Cats seek refuge under cars for shelter, safety, and sleep. Unfortunately, cats often fail to appreciate the risk posed by a parked car, van or truck. If you find a cat underneath a vehicle, you should do everything that you can to persuade them to move to a safer place.
The top of the wheels and underside of cars provide warmth and security for cats. The likelihood of a cat sheltering under a car is magnified when you live in a neighborhood of multiple vehicle ownership and areas where people tend to park their cars outside.
People are often busy or distracted, so they fail to perform the necessary safety checks before driving their car away before work or taking the kids to school.
It may be that your cat has been missing for several days. In this article, we will look at the reasons why cats get under cars and, more importantly, the ways you can get a cat from underneath a car.
Why Do Cats Get Under Cars?
Shelter and a place to nap are the two core reasons why cats hide under cars, vans, buses, and trucks. The space underneath a vehicle provides warmth from bitter winter winds and shade from the blazing sun during the summer months.
The underside of a car also provides protection from other cats that are intent on harm. Stray dogs may also cause your cat to hide underneath a car for safety. The areas inside the fender or wheel are popular choices as they are more difficult for larger animals to access.
Vehicles can be the perfect temporary bed for your cat. If they spend a lot of time outdoors, the space underneath a car is ‘seemingly’ an ideal resting place. It is common to see a cat asleep under a car for hours during the night or day.
How To Get Your Cat Out from Under a Car?
Before you attempt to rescue your cat, you should evaluate the surrounding environment. Where the vehicle is parked and who it belongs to are crucial considerations.
Another issue to consider is the presence of localized danger. If a predator has chased your cat under a car, the last thing you want to do is bait your cat into a new source of potential harm.
1) Quick Health Check
Make sure that your cat is moving and in good health. Depending on the environment and situation, some cats seek the shelter of a vehicle after being chased by a predator. If an altercation has taken place, your cat could be injured in some way.
2) Address and Walk Away
If your cat is unharmed, you should call your cat and walk away. Cats are curious creatures and are more likely to come to you if you step away. Only use force (of any type) if all other measures have been exhausted.
3) Shake the Treats
Cats are easily distracted and always in the mood for a snack, so shaking a container of cat treats may foil your cat’s desire for adventure for a while. Shaking treats is ideal because your cat will associate the sound of obeying your voice with getting a reward (food).
- If there is no response after shaking the container of treats, place some snacks on the ground. While your cat may be disinterested in you, food that has been left unattended and is in plain sight may not be nearly as easy to ignore.
Is It Wise to Scare a Cat Out from Under a Car?
It is okay to “scare” your cat if all other sensible options have failed. While you should never traumatize your cat, a quick slam of the door or starting of the engine can get the desired result. You’d need to be the vehicle owner or to know the owner for this to be an option.
You always need to be aware of oncoming traffic in case your cat gets run over.
What to Do If Your Cat is Physically Stuck in the Engine?
There are many gaps, twists, and complex spaces inside the engine compartment. While cats can get stuck, some cats hide and refuse to move due to fear or stubbornness. If you can reach your cat, grab it by the scruff (loose neck fat) and gently attempt to pull him or her out.
If you are unable to free your cat, you should call for assistance (animal control or local fire department).
Some cats (most notably feral cats) seek refuge under a vehicle or the engine compartment because they are afraid of human contact. This is why well-meaning folks are met with more resistance in cases where outside assistance is necessary.
- Cat deterrent spray (available from most pet stores) can be applied to the underside of your vehicle and engine compartment.
How to Check for Cats Under Your Car and Engine?
Cats are often injured (or killed!) by the engine or tires of a car due to unsuspecting vehicle owners not being aware.
Pound the hood of your car with your hand before entering or slam the door before starting the engine. These loud sounds can alert a cat that it is time to get moving.
A cat that is sleeping on the top of a tire (shielded by the fender) or within the engine compartment may not be aware of your presence. These same areas of refuge may not allow you to see them either.
Is My Cat at Risk of Petroleum Hydrocarbon Toxicosis?
Cats can be exposed to a whole host of toxic chemicals if they become trapped in the engine compartment of a car. Whether collected on the fur, inhaled or ingested, oil and petroleum-based products can cause severe sickness or death.
Chemicals with a petroleum base can lead to inflammation of the lungs when inhaled. Spreading across the surface of the lungs, petroleum can cause systemic toxicity which can be incredibly damaging to your cat’s long-term health.
Petroleum materials (gasoline) may come into contact with a cat’s mouth. An accidental gas spill (or overflow) can cause gas to drip out of the side of the tank. If the gas is eventually licked up by a cat before it evaporates, it could prove fatal.
Chemicals of this potency that come into contact with a cat’s fur can be just as severe. If your cat is sleeping under a car, the release of motor oil can be a further issue. To remove the oil, your cat will groom its fur and poisoning can potentially occur.
The symptoms of gas and oil consumption or inhalation can include the following…
- Difficulty breathing
- Discolored gums
- Leg instability
How to Remove Motor Oil from a Cat’s Fur
If your cat has drops of motor oil on its head, you should clean this area before your cat attempts to remove it.
You can remove motor oil from your cat’s fur by following these simple steps…
- Soak the affected fur with warm water.
- Place a small amount of mildly diluted washing up liquid on the area and scrub with your fingers until a lather has been formed.
- Rinse thoroughly and towel off.
- Gently clip (cut) and remaining fur that contains the slightest trace of oil.
In most cases, this final step won’t be necessary.
How Long Can a Cat Survive Inside of a Car’s Engine?
A cat can survive under a car for several days, perhaps longer. This is based on the proviso that a cat is healthy and has not been injured.
- People Magazine documented the case of a cat that was trapped within the engine of a Lexus for three days. Firefighters removed several parts from the car before rescuing the kitten from the engine compartment. There was also the case of a kitten that was trapped in the undercarriage of a vehicle and traveled 45 miles before being discovered. Uninjured, the cat was removed by an employee from a local tire and auto center.
The New York Post also shared the story of how a cat survived a 50-mile drive while being trapped inside of a truck’s suspension spring. Acting as a mini cage, the cat, although stuck, was safely secured due to the structure and integrity of the spring.
Of course, the majority of cases don’t end well. The exact number of cat injuries and fatalities will never be known.
How to Keep Your Cats Away from Your Car?
Keep your vehicle(s) in your garage (if an option) and your cats inside more often.
The use of a screened patio can be beneficial if your cat’s primarily stay outdoors during the day. This will keep them from entering vehicles while still being able to take advantage of the good weather and fresh air.
If you find your cat under a car, do not panic. Cats are always looking for the next interesting thing. Give it time. The vehicle will likely be a distant memory as soon as something more interesting takes place. You will likely find that cats hide outdoors in many places.