Why do cats get hit by cars at night?

People ask why cats get hit by cars at night. I believe that the answer is quite straightforward. Two things happen at night with respect to cats and cars which do not happen during the daytime:

  1. There are less cars on the road.
  2. There are more cats on the road.

Obviously during the night there are less cars on the road. Except when people start going to work at around 4 am and traffic starts to build up.

Domestic cats allowed to go outside will spend a lot of time wandering and hunting at night. The domestic cat is a crepuscular creature. They are programmed to hunt at dawn and dusk and during the night.

During these times a cat will wander onto roads. They might cross a road to go into a field. That road might be a major thoroughfare. It will be quiet at night and relatively safe but at dawn the traffic will build up. The cat will be coming home. The road will be much busier. These are the moments when cats are killed by traffic.

So the answer to the question in the title is that cats are far more active at night and wander onto roads, and despite the fact that there are less vehicles on the roads at that time the chance of being hit by a vehicle are still greatly increased particularly in the early hours of the morning when people start going to work.

In Britain cat owners except the risk that their cat may be killed on the road. This surprises me but, I confess, I accept this risk myself: certainly at present. However, I accept the risk with great reluctance and with some trepidation. Fortunately, I live on a quiet road. At night there is almost no traffic on it.

My cat is almost strictly active during the night while during daytime he is far more likely to rest inside the home or wonder nearby in the garden. He is a classic candidate for being hit by a car at night. I want to build him a large outside enclosure but there are technical difficulties. At present I accept, on his behalf, the risk.

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8 thoughts on “Why do cats get hit by cars at night?”

  1. A ferrel cat that we have been taking care of for at least 8 yrs was unfortunately hit by a car at the edge of our community. We last saw our beautiful Mr.B Dec 23 where he came to eat and left several times that day.He has been showing u p with cuties,limping and many scrapes over the years and we got him back into shape and well many times.We cannot help him now and I am very sad that I will never see him again.I never got to truly pet him since he was ferrel but on occasion a two finger het petting was enough for me.He responded to my voice and knew he had a safe place to come too.We love you Mr.B and will miss you!!!

  2. My old cat snuck out after never going outside for 12 years. I think she had dementia. I couldn’t find her. Then a neighbor going to work saw her get hit on the road at 4 a.m.
    My heart is broken.

  3. I think animals (raccoons and other wildlife including feral cats) range around when they are hungry, but that they hunker down more when fed. This is based on experience driving through city alleys in Washington, DC. This year I’ve been feeding some feral cats in a rural area and deer and raccoons occasionally partake of the cat food and water. I suppose I’ll stop feeding there now, but have concerns about hungry animals looking for food they’re used to having (and water too) and not finding it. I’d like to continue putting out the offerings but don’t want to do more harm than good. Any thoughts welcome. – Joanna

  4. There may be less cars on the road at night, but I think there’s a tendency for many motorists to speed up because of that. I think that makes it more difficult for cats to always anticipate an oncoming vehicle when they decide to cross a road.

    Cats are also very small and much less visible in the dark, which is another reason why even a careful driver might not spot one darting out from between parked cars.

    I like my cats to be home before it gets dark and they stay indoors overnight. I couldn’t sleep at night if they weren’t home as I’d be worried about them.


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