Unfortunately, many cats are injured during road traffic collisions every year. Their innate desire to roam and inability to understand the dangers posed to them when crossing roads can lead to life-threatening injuries. It can even prove to be fatal in some cases. With cats being scared by Halloween or fireworks displays being at higher risk, this seemed a good time to take a look at this issue.

If you think your furry companion has been hit by a car, it is vital to contact your vet immediately for an emergency appointment. If your cat is in a critical state you must make your journey to the vet practice straightaway. However, do phone ahead to let them know that you are on your way. This will allow the practice to prepare for your arrival and give your cat the best possible care. Keep reading to find out what happens when you arrive at the practice with your injured cat, what type of injuries cats sustain during road traffic collisions and what tests or treatments they might need.

What happens when I arrive at the practice?

It is important to alert the veterinary team when you arrive at the practice with your cat. In an emergency, your pet may need immediate life-saving treatment. To provide emergency treatment, it may be necessary for your vet to take your cat straight to the back of the practice. Emergency treatment may include the administration of pain relief, oxygen and fluids if necessary. 

At this difficult time, you may not want to be parted from your beloved pet. But rest assured, this will allow the immediate administration of vital treatment that your pet needs. As soon as the vet can stabilise your pet, they will come back to reception to talk to you. They will be able to give you more information about your pet’s condition and discuss what further tests or treatments they may need. 

What type of injuries may my cat sustain?

The injuries sustained by your cat will vary according to the body location that they were hit and the speed at which the vehicle was travelling. Generally, the faster the car was travelling, the more trauma and injuries that may have been inflicted on your pet. Injuries may be external (on the outside) or internal (on the inside) of your cat. Some injuries may not be apparent initially. Some cats may only have minor scuffing of their nails. Scuffing occurs as cats tend to try and hold onto the tarmac when hit by a car. 

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External injuries may include fractures, dislocations (bones moving out of place) and wounds. In some cases, there may be no injuries seen externally but internal damage has occurred. Internal injuries may include bleeding, organ rupture and bruising. Your vet may need to do further tests to detect internal damage. The most important internal injuries to rule out include rupture of the urinary tract (e.g. kidneys, bladder) and diaphragm (a muscle that helps us to breathe) and contusions (bruising, especially of the lungs and liver). If organs become damaged during the collisions, corrective surgery may be required and may need to be performed urgently. 

What treatment will my cat need?

The first thing your vet will do is decide whether emergency treatment is required. If your pet has sustained an injury, then they will be provided with pain relief. Your pet may require oxygen therapy if they are struggling to breathe or if they are in shock. Shock also requires prompt fluid therapy (a drip, or intravenous fluids) to support the circulatory system. Therefore an intravenous catheter will almost always be inserted into your cat’s vein to provide fluids and any medications.

Any bleeding will need to be promptly stopped by applying pressure and bandages to the affected body parts. Wounds will need to be treated by having the surrounding fur clipped away and thorough cleaning. If large open wounds are present, a bandage may need to be applied to protect them. 

What tests will be necessary?

Once your pet has been assessed and provided with emergency treatment, your vet will discuss what tests will be required. In most cases, they will collect a blood sample to check whether blood has been lost and whether a blood transfusion is required. Blood tests also help to assess whether other injuries are present or to detect underlying diseases that may have been present before the accident. Once your pet is stable, it may be necessary to perform imaging on your pet.

Imaging may be in the form of ultrasound or x-rays and your pet is likely to require sedation or general anaesthesia to facilitate this. The imaging results will provide your vet with the necessary information on your pet’s condition. It will also help dictate whether emergency surgery is necessary.

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For example, in the case of bladder rupture, the repair will need to be performed as soon as your pet is stable enough to go to surgery. If a bladder rupture is not promptly corrected, then leakage of urine into the abdomen is likely to make your pet very poorly and may prove fatal. 

Can my cat’s injuries be treated by my vet?

Your vet will be able to provide immediate emergency first aid treatment and care for your pet when they are involved in a road traffic collision. They will be able to thoroughly assess your pet’s injuries and treat any life-threatening injuries. In addition, expect them to discuss your cat’s injuries and the options for their treatment. In many cases, all injuries sustained to your cat may be treatable at your vets… However, it will depend on the type of injuries sustained and the facilities available at your vets. On occasion, where complex surgery is required, your cat may require referral to a specialist. For example, some fractures may require a specialist orthopaedic surgeon for treatment. Your vet will discuss with you whether they feel your pet will benefit from referral to a specialist. They will be able to provide you with an estimate for the cost of treatment. 

What to do if you suspect your cat has been hit by a car?

If you are worried that your cat may have been hit by a car, it is vital to contact your vet immediately for advice. It is likely your vet will want to assess and examine your pet. In some circumstances, it will be clear that your cat has been involved in a road traffic collision and they may be distressed. In these circumstances, it is important to stay calm. It will be necessary to collect your cat, place them in a carrier and transport them safely to your vet as soon as possible. Be aware cats that are in pain may become aggressive and try to scratch or bite you. To reduce the chances of getting injured yourself, try to collect your cat calmly in a towel. 

Unfortunately, in some cases, it might be you that witnesses a cat being run over. In fact, it may have been you driving the car when somebody’s beloved pet runs out in front of you. This is a truly heart-breaking situation but sadly, accidents do happen. Try to get the cat to the vets as soon as possible. Your vet will be able to scan the cat for a microchip and contact their owner. 

Will my pet be ok? 

Unfortunately, some injuries sustained by cats involved in road traffic collisions do prove to be fatal. Cars are large, powerful machines and some of the injuries sustained are just too great and sadly many cats do not survive a collision. On the other hand, some cats seem to be incredibly lucky and escape unscathed. Even if your cat looks okay, it is still important to get your cat checked out by a vet. Your vet will be able to assess if any internal injuries have been sustained. Early identification of injuries and treatment at your vets is very important for a successful outcome. The cost of caring for a pet that has sustained injuries through a road traffic collision can be considerable. It is really useful to have pet insurance in place to help cover the cost of treatment during unforeseen events. 

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Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening again?

Cats are free-roaming animals – however, there are things to consider that may help to reduce the risk of our cats becoming a victim in a road traffic collision. Neutering our cats is not only important for health and population-control reasons but is also helpful in significantly reducing roaming behaviours, especially in male cats. 

It is also important to consider whether it is suitable to get a cat in the first place when living close to busy roads. Some cats can make very happy indoor pets however, it may prove to be incredibly difficult to keep a cat indoors if their drive to be outside is too great. Some owners may also choose to keep their cats indoors during rush hours and during the night. 

Microchipping your cat is highly recommended. If your microchipped cat is injured in a road traffic collision and is taken to a vet for scanning, your vet will be able to contact you and inform you of this as soon as possible.