What to Do if a Cat Hit by a Car Runs Away
Why Cats Run Away Following a Road Traffic Accident
To put it simply, they are scared. A cat’s instinct is to hide when they are 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. The injuries they might have sustained in the collision could prevent them from being able to climb or jump but it’s still worth 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 small and random places, even fitting themselves into containers or orifices that people would never have considered possible.
The behavior of a sick, injured, or panicked cat is that they will hide in silence. Just because you can not see or hear the cat does not mean that s/he is not right there.
They will likely be in areas of concealment such as under decking, a house, under a porch, in heavy brush, behind or in sheds. If you know the cat, it's possible that they will ignore your calls too. This behaviour has nothing to do with whether the cat loves you, recognizes your voice, or whether s/he can smell you, it's because meowing would give up their location to a predator.
If it’s dark, using a torch to help comb the area is also beneficial as it will help pick up eye shine.
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 equivalent 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, or use a board acting as a stretcher. If the cat is not feeling friendly, scruffing should only 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 they head home to their safe place. It is not uncommon for owners to find their cats in their own garden or even inside the house. Not all injuries are visible to the eye so an owner might not realise what has happened. Attempting to locate and warn an owner could help them seek veterinary help when the cat does come home/is found. Injuries that go unnoticed could cause complications, or even turn fatal later.
If you are confident that you have searched everywhere possible, it's 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, and any bushes or potential hiding places, would be useful. They may even know the cat by description and be able to tell you where it lives so you can notify the owners as well who can continue the search. For owners who know where the cat was hit, it could be worth asking all neighbours between the spot and your house as many cats attempt to get home but can not always make it all the way.
Getting the Cat to the Vets
If you have the means of transporting the cat to an emergency vet yourself, once you’ve got to the cat, you can either wrap them in a jacket or towel, or a box or carrier if you have one. Details of your nearest vet can be found here. If you do not have the means to transport them yourself, contacting your local rescue would be the best option as they can send an officer to you. 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.
In some cases, it might be that the cat does not have enough time to reach the vets. There are certainly things drivers/owners can do to help buy the cat time until they reach the vets, and your actions could be the difference between life and death. For more information on how to stabilise an injured cat who may be going into shock or is suffering from issues such as excessive external bleeding, see our roadside first aid guide here.
When All Else Fails
If none of the above works, make some posters and put them up locally on lamp posts, fences, local shops, etc. Include the cat’s description, any details of the incident and your telephone number. You can design a poster on this link which will also help you generate the crucial detail to result in the most effective flyer/poster. Once completed, you can upload them to this site where they will print 50 of them and post to you completely free! In bad weather conditions, having them plastic coated will help preserve them.
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.