Cats often seek solace from their daily concerns. If your cat roams outdoors, it may sleep or hide underneath a car. This will be a warm and safe place, in the cat’s mind. Unfortunately, it can also be dangerous. You need to tempt your cat out before it gets run over or hurt in some way.
You need to get your cat out from under the car into a cat carrier. Tempt the cat with treats and enticing smells. If this does not work, appeal to your cat’s hunting instincts. Draw the cat into the carrier using toys. If the cat is stubborn, physically shepherd it. Scaring the cat so it bolts into the carrier is always the last resort.
Drawing a cat out of hiding under a car is not easy. You will need patience and a delicate, tactile approach. The key is ensuring the cat feels it is exchanging one safe place for another. If handled with delicacy, the cat will willingly leave its hiding place underneath a car.
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Why Do Cats Hide Under Cars?
Cats seek shelter under cars, especially during cold seasons. The space will be tight, warm, and protected. You will also find that some cats escape the excessive warmth of the sun by hiding under cars in the summer.
The smell of the car may also be appealing. Cats are natural explorers, and a car’s tires will carry the scent of unclaimed territory. This will pique a cat’s curiosity and inspire it to learn more about new areas.
Of course, there are significant dangers involved. For a start, not all drivers check under their car before starting an engine in the morning. Even if a collision with the car’s tires is avoided, there are other risks:
- The heat of the car could cause burns
- Proximity to a car exhaust risks carbon monoxide poisoning
- Cars leak oil and other toxic substances that could be ingested
- If startled by the engine, a sleeping cat may rush into oncoming traffic
This means that a cat should be coaxed out from under a car. While it is true that the cat will grow hungry eventually, cats can be stubborn. It could be hours, or even days, before the cat leaves its hiding place.
Getting a Cat from Underneath a Car
You’ll need a cat trap that is warm, secure, and enticing to the senses. The best cat trap you can use is a cat carrier. Pad this carrier with blankets, and spray a familiar scent inside the carrier. If your cat has a blanket, use that.
Place your carrier as close as possible to the car. One of the biggest appeals of hiding under a car is that it’s a source of protection. Your cat can only just squeeze under the car. A larger predator will not be able to reach them. Leaving security for wide, open space is unappealing.
Attempt to capture your cat after dark, wherever possible. The roads will likely be quieter at this time. In addition, cats prefer to move undetected. Darkness offers a measure of protection.
Your first approach should always be to ‘tempt’ a cat out of hiding. The cat will not feel threatened, and you will not be attacked. Food and scent are the most effective ways to tempt a cat out of its hiding place.
Cats are food-focused. As mentioned, it is best to tempt a cat out of hiding after dark. This suggests that your cat missed dinner. This will often be enough for a cat to be guided by its stomach.
Prepare your cat’s favorite meal. Make it especially tasty by drizzling a strong-smelling flavoring onto the meal. Tuna juice is often popular with felines, as is meaty gravy. Ensure the food is an appropriate temperature, then place it in the carrier.
At this point, walk away. Cats are smart. No matter how hungry it is, a cat will never willingly walk into a trap. If the cat sees or smells you nearby, it will know what you are doing.
You could also create a trail of treats into the carrier. Be careful with this. You need enough food to tempt the cat, but not too many. If the cat’s appetite is sated by treats, it will have no desire to eat again.
Get a safe distance away and prepare to be patient. Your cat may not succumb to temptation for hours. You are now engaged in a battle of wills.
When your cat eventually caves, leave it to start eating – but close the carrier quickly. If you are too slow, the cat will return to its place under the car. It has a full stomach and a warm, quiet place to sleep off its meal. In a cat’s mind, life does not get much better.
For some cats, their powerful nose will overpower hunger. You could try tempting your cat with a favored scent. Catnip is usually a winner. If your cat enjoys this herb, it may find the scent irresistible. Other scents that cats frequently enjoy include:
- Valerian root
- Familiar scents from the home (blankets, used litter, etc)
Just be aware, there will also be a strong scent under the car. The engine, tires and surrounding streets will all carry aromas. A cat’s nose can tell these scents apart, but unfamiliarity could make local smells more enticing.
2/ Stimulating Hunting Instincts
If your cat is untempted by food or scent, try toys and entertainment. If your cat has a high prey drive, it will not be able to resist hunting.
This should be a style of toy that your cat enjoys playing with. This could be a fishing rod or a wind-up mouse. You could try a familiar favorite, but your cat will likely to wise to this trick. According to Applied Animal Behavior Science, cats can grow bored with familiar toys.
Dangle this toy in front of the crate and be prepared to move quickly. As soon as the cat follows the toy into the trap, close it up. Reward the cat quickly. You do not want the cat to become suspicious of playtime.
If this does not work, you could try allowing your cat to hunt you personally. Walk in front of the car a few times, then back away. There is no sport in hunting you when so close. If you walk away, the cat may be tempted into following.
3/ Physical Shepherding
If a cat will not be tempted by stimulation, you may need to herd it out. This is a fine art. You must make the cat feel like it is choosing to move of its own volition. If the cat feels it is being shepherded, instinctive stubbornness will kick in. The cat will refuse to be moved.
Never reach in and grab a cat by the paws to drag it out. You’ll struggle to make a connection. The cat will not, though. You will be clawed and bitten before the cat retreats out of reach. If you do grab the cat, you risk causing injury to the legs dragging it forcefully.
Do not attempt to crawl under the car yourself. You are placing yourself in danger by doing so. In addition, this will frighten the cat. You are invading its supposed safe space. Most cats consider attack to be the best defense. You will be clawed, and lack space to defend yourself.
Start by attempting to create a path for your cat to move into the carrier. Slide two pieces of wood, or another material, under the car. If your cat can go nowhere else, it will grow bored and walk into the carrier.
If this does not work, gently slide the wood in various locations. Do not prod and poke your cat directly. The cat will panic and feel attacked. If it notices a slow-moving intruder, the cat may move of its own accord. This is not ideal, but better than the cat staying put.
4/ Scare Tactics
Frightening your cat out of its hiding place should be a last resort. This is a risky approach, for a number of reasons. The cat is already likely hiding because it is nervous.
Even if your cat is healthy, scare tactics are rarely effective. It takes a long time to earn a cat’s trust. See things from your cat’s perspective. You are much larger and can sweep the cat off its paws with ease.
A cat does not need additional reasons to fear humans. If your cat sees you as a source of frightening potential, it will avoid you. You will join the vacuum cleaner and fireworks as a natural enemy.
Preparing to Scare a Cat Out of Hiding
According to Progress in Brain Research, a frightened cat’s fight-or-flight reflex will quickly activate. You can expect your cat to react within a second or two of a scare. In most cases, the cat will bolt. You need your cat to run into the carrier.
If your cat flees in the wrong direction, it will not stop running until it feels safe. Depending on how spooked the cat is, this could be some distance. That is assuming the cat does not race headlong into oncoming traffic. Take no chances if you must frighten your cat.
Cover every exit point from the car expect your cat trap. Ideally, block these with solid objects. If this is not an option, call in help. Ask people to act as sentries and prevent the cat from escaping. This will be a challenge – frightened cats can be slippery.
How to Scare a Cat Out of Hiding
You have two options when it comes to scaring a cat out of hiding. You could use noise, or the sudden appearance of an object.
You may recall the, “cats vs. cucumbers” social video craze. Videos of cats jumping out of their skin upon seeing a cucumber briefly became popular. In these instances, it was not the cucumber itself that frightened the cat. It was its sudden appearance. The same will happen if a cat sees anything unexpected through its peripheral vision.
Sneak to the other side of the car, and place something besides the cat. This could be a cucumber, a balloon, an unfamiliar stuffed toy… anything that is large and colorful. All being the well, the cat will run into the trap.
Noise is a little riskier. Loud, sudden noises are among a cat’s biggest stressors. Be mindful of this impact before making a noise to scare your cat. If you decide to do so, the same rules apply. Set up a one-way exit and a make a sudden noise. You could use any of the following:
- A whistle
- A cordless vacuum
- Clapping of the hands
- An air horn
- Hissing or growling
You could also climb into the car and blast the horn. The key is to find an unfamiliar noise that will provoke a fear response. Just remember, cats have excellent hearing. This could be deafening for your cat, causing further distress.
If your cat is hiding under a car, you need to get it out. This is for the cat’s own safety. Just do so as delicately as possible. If your cat is hiding because it’s scared, don’t give it more reason to fear you.