Pet Safety: Cars Can Kill
Be wary about where your animal is.
I recently received a very sad email from an acquaintance who knows that I’m an animal person. It said “My beloved cat was killed by a speeder going over 50 on our quiet residential block last Wednesday. He was only 5 1/2. Lots of grieving over here.”
How completely tragic — not just because a young cat was killed, but because it was so preventable.
We’ve all seen dead animals, including pet cats and less frequently dogs, along the side of the road. So we know that cars kill. But no one thinks that his or her cat is going to be a victim. Why is that?
Is your cat so much smarter than all others? Does he have some magic force field around him that will protect him? The truth is that cats don’t know that cars are dangerous. They don’t know that the cement of a street is any different than the cement of a sidewalk. They have no frame of reference for this. They don’t know if that rumbling sound is heading their way and at what speed or if it’s going to turn at the corner or park two door away. Especially at night when all they see are headlights and, like deer, they freeze in the light. What surprised me the most about her email was her directing her anger at the “speeder” instead of taking responsibility for the fact that her cat was in the road to begin with.
It wasn’t like she didn’t know the risks, we had just had a discussion about the dangers to outdoor cats a month or so ago but she was in denial that it could happen in her quiet residential neighborhood.
Certainly if the car had been going slower there would be more of a chance that the driver could have swerved to avoid the animal. But the ultimate responsibility for the safety of a cat rests with the guardian. In fact, did you know that if a driver has to swerve or brake hard to avoid an animal in the road and that causes an accident, the owner of the animal (assuming the owner is found) could be held responsible for all the damages? Think about that the next time you open the door for your pet to explore the outdoors.
People will say to me “my cat has never had a problem and she’s been outside for (fill in the blank) years.” I always add the word “yet” to that sentence.
Most cats only have a problem once because it is rare for a small pet to survive being hit by a car. So it’s not like they have multiple opportunities to learn. One person whose dog miraculously did survive and was hit again actually said to me “you’d think he’d learn his lesson.” The dog? He’s certainly no slower a learner than the owner! How many times do you let your pets get hurt before you learn not to let them run free? It’s unbelievable the number of applications we get for adopting a pet where there is a whole list of animals that have either been killed or disappeared and they still intend to let their new pet roam freely outdoors.
One man told me that the cat that got killed was “stupid” and he wanted a “smarter” one. I had to say that sadly most of the cats in the shelter were just dumb cats and I didn’t know any that I could guarantee was street-smart enough to survive his busy road. If he wasn’t going to use common sense to protect the animal then he would need to look elsewhere.
To me the saddest part is that people don’t seem to be able to learn from each other. Why does each person have to experience the tragic loss of a pet to realize the dangers of letting a pet outdoors? If we’ve all seen the end result, dead animals along the road and animal shelters bursting full with lost animals, you’d think we’d be able to recognize that the world today is too dangerous for dogs and cats to navigate on their own. As their “pet parents” or guardians it really is up to us to keep them safe. The bottom line is no matter the speed of the car, a cat can’t get killed if he’s not in the road.
Upcoming event: Meet the Bunny, second saturday of each Month (Feb. 11) from 1-5:30 p.m. Meet our adoptable rabbits, ask care questions of our knowledgeable volunteers, and shop our bunny boutique for fresh hay, rabbit toys and accessories. Bring your rabbit for a free nail trim.
About this column: Your weekly column from the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter.”—Mickey Zeldes (http://rohnertpark.patch.com/articles/cars-can-kill)