The days are getting colder and the nights are getting longer. If you’re brave enough to go running during autumn, you probably know it is a good idea to wear some reflective high-visibility clothing so cars can spot you from a distance. Well what about cats? Some cats are out and about all day, and may be straying near to roads. Perhaps your cat should wear high-vis too so they are safe from traffic?
Cats and Road Traffic Accidents
Many cats live near busy roads. Although cats are fairly sensible creatures, we know that the risk of a cat being hit by a car (getting into a road traffic accident, or RTA) is quite high. In fact, one study found that half of all cats that die prematurely do so because of RTA. They are also the fourth most common reason for a cat to die at all. Almost every day vets have to treat injured cats brought in after a collision with a car.
RTAs are very serious events. Cats hit by a car can have blood loss, broken bones, damaged or ruptured organs, spinal injuries and paralysis, and are usually in a lot of pain. Some sadly die instantly, while others may not be able to be successfully treated by a vet so are humanely euthanised. Many that initially survive require long periods of rehabilitation. While veterinary medicine has come a long way, and more and more cats recover from RTAs, prevention is better than cure. This is where high-vis may come in.
High-Vis for Cats
We previously wrote a blog on high-visibility clothing for dogs, including jackets, collars and strips. They appear to have caught on, and it’s quite common now to see the reflective outline of a dog late at night. We would like to try and promote this sort of clothing for cats as well.
Many companies now offer high-vis products for cats. These shine in a car’s headlights and reduce the chance they will be hit by the car. Jackets are available, but many cats may not be happy wearing something so claustrophobic!
Instead, we recommend high-vis collars, or reflective tags you can attach to their existing collars. In both cases, the collar should be a breakaway variety that will snap open if your cat gets it caught on something. It is better to lose a collar than have your cat get caught on a tree branch or fence post.
Other Ways to Prevent RTAs
As well as the reflective collars, there are other steps you can take to keep your cat safe.
The first would be to consider making your cat an indoor cat.
A cat used to being outside its whole life may find this a difficult change to adjust to, but if you have just got a new cat, maybe consider if they would be safer kept indoors. Encouraging your cat to spend more time indoors with enrichment such as toys, attention and warm nests may be an option for outdoor cats.
You should also consider what sort of cat you have,
Sadly, some cats are more at risk of RTAs than others. The cats at the largest risk are young unneutered male cats, as they tend to roam looking for a mate. This means they are more likely to wander into roads and be hit by a car. The best thing you can do for these cats is to get them castrated. As well as reducing the risk of RTAs, this also prevents unwanted kittens, reduces the risk of some cancers, increasing their longevity, improves some behavioural issues, and lowers the chance of catching deadly FIV.
Spaying female cats may offer similar benefits too. Contrary to what you may expect, darker-coated cats may not be more likely to be hit by a car. Finally, some studies have found that pedigree cats are a lot less likely to be involved in an RTA, possibly due to owner and cat behaviour with these breeds. So if you are getting a new cat, take these factors into consideration and perhaps get an older spayed female pedigree cat!
Finally, you should get your cat microchipped and insured.
Although these won’t directly reduce your cat’s chance of being in an RTA, they could improve their survival chance. Microchips are crucial at finding owners, especially if your cat has no collar. The sooner vets can find an owner, the sooner they can contact you to discuss treatment options. And of course, a microchip will get you reunited with your cat faster if they go missing.
Similarly, having cat insurance means that more expensive veterinary care may be an option after an RTA. Without, a sudden RTA during a difficult financial period could mean you struggle to fund veterinary care. Please discuss both microchipping and insurance with your vet.
For any other issues with your pet, use our free Cat Symptom Checker.