We hear lots about three legged cats. One eared cats are less common, thankfully. Sealy is a one eared cat. He survived that classic of dangerous environments, the automobile engine compartment. That space under the hood (bonnet in English, English). He survived thanks to Elisa’s unstinting treatment and nursing.
The photo was taken by Elisa Black-Taylor (on her mobile phone I suspect). I photoshopped the background out. The reason why I did this was to create a stark outline to Sealy’s head. This emphasizes his single ear. The reason is an attempt to once again bring home the message that in cold weather indoor/outdoor cats and plain strays or feral cats find the engine compartment attractive. They don’t see it is an engine with moving parts.
The mantra is to check under the hood in winter before driving off. The trouble is, in winter people are unlikely to bother to do that. They want to get in the car and get moving. I don’t think that banging on the hood works all the time to dislodge the cat. Sure it will scare the cat underneath but will the cat move? Doubtful because the engine compartment is a place to hide and therefore feels safe.
A key factor is to ask yourself how long the car has been at rest and the engine turned off. After a hour or so the engine would have cooled but not completely. It might still produce some heat for a cat on a cold night. I would have thought that if a car has been outside all night there would be very little chance of a cat being inside the engine space in the morning because it would not provide heat at that stage. However, if on a cold day the car was driven for a while and then left outside for 1-2 hours before being used again, that might be the sort of conditions under which a cat would find their way to the engine compartment. Those are the danger times.
Sealy’s left ear was sliced off by the car engine’s fan belt. That component is at the front of the engine compartment behind the radiator. There is probably not enough space below the hood if a cat wanted to rest on the engine itself. There is, however, a small space between the engine and the radiator which allows for more head room and where Sealy must have rested.I would like to question whether Sealy’s ear was cut off by the fan belt. Might it have been the fan? The fan belt is ring of rubber that connects the engine to the fan. It allows the engine to turn the fan. Of itself it is hard to see how it could cut anything unless something is trapped under it. The fan itself is made up of blades. These are very capable of cutting. I might be wrong but I would suspect that Sealy lost his ear to the fan blades.
Fan belts or blades are the number one way a cat gets injured when inside the engine space of a car. Perhaps it is the only way, other then burns incurred by hot objects. Cats suffer lacerations anywhere on the body, broken bones, head trauma, brain damage, broken legs, bruised lungs and abdominal wounds etc from the fan. Surgical amputations afterward are not uncommon.
I suppose we can’t expect the car manufacturers to make a car’s engine compartment cat proof can we? Obviously there must be room underneath the engine for a cat to jump up. Couldn’t the manufacturers put in a simple barrier there?
Perhaps there is room in the pet accessory market place for a pet accessory manufacturer to make a portable car cat detection device. On the basis that cats jump up into the engine space from an area just in front of the front wheels and under the car, a mirror with a built in torch attached to a folding extendable arm might work. It could be placed on the ground and just underneath the car in an area just in front of the front wheels. The person could look up into the engine space in the area of the fan belt and fan in much the same way that security checks are made on cars for hidden bombs. An alternative would be a type of periscope with three components.
The photo above it shows a very tight engine space in a compact European car. There is little room for a cat to get in and be comfortable and the fan could not hurt a cat in this configuration in my estimation. The American cars are more likely to have empty space in the engine compartment. This is because the cars are larger. Space around the engine is preferable from a maintenance perspective as it makes access easier. The extra space would make looking into it via a mirror on the ground easier.
Associated page: Furniture for people that is designed to be cat scratched. And Non-toxic Antifreeze.