Lockdown Road Safety
The current pandemic has led to a national lockdown, with visibly much less traffic now on our roads. On week 6 of lockdown, we felt it was time for this blog due to incidents increasing and the patterns we are seeing. Tragically, we are hearing of more reports of cats being hit by cars now than we do in normal times, with almost all reports echoing similar circumstances.
Rather than the majority of incidents occurring during evening and early morning hours as in normal times, incidents have been occurring during the day in all reports. People are allowed to be out for essential reasons, such as driving to work or going out to buy food and/or medical supplies. Police know only night/key workers would have authority to be driving of a night, so are most vigilant at night, some even setting up roadblocks in areas. Drivers not adhering to the rules know this, so appear to only be out during the day when they have reason to be should they be stopped. Night roads have become almost deserted now.
All reports also note infrequent traffic with many cars they do see going much faster than usual. Some drivers see the clear roads as an excuse to drive in ways they wouldn't/couldn't usually, and a lot out on the roads now will not be driving with the same level of vigilance they might normally. Most are not anticipating anyone, or anything, to be on the clear empty roads.
These factors, mixed with cats being lulled in to a false sense of security, is a deadly combination. Most cats steer clear of busy streets and congested roads normally, but they now see a quiet emptiness which is free for them to go and explore. Not only will they roam much further than they might usually, they will also take chances they haven't before.
The key is to motivate your cat to stay as close as possible. Create dens/beds in your garden for them to soak up some sun on. Cats love anything new to put their scent on, so dig out some old blankets or deckchairs, or even make some new dens from boxes in greenhouses or sheds for them. Be creative.
Some cats are natural roamers, with breed and personality playing a part, but we can still let them know they are on to too good a thing to want to wander. If you do have a roamer, try and discover why. Are they left our for long periods bored or hungry? Is there a neighbourhood cat who's mean
to them? Is someone else feeding them?
Cats that have a 'second home' risk venturing across roads to get to there. If you suspect yours does go elsewhere, stick a paper collar on them to speak to any potential feeder to find out where they go. If you are the feeder, do the same to discover where the cat is travelling from.
Be visible when your cat is outside. Cats won't always wander around to patrol their territory or be off sleeping somewhere, they can wander through boredom, thirst, hunger, or to shelter from the elements. Always make sure they have quick easy access to their home, and pop out to see where they are every so often. Nipping out with some Dreamies every half hour/hour is just the incentive they need to stay close so they don't miss out. A lot see cats as free spirits who do their own thing, but most actually prefer to stay in their own little safe territory and do feel comfortable and safe with us being present.
Maybe you have always been considering more permanent options to keep your cat close by. In which case, now is a great time to get that project underway. Even with service disruption and social distancing, DIY options are available, delivery services are running close to normal, plus, when will you ever have more time to complete a project than now?! Find out more and discover exclusive discounts on cat fencing and catios through ProtectaPet.
Vets, councils and rescues have all been affected by this lock down with services being severely impacted. Each area will have slightly different operating schedules and practices at the moment, but most are working on an essential and emergency basis only. This means some of our usual advise on how to keep cats road safe, and how to help a cat that has been hit by a car, has changed temporarily.
To ensure your cat stands the very best chance in any event, ensure your cats microchip is up to date. You can check this here. Given the current disruption to services, consider a quick release collar with you details on so persons can swiftly locate you. If you have recently rehomed a cat, do not give them outdoor access in this period. They will believe the quiet roads are safe, even when traffic levels resume. Also, should they get lost in a new area, social distancing/isolating means you can't search as you would in normal times, nor can others help you in the way they usually would/could.
Should you sadly hit a cat when driving at this time, please always stop immediately to help. Our usual advise on how to administer roadside first aid, and most of our advise on how to locate a cat that has ran off, still applies. If the cat is alive, they will need to see a veterinarian straight away. Although vets are disrupted, they are still accepting emergencies. Depending on the practice, some may prefer you to phone from your car outside, and they will come out to collect the cat. As in normal times, this is a free service requiring you only to hand over the injured cat.
Should the cat sadly be deceased, the usual scanning channels, such as scan angels/rescues and councils, will not be
available to scan in some cases.
However, most vets will likely take the cat to scan and notify the owner if taken to the practice. However, the best method in these times would be to try and locate an owner yourself. Simply by knocking on surrounding houses an owner is usually located. On average it will take someone knocking on 3 houses to either directly find an owner, or receive knowledge of where it's believed the cat lives. Try to put the cat in a box/bag/towel you have in the car, so they are safe from either being repeatedly hit, or binned by someone else, whilst you locate an owner. Should you be unsuccessful or this happened out of hours where you were unable to take them to a vet or knock on surrounding houses, keep them in a safe outbuilding away from wildlife or where they can be confused for rubbish, until morning. Post details on local lost and found sites.
One piece of advise that will never change however is DON'T HIT & RUN!
Stay safe all