In some cases, a cat who has been struck by a vehicle will run off after the incident, but never assume this means that the cat is fine. Often, a cat will flee the scene because, just as humans, they will go into shock and shock can make us all capable of doing things that our injuries should prevent us from being able to do.
In order to flee from danger, cats could dart up the road, under a bush or even over a wall to get as far away from the scene, and their perceived danger) as fast as possible. While this is completely understandable – it’s not very helpful if you are trying to rescue them. Whether you were behind the wheel or a witness to a hit and run, here are a few things you can do if a cat that’s been hit by a car runs off after the collision.
Why Cats Run Away Following a Road Traffic Accident
To put it simply, they are scared. A cat’s instinct is to hide when it is injured. This is because an injured cat becomes more vulnerable to predators and their instinct will tell them to keep out of sight when they are hurt, because their survival (in their eyes) depends on it. They will not understand how grievously injured they may be and that this behaviour could prevent them getting the urgent care they need – so the onus is on us humans to take this into account and do our best to find them and get them help.
How to Find an Injured Cat that is Hiding
The first thing you can do is a thorough search of the immediate area, bearing in mind that, in all likelihood, the cat is nearby but keeping very hidden and silent. Generally, the injuries they will have sustained in the collision will prevent them from being about to climb or jump but it’s still work checking higher places as well just in case. Chances are however, they will be somewhere close to ground in a well-secluded spot, so don’t rule anything out without a once-over. Cats are notorious for hiding in very random places and even fitting themselves into containers or orifices that one would never have considered possible.
If it’s dark, using a torch to help comb the area is also beneficial as it will help pick up and eye shine that can be caught.
What to Do Once You’ve Found an Injured Cat
If you’ve got this far, well done. Once you have located where the cat is hiding, do not immediately rush over but slowly approach whilst speaking in gentle and reassuring tones, assessing the injuries initially without physical contact. Understandably, a cat in this situation will be frightened and in pain, so be aware of this and approach with caution as they may try to defend themselves or attempt to flee again, causing further injury.
Once you have been able to assess the situation, you may also find that the cat is friendly enough and in stable condition. If this is the case, you may gently pick it up. The best way to lift an injured cat is with one hand under the chin at the front of the chest, and the other supporting the hind quarters. If the cat is displaying signs of aggression, it may be better to use a towel or blanket to lift them. If you do have a spare box or animal crate in the car, it's best to put the cat into one.
If the cat is not feeling friendly, scruffing https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-scruff-a-cat-554075 could be used in a situation where you need to restrain a cat quickly because of adverse circumstances. We would not usually advise grabbing a cat by the scruff as it is unnecessary, painful and causes the cat stress. However, the urgency of this situation calls for desperate measures and the priority is that the cat is seen by a veterinarian ASAP – so this method can help ensure that it does not dart again or retaliate.
If the Cat Runs Home
Not every cat will hide following an incident and sometimes, when they flee, they are headed home to their safe place. It is not uncommon for owners to find their cats in their own garden or even inside the house after collapsing from their injuries. If you are confident that you have searched everywhere possible, this could be the case, but we still advise getting the local RSPCA or volunteers mentioned above involved just to be sure.
It’s also worth noting that cats can sometimes be sheltering in a nearby garden where you cannot see them, so knocking on a few doors nearby and asking people to check their gardens would not go amiss. They may even know the cat and be able to tell you where it lives so you can notify the owners as well.
Getting the Cat to the Vets
If you have the means of transporting the cat to an emergency vets yourself, once you’ve got the cat to the cat, you can either wrap them in a jacket or towel, or if you have one, a box or carrier. Details of your nearest vet can be found here. https://findavet.rcvs.org.uk/home/
If you do not have the means to transport them yourself, calling your local RSPCA (0300 1234 999 in England / 0300 999 999 in Scotland) would be the best option as they can send an officer to you. If you’re in Northern Ireland, the same applies with the USPCA on 028 3025 1000.
Alternatively, there are charities that can be contacted as well, such as Cats Protection. https://www.cats.org.uk/find-us They can also help to advise you further or even assist by setting a trap to try to coax the animal out and get them to the vets.
Lastly, there are groups of volunteers working across the UK that help in these situations. You can find out more about them here, http://itsallabouttheanimals.co.uk/scanners.html or call 07977668800 to find out if there are any animal first aiders available near your location.
When All Else Fails
If none of the above works, make some (plastic coated) posters and put them up locally on lamp posts, fences, local shops, etc. including the cat’s description, any details of the incident and your telephone number, should the owner be searching for their missing feline. You can also send out notices on social media as well.
Whatever you do, do not drive off just assuming all is well because the cat ran away. Any animal involved in a road traffic accident will be injured to some degree and there is no way of knowing how severely until a medical professional has had a chance to assess the cat.