21 facts about cats involved in RTAs

These facts about cats involved in road traffic accidents (RTAs) come from several studies (see base of page). The overall conclusion is one that you’d expect. Many cats are involved in RTAs and 25% die. Young male cats are most at risk. Some individual facts contain merged sub-facts and contradictions.

Cat killed on the road
Cat killed on the road. Photo: Pixabay
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats
  1. For younger cats, a greater proportion die through road traffic accident trauma than other causes of mortality
  2. In terms of the dangers of a cat dying through an RTA, a study found that there is no difference between urban environments and non-urban environments. In other words, all geographical location should be considered as of equal risk. In a study dated 2003 by Rochlitz it was found that, as expected, cats were less likely to be involved in an RTA in very low to low traffic areas compared to average traffic levels. However, she found that where there was a high level of traffic cats were not more likely to be hit by a car. My comment: it may be due to the fact that high traffic levels produce a lot of noise and unnerving, fast-moving objects which deters cats. It is probable that the single, unexpected car is the one that ends up killing a cat.
  3. Younger cats in the age range six months to six years are most at risk of being involved in a road traffic accident (RTA)
  4. Male cats are 1.3 times more at risk of being involved in an RTA than female cats (but see below).
  5. Moggy cats (random bred cats) are almost 2 times more at risk of being involved in an RTA than purebred cats (but see below also). Comment: I suspect that this is because purebred cats are far more likely to be kept inside the home at all time compared to random bred cats.
  6. Autumn is the worst month for cat RTAs and cats. Cat RTAs are less likely in winter compared to spring. Rochlitz in a study of 2003 came to a different conclusion in saying that the seasons made no difference to the likelihood of a cat being in an RTA. The cat’s coat colour also made no difference i.e. black cats were at no extra risk. And neither did the hours spent outside or the time a cat has lived at a certain address.
  7. The kind of injuries which end up killing a cat after an RTA are abdominal and spinal.
  8. More than 4% of the overall number of cats treated at emergency veterinary clinics are those that have been involved in an RTA.
  9. In the UK, an estimated 230,000 cats die on the roads annually. This PetPlan (2006) information does not specify if these are domestic and feral cats. I will presume that they are both domestic and feral cats.
  10. Another study (Olsson and Allen 2001) found that 51% of indoor/outdoor cats who unexpectedly died were the result of RTAs.
  11. In a further study by Rochlitz et al. dated 2001, it was found that RTAs were the fourth most common cause of death for cats after old age, cancer and renal failure. This probably applies to the USA because Irene Rochlitz lives in America as I understand it.
  12. Rochlitz conducted another study to find out which cats were predisposed to RTAs. The chart below is a summary of those findings. Her research confirms the information from another study that I refer to above namely that a domestic cat’s age and sex were important factors.
  13. Cats between the ages of seven months to 2 years were most likely to be involved in an RTA and cats six years or older were the least likely. For every year increase in a cat’s age the likelihood of being involved in an RTA decreases by 16%.
  14. The reason why older cats are less likely to be involved in RTAs is because they are less active and stay indoors for longer and more often. They may also be more cautious.
  15. Male cats were more than twice as likely to be involved in an RTA than female cats. This differs from the other study mentioned above where the difference was 1.3 times. One reason is that male cats spend more time outdoors than female cats. Comment: and they are more confident?
  16. It is thought that cats which have not been sterilised are more likely to be involved in an RTA because they wander further than sterilised cats therefore, they increase the chance of being hit by a car. Although the vast majority of domestic cats are sterilised.
  17. Rochlitz found that pedigree cats i.e. purebred cats were less than 1/3 as likely to be hit by a car as non-pedigree cats.
  18. Rochlitz also found that cats wearing reflective collars were more likely to be in an RTA. She couldn’t find a reason for this. Reflective cat collars make a cat more visible to the driver of a vehicle. I can suggest that some drivers deliberately hit cats because they dislike them. That might sound far-fetched but I think you’ll find that it is true.
  19. Being allowed outside at night appears to make little difference to the chances of being hit (see chart below).
  20. Most RTAs involving cats happen just outside or very near the cat’s home. Although this information may be misleading because when an RTA occurs far from home it might not be reported to their owner and taken to a veterinarian.
  21. A quarter of all cats involved in RTAs end up dying.

Rochlitz study chart:

RTAs and cats
RTAs and cats. Chart: Rochlitz et al 2003.
RTAs and cats chart
RTAs and cats chart. Chart: Irene Rochlitz.

The studies: Epidemiology of Road Traffic Accidents in Cats Attending Emergency-Care Practices in the UK as Published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice. And: Mortality Due to Trauma in Cats Attending Veterinary Practices in Central and South-East England Dated August 1, 2017. And Rochlitz: A Summary of a Study of Factors That may predispose domestic cats to road traffic accidents dated 2003. And Olsen, Tammy and Andrew Allen. 2001. Causes of sudden and unexpected death in cats: a 10-year retrospective study.

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