A Whistle Could Save A Cat

By Elisa Black-Taylor

This article is a bit off of the beaten path from what I usually do. I imagine a lot of you are probably going “huh?” at the title. Bear with me, and I’ll explain how an object to prevent hitting a deer can possibly also save a cat. I’m doing this article as a public safety message as well as possibly saving the life of a poor cat who may wander in front of an automobile.

Deer on the Road

First I’d like to tell everyone about my area of the country. I live between the upstate and the midlands of South Carolina. I’ve had men tell me they moved to this area because of the excellent deer hunting available. The deer in my area are very restless. Between the hunting and the loss of forest being destroyed in the name of progress, it’s difficult to avoid hitting a deer while driving. Deer are especially bad at night on rural roads and are being seen closer to metro areas as their natural habitat is being destroyed. One of my co-workers has hit four in the past few years. My neighbor has also hit one very close to our neighborhood. There are at least a dozen deer who hang out with me at work. I sit and watch them graze almost every night.

Whistle To Avoid A Cat

Whistle To Avoid A Cat. Montage by Michael from pictures by: car on road: by dodge challenger1 – cat by lizzerW

I haven’t hit a deer for several years now. I was chatting with a highway patrolman back in 2009 about the number of deer on the side of the road (both living and dead), and he suggested I get a set of deer whistles. Law enforcement officers in my area swear by them and use them on their patrol cars. They’re also recommended to use on the front of motorcycles. For those of you who don’t know what a deer whistle is, here’s a crash course.

The Deer Whistle

Deer whistles are available for well under $10 (mine were $6) at auto parts stores and major retailers as well as online. They are sold two to a set, with each whistle producing a different sound when air goes through them. One whistle supposedly scares female deer and the other scares the bucks. You must install them exactly as instructed on the package or they won’t work. The deer whistles produce a high pitched sound when air passes through them while traveling at least 30 mph. Deer are said to be able to hear that sound from a quarter mile away. Mine are attached under the front grill on the car bumper.

There are many who say the whistles are a waste of money and don’t work. I went online and did some research. Like me, there are many users who swear by them. There are also just as many who say they’re worthless. After installing the whistles on my last car back in 2009, I noticed the deer would run from the side of the road when I drove near them.

I got a new (2004 Mercury) a month ago and hadn’t bothered to purchase a new set for my new car. I’ve spent the past month dodging deer, dogs, cats and rabbits on my way to and from work. It’s no fun driving 30 mph down a country road because you’re waiting for an animal to jump out in front of your car. Deer cross from a field to the woods or vice versa. They also stand on the side of the road, leaving you to wonder what they’ll do as you drive closer. You’ll probably live should one jump in front of your car, although anywhere a deer hits usually means damage to the vehicle. I knew a lady who had a deer come through her driver side window.

Statistics show the average vehicle repair bill is around $2000. Not to mention medical bills if anyone in the vehicle is injured. I’d also assume the costs would skyrocket when the car behind you hits you after you hit the deer. There are a few thousand deaths each year where drivers are killed when they hit a deer. Many of these are caused when the deer lands on the hood and kicks through the windshield. I actually had an ambulance driver tell me to speed up if I knew I was about to make impact, because you need to be going fast enough to throw the deer over your car. I hope I never have to make that decision.

Personal Experience

So last week after missing a deer by less than a foot, I decided it was time for a new set of deer whistles. They’re easy to install. Mine are on the front of my car on the front bumper. Since putting them on, I’ve noticed the roadside doesn’t have what I like to call “deer hitchhikers.” Those are deer who just stand by the side of the road and watch you drive past them. I haven’t seen any deer at all in the past week. I HAVE watched several rabbits, dogs and cats do a 180 degree turn and run away from my car.

I’ve now scared three different cats away from my car while driving towards them. This is unusual, because usually the cats dart across the road and scare the crap out of me. I’ve been fortunate never to hit a cat while driving and don’t want to break my good record. It got me to wondering whether cats can hear the whistle as I approach and are afraid of it. Outdoor cats, as well as ferals tend to be skittish around strange noises.

Cats Can Hear Them

So I did a few online searches where I studied how well cats can hear. Guess what? Cats (as well as dogs) CAN hear deer whistles! This information came from online forums and not scientific data, so feel free to form your own opinion on this. I’m just glad to see the cats going away from my car and not putting me through the trauma of hitting a cat. There are so many wandering around at night in the rural areas.

The point has also been brought up that if the deer whistles are so effective, why aren’t new car makers using them as standard equipment.

One word of caution to people who live in “horse country.” Horses being transported or ridden where there’s traffic are allegedly very sensitive to the pitch of deer whistles. There may be areas where it’s not safe to use the whistles as they may cause a horse to panic.

We Should Try Them

It’s up to the readers here as to whether or not to believe deer whistles work. I will say I’ve had very good luck with them and recommend them to friends. It’s nice to know I’m possibly scaring cats away from the road as well. If they don’t work, you’re only out a few dollars.

One comment I read during my research told there are lots of wrecked junkyard cars wearing them. My question to this would be whether the car was in a vehicle/vehicle accident or did the car hit a deer.

What if the deer whistle doesn’t hold much weight in its intended use, and instead becomes a warning system for cats to get out of the way of an approaching car. Stranger things have happened over the years when one product gains fame for doing something no one expected it to do. If there’s even the slightest chance it can scare off a cat, isn’t it worth the price?

I’m not positive in any way that these will work on deer or cats. My own personal experience doesn’t prove it one way or the other. The way I see it, if there’s even a tiny chance a deer whistle will deter a cat from crossing in front of a moving car, it’s worth the effort and cost involved.

Readers, have any of you ever used deer whistles? Did you notice any other animals scattering when they heard the whistle? Or do you think they’re a waste of money?


FB comments (see below)


A Whistle Could Save A Cat — 18 Comments

    • I looked at it. It was very upsetting. I don’t even know anyone who flies anymore and it was upsetting. We used to have problems with geese at the airport where Danny kept his plane. It was really hard to take off because they’d be in front of the plane. He finally realized you just have to keep going and they’ll get out of the way, but show any hesitation and they stay. But it’s still scary. Because if one doesn’t get out of the way in time you’d have a busted prop or worse. And the goose wouldn’t fare so well either. Never seemed to be a problem with landing– they got out of the way. The chance was always there of hitting one though, especially in the air, which would have been bad. I’ll bet that little airport is having problems with deer now, with all the expansion around there. There was a road that Danny would never drive on because he said as a kid he played back there, rode his dirtbike and goofed around in this wilderness– which was being turned into a subdivision. When he was alive there were maybe two houses and the road he refused to drive on. Today the whole area is completely filled with houses.

  1. Everything spooks horses, so why not that? They really are a prey animal, like deer, so they are quick to flee from any real or perceived danger. So how would we find out, Michael? Should I install them on my car and go whizzing by the poor Amish guy in his buggy to see if his horse gets spooked? I don’t think so. The article said the whistles can frighten livestock who are being transported, so I was going with that assumption, plus a general knowledge of horses gained in my youth, growing up in horse country. We didn’t have them, but friends and family did.

  2. I’d worry about horses. I drive through Amish country sometimes to visit a dear friend up north. Whenever I pass an Amish wagon I drive really slowly so as not to spook the horse. At what distance from the buggy would this whistle be audible to the horse and possibly cause him to bolt? Someone could get killed. So as much as deer are an issue– even around here the suburbs are teeming with them– I probably would not install these whistles. At least not on a car I’d be likely to drive into Amish country. Maybe on the Toronado since driving it that far from the only mechanic who knows how to fix it is asking for trouble, plus the fact that it gets 14 mpg at best. There are cats around, but I don’t know if I’d be going fast enough in town for the whistles to work. Possibly, since many of the major streets are posted at 30 or 35 mph. But my guess is the way they spook horses is a major reason they aren’t standard equipment, not because they don’t work.

  3. I’ve never heard of these before, Elisa, and I wish I had. I wonder if my Alaskan friends know about them too–moose are the problem there and they’re huge. A VW doesn’t stand a chance! We have lots of wildlife where I live now too and even though the speed limit in town is 25 mph, it sounds like a good investment. Especially if it would mean not killing something. So far my record is two suicidal chipmunks in Yellowstone and I’d love to keep it that way.

    • I got mine at Wal-Mart. They’re back in the automotive accessories section. You’d be surprised at how well a VW will hold up. I was in an accident in my 1983 Rabbit and it held together really well. I wasn’t even hurt and at being hit at 55mph that’s amazing.

      It doesn’t work on possums or squirrels. Possums are just stupid and the squirrels are confused and suicidal. But it works great on the other animals.

      Here’s a link to them

  4. Michael circumstances like this are exactly why I’m still upset over the animal control investigation on us. In case you don’t remember, this is EXACTLY how we rescued Furby. He walked in front of my car and I turned the car around and went back to get him.

    There are many cats I’ve been tempted to go back after, but if I take in any of these cats some no good nosy person will turn us in to animal control again and we could lose everyone. This is not the type cat you take to a shelter and expect it to find a home. Wild cats aren’t adoption material and I have a good record of hand catching ferals.

    So these poor cats have to take their chances with traffic since I can’t interfere. I only hope someone is feeding these cats and not trying to kill them.

  5. Elisa, I think this is an excellent article. It shows a concern for all cats not just your own and it is a neat idea. It pushes the boundaries too and shows imagination. I just hope one or two cats are saved by your idea.

    • I didn’t imagine those cats doing a backflip to head the other way 🙂 if not such a serious subject I would have laughed. Those cats were afraid of that whistle and I hope all cats are.

      • And what about England?! Why are we cut out of this 🙂 We need some deer….It is too imaginative for the accountants who manage car manufacturing companies to fit them as standard! That would be asking way to much. Cats are not important enough to business.

  6. I like the idea that these things are standard on all new cars. They must hear them, its just a matter if they are deterred by the sound. I agree with Elisa, if there is even a chance then why not try since they cost nothing. Why not try to develop this technology/idea to ensure it works. It sounds like a very good thing apart from the issue with transporting animals who are effected by the sound. I have no doubt a loud high pitch sound will disturb a cat if done right. Great little thing to have found out about. You really do learn something new every day 🙂

    • They’re NOT standard on all new cars and this has been one argument they don’t work. But there are simply too. Many good reports on them now to get a set. They’re classy looking so its not like you’re defacing a car.

      • They are so small, you hardly notice them. All police and sheriff cars had them in Mendocino County. I think that says something.

  7. I lived way up north for eight years. I learned about the deer whistles there, where you wouldn’t be without them. Of course, you have to b driving at 30 mph for the whistle to sound, and at that speed in some rural areas -that is just too fast to avoid hitting a deer. They feeeze just like with headlights shining on them. A cat on the other had, has fast reactions. I can see how it could save a cats life. I hate to think about cats hanging out where folks are driving 30 mph or more. That is no place for a cat! But they do. The young ones loose their lives on the road.

    It is cheap insurance. For five bucks, it might help. I’m not sure if the whistles worked for me, or if it was my firm resolve to never hit a deer…one or the other worked.

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