of or away from the road. The cat will be in shock themselves, this is par for the course and completely understandable. We recommend carrying an old towel in your car at all times so that you can wrap the animal to both help prevent them from retaliating with any biting or scratching, and also, to keep them as warm and comfortable as possible. Not all cats will have tan aggressive reaction, but it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you do not have a towel, a jacket, jumper or shirt will also work.
If the cat is not mobile, you can use the parcel shelf in your car to hold them while you drive to the nearest vets for emergency treatment. You can find details of your nearest emergency vets here.
What Happens Next
Once you get to the vets, it’s important to remember that you are in no way financially liable for the cost of medical care.
If the cat sadly passed away in the collision or shortly thereafter, it’s still important to get word to the owners. This can be facilitated either by taking the deceased cat to the local vets where they can scan for a microchip and place the animal in cold storage so the owners have time to collect the remains or, you can contact your local RSPCA to come and scan for a microchip.
You can also choose to leave the cat there on the curb however, be warned, not all local councils will scan for microchips and even those who have scanning procedures in place admit to not scanning all cats found, so if you do this, there’s a good chance the owners will never know what happened and be holding out false hope of their animals return or be haunted by thoughts of what horror may have befallen them. Details of your local council can be found here.
There are also countless fantastic volunteers around the UK who selflessly help to reunite pets with owners and work tirelessly to get out before the council ‘street clean team’ can, so that they can scan for a microchip and get cats back to their family, rather than be discarded like rubbish at a local landfill site. You can also check to see what scanners are available in your area, and if they have any first aiders locally. Contact the team on 07977668800 or find out more here.
Having reacted in one of the above ways, you will now have clarity of the animal’s fate. You will never need to speak to or meet the owner, but we can assure you that if you had voluntarily left your details with the vet/rescuer, the owner will be grateful - regardless of if your actions saved the cat’s life or not. Of course, you will still feel sad it happened in the first place, but you will have comfort in knowing you did all you could when it mattered most. We're sure most would agree this is much better than a life time of never knowing, had you reacted differently, it could have made a difference. We're also sure most would not directly want to inflict a lifetime of heartbreak and anger, on a family who simply just wanted to know all was done for their beloved family member in their final moments. Either that or they never had closure so searched the streets distraught calling for weeks/months on end never knowing what happened. It is a split-second decision which will last a lifetime for all involved, and be the end of a life for some.
Running away never achieves or solves anything. The panic is understandable, but remember, your actions will not just affect you.