Friday 9 December 2022

Drivers should make a quick but vital check before setting off in their car this winter

There are two ways that domestic, stray and feral cats can use parked cars to help them survive a cold winter:

  1. Rarely but significantly, some cats and sometimes kittens crawl into the engine space to warm up because the car has been recently used and the engine compartment is still warm. They might stay there until the next morning when the car is reused.
  2. More commonly and not quite as dangerous for the cat, they might go under a car to shelter and for protection.

In fact, when I go for a walk with my cat along the pavement (sidewalk) to buy the paper in the early hours of the morning, my cat goes under cars. I don't like it and I wait for him, and he eventually waits in a certain position which is safe to pick me up when I return.

Larry the Cat underneath President Trump's car
Larry the Cat underneath President Trump's car. Image in public domain as assessed. The then President Trump was visiting the UK's Prime Minister at No. 10 and he arrived in The Beast, his bomb proof car. Larry is the resident cat at No 10.

But the point is obvious; cats like to go under cars because they provide protection above them, and they feel secure and warmer.

In those places where there are lots of stray or feral cats and indoor/outdoor cats, it obviously makes sense for drivers to check around their cars and under their cars in the morning for a cat that might be sheltering from the frost. It'll take 60 seconds.

I have to say, that I sometimes do it myself not to protect stray cats because there are none in my area but to protect my cat who is an indoor/outdoor cat. Sometimes he makes his way to the front of the house where the car is parked, and it is just possible he may go under the car and be there when I use it.

The danger is probably slight because when you get into a car and start the engine you make a noise which will frighten them, and they will run off. However, that scenario is not certain. They may be snoozing for example.

And nobody wants to be responsible for the death of somebody's pet cat.'s spokesperson, Tim Alcock, said:

 "We're asking every driver to spend a couple of minutes checking for any pets that might be lurking around the tyres or under the car. If you do find a cat under the car, give it a nudge or shoo it away before turning on the engine. It's important for all drivers to be aware of this and not just those who own cats. After all, cats don't just target their owner's cars for a snooze. Accidentally harming a neighbour's cat could seriously damage relations with the neighbour themselves and could lead to all kinds of bitterness and other issues".

The last point I think is an important one. The loss of a cat is bad enough but if that is compounded by an ongoing dispute with your neighbour the problem becomes far worse.

Neighbour disputes about cats are not uncommon. I've had one myself. A neighbour two houses down put down rat poison to protect her damned roses. My cat is a committed hunter. I told her that it was dangerous to put down rat poison because my cat frequented that area around her house.

She refused to change her mind and use rat traps for example. My immediate neighbours would not speak up on my behalf. I fell out with both my neighbours. My cat brought in a poisoned rat and was contemplating eating it before I stopped him. He was that close to being poisoned.

I have not been friendly with the neighbour who put down the rat poison and I won't be again. I'm on speaking terms with my immediate neighbour after a year.

The story does not concern cars and cats, but it does concern neighbour disputes about cats and their safety.

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