Would you swerve your car when driving on the road to avoid hitting a cat? Pretty well everyone would not swerve to avoid a cat because to do so would be potentially dangerous. You have a split second to make a decision and the overriding instinct is self-preservation which means maintaining the same course if the animal is small. It comes down to that; what is best for the individual rather than for the cat. And that is what I would expect the answer to be because when push comes to shove, in dire emergencies, people nearly always act in self-interest.
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If a driver is confronted with a large animal they will swerve or stop if it is safe to do so. They may have to stop to protect themselves. But the general consensus is that for small animals you carry on or you might try and swerve if you can make that decision quickly enough and safely. I have stopped in the middle of the road to remove an injured squirrel from it. That was dangerous but it was within a 30-mph speed limit which makes this sort of action safer provided you put the car warning lights on. Even then a lot of people behind me complained and it was unsafe.
In the UK, the experts say that if a driver swerved to avoid a cat and then hits another car it might be dangerous driving, which is a serious crime. Also, it may invalidate car insurance. The experts say that cats are not a significant threat that need to be avoided.
A sudden swerve to avoid a cat may well put pedestrians and other road users in danger. But swerving to avoid a large animal is a different matter for obvious reasons. It would be ‘reasonable’ to avoid a large animal and the word “reasonableness” is a central criterion in deciding whether a driver has acted carelessly or dangerously under these emergency situations.
If a driver swerves to avoid a cat and hits another car causing injury which led to a court case a judge might decide that the driver did not act reasonably. Dangerous driving is described as driving which “falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver”.
The bottom line, as I see it, is that the decisions about avoiding cats on roads are always based upon the safety of people, which is what I would expect (but don’t particularly like). If you endanger somebody else in trying to save the life of the cat when driving your car, it’s liable to be regarded as dangerous driving.
There is also the simple question of instinctive reactions. Typically, drivers are not going to swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid a cat on the road. Normally, you don’t have time to check whether there is oncoming traffic so you carry on.
The answer is unpleasant but it is difficult to come to a different one. The problem is that roads and domestic cats just don’t mix. The road is an alien, unnatural landscape with unnatural and misunderstood dangers for the domestic and feral cat. From the cat’s perspective a world without roads and road traffic would be far better.
P.S. Some people deliberately drive over cats if the opportunity presents itself. A cat on the road gives the psychopathic individual who hates cats a free chance to kill one without personal consequences.
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