Cat Safety: What to Do If Your Cat Is Hit by a Car

Sarah Wooten, DVM
By Sarah Wooten, DVM on May 24, 2018

Seeing your cat, or any cat for that matter, get hit by a car is traumatic. Your emotions take over and you may panic. It may be difficult to even think when you have an injured cat. While I hope no one ever has to go through vet emergencies such as this, I hope that if it ever happens to you, this article will help you remember several important cat safety steps to save your cat and keep yourself safe in the process.

How Do I Check to See If My Injured Cat Is Alive?

A cat that is injured from impact may pass out. If your cat isn’t moving, then you will need to check for breathing and a heartbeat. You can feel for a heartbeat on the chest right behind the point of the elbow, and you can checking for breathing by placing your palm in front of your cat’s nostrils. If your cat isn’t breathing or you don’t feel a heartbeat, seek emergency veterinary care immediately and/or initiate CPR.

How Do I Transport My Injured Cat Safely?

There are no ambulance services for pets, so you are going to need to move your injured cat whether she is healthy enough to move or not. The best way to move a cat that has been hit by a car is to wrap her gently in a towel, blanket or jacket and carry her in either a box, carrier or your lap. Be careful, because even the nicest cat can bite if frightened or injured. If she is agitated, you may need to gently toss the blanket or towel on top of your cat before you wrap her and pick her up. If your cat is unconscious, it is best to transport her on a flat surface because you do not know which body parts hurt.

Broken ribs are injuries that are commonly associated with being hit by a car, and these can hurt! Transport your cat as flat as possible in a carrier, blanket, board or box to avoid excessive trauma to any unseen internal injuries.

How Do I Keep My Injured Cat Calm?

The best way to transport an injured cat is by car, in a cat carrier that is covered with a towel. It is important that you stay calm because you will need your wits about you, and your cat can pick up on your fears. Keep the car ride quiet and safe, and go immediately to a veterinary hospital.

How Can I Save My Injured Cat?

Always have your cat evaluated by a veterinarian, even if she appears to be ok. Internal bleeding, shock, low blood pressure, traumatic brain injury or chest injuries can manifest hours after the initial injury, and a veterinarian will be able to determine if there are any hidden injuries to your cat.

Cats that have been hit by a car often suffer from a degloving injury where the skin has been torn like a glove from a leg. Do not attempt to clean these wounds—wrap them carefully in a clean, small towel and proceed directly to a veterinary clinic. If your cat is bleeding excessively from a wound, apply pressure through a towel. You can also use a T-shirt or a sock if a towel is not readily available.

What Else Should I Know?

Keep yourself safe. Many people will panic and run into a busy roadway to save their injured cat. While pet safety is important, do not put yourself in peril. Do not enter a roadway if there is oncoming traffic. If your cat has been hit by a car on a road that has very heavy traffic such as a freeway, call 911.

If your cat is still able to run after being hit by a car, then most likely your cat will run and hide under something. You will need to speak softly and calmly to your cat, and move slowly. If you cannot find your cat, call animal control to report the incident and have them help you find your cat. 

Image via Shutterstock

Sarah Wooten, DVM


Sarah Wooten, DVM


Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists,...

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