Why don’t drivers stop when they drive into a cat on the road?

Well, some drivers do stop when they hit a cat on the road but we don’t know how many do the decent thing. There are no records. No statistics. But it is probably safe to say that the vast majority of drivers don’t stop because there is no legal requirement to stop and it is just too much hassle to stop. The driver who stops takes on a lot of responsibilities. They have to take the cat to a vet which means finding a vet. They have to then tell the owner if the cat is microchipped that they hit their cat and the cat died or is seriously injured. And there is another major reason: the cat will be injured. How badly? It might be gory. This will put many people off stopping.

Officer stops traffic to assist injured cat in road. Nice. This is America as you can see.
Officer stops traffic to assist injured cat in road. Nice. This is America as you can see. The image is in the public domain in my honest opinion.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

This all takes time and the average motorist is often in a rush or keen to get to their destination. That’s the harsh truth of it and it is not nice to admit it.

I am sure that hundreds of thousands of cats in any substantial country of your choosing are killed on roads annually. If I was forced to guess how many times drivers stopped I’d guess at around 1-3% of the time. Something like that. If you disagree please comment and tell me why.

The revelation that drivers don’t stop when they hit a cat tells us a lot about the human-to-cat relationship. And a lot about the human. Humans are inherently selfish. If it is not their cat, ‘what the hell’ is probably what is in the minds of many. They’ll be many others who’ll be shocked when they know they’ve hit a cat but they won’t stop. They might have a brief moment when they think about stopping but as they are travelling at 30 mph they are gone by the time they might change their mind and stop. Too late.

Cats Protection say that there are 11 million cats in the UK and a 2022 UK Parliament motion heard that approximately 230,000 cats are hit by cars every year, averaging 630 every day. After being hit, many will dart off the road if possible and die under a bush. I suspect that many are never seen and the owners just think that their cat is lost. Or the cat is picked up by council workers and dumped with the rest of the rubbish. An horrendous end to the life of a beloved companion.

Of course I am generalising as their will be exceptions but this is the picture that pertains in the UK and some other developed countries, I believe.

It is entirely different for dogs as there is a legal requirement in the UK and possibly in other countries to stop if you hit a dog on the road. The UK government website states this about RTAs:

You must stop and report the accident to the police if you hit any:

  • dogs
  • horses
  • cattle, eg cows
  • pigs
  • goats
  • sheep
  • donkeys and mules

You must do this as quickly as you can, whether the animal is killed or not.

That’s clear enough. Dogs are treated differently to cats in this context as they are considered working animals while cats are companions. It is remarkable really because dogs are primarily companions too. It is just that the law is out of date. There is a campaign to change it to make it obligatory to report an RTA with a cat to the local authority so that the body can be scanned for a microchip and the owner told.

A quick search to find out the regulations in Germany produced nothing. I don’t think there is a legal requirement to report an RTA with a cat in Germany.

The bottom line is that, in general, people don’t care enough about other people’s cats for them to stop if they drive into one on the road. It is as crude and as insensitive as that. It is a reminder as to the perceived value of domestic cats. Very low in fact. It makes me wonder about the whole process of cat domestication and whether it can be described as a success.

Information about RTAs and cats

A study published in 2003 found that these sorts of accidents involving cats occurred throughout the year but they most often occurred at night and about 50% of the accidents occurred “just outside or very near the cat’s home.” The cats themselves were younger than average. They found that “proportionally more of the RTA cats wore reflective collars and/or lived in areas with higher levels of traffic than the controls.”

Another study of 2003 found that “for every one-year increase in age, the odds of a road accident decreased by 16%; the odds for males (entire and neutered) being in a road accident were 1.9 times the odds for females (entire and neutered), and the odds for pedigree cats were 0.29 those of non–pedigree cats.”

The conclusion that I have is that younger cats are more likely to be involved in accidents as will cats allowed outside the most frequently, which is why they wear reflective collars. The accidents occur mostly at night because the majority of cats are crepuscular – active at dawn and dusk – and sometimes throughout the night. And of course accidents are more likely to occur in built-up areas where there is more traffic. The key probably is to keep younger cats indoors or train them to walk on a lead because these are the really vulnerable ones.

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4 thoughts on “Why don’t drivers stop when they drive into a cat on the road?”

  1. Most cat deaths are caused by vehicle driving too fast to slow down enough or easily avoid a cat, i.e, 35 – 70 mph. At 10 – 30 mph, there is usually enough time, unless the driver isn’t paying enough attention (which is about one third to half the time in the UK, in my sad experience.)

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  2. Dogs are not more important than cats. In fact, dogs kill people around the world every day, yet how many die from being attacked by cat? Cats are gentler and far quieter than dogs. btw, I think that photo is from South African Police

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