Can cats ever be safe when left to roam outdoors. Pete the Vet on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

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Road safety in pets in winter

After losing my own cat Aslan last week to a road accident, I have been reflecting on what can be done to reduce the risk of it happening to other cats.  Road traffic accidents are the most common cause of death and injury in cats, especially young cats who may have not yet learned how to stay clear of passing cars. We had been aware of this risk to Aslan – our house is 100 yards away from the road, and we have kept four cats for the past fifteen years with no road injuries, so we felt that the risk was low.

We did realise that the biggest risk would be the hours of darkness, when it’s less easy for drivers to see cats, so we kept him in every night – he slept at the end of our bed. (His accident happened at 10am, on a bright day, so as it happened, visibility did not pay a role in his demise).

We also knew that an indoors-only life is the safest way for cats, but that type of restricted life is not as much fun for cats, and indoor cats suffer from a higher incidence of stress-related illnesses. Aslan loved being outside, and so we had given him the freedom to do as he pleased during the hours of daylight, and that sadly came at a price.

We had never seen him on our driveway, nor anywhere near the main road, so we had not thought there was a significant threat.
He had been edgy whenever a car drove up the driveway, running away from moving vehicles, so we also thought that he had sufficient wariness of traffic that he would stay well away from a busy road.

With hindsight, of course, after a tragedy it is very easy to think through things again. Aslan had been seen in a neighbouring housing estate, so we had known that as a young adult cat he was beginning to extend the range of his territory. I had planned to use a collar GPS device to track his movements. Perhaps if I’d done that we might have realised that he was starting to get dangerously close to a busy road and we could have done more to keep him in.

All cat owners should think about the lifestyles of their pets and perhaps take some steps to reduce the risk of a road accident. However it is difficult if a cat is going to be allowed to go out and about. You cannot completely control their movements.

In winter, the darker mornings and evenings make it more likely that pedestrians – including dogs and cats – may be hit by cars
It’s worth improving visibility of pets on the roads – and this can be done very simply

  • Put a reflective collar around your cat’s neck
  • Reflective collar/lead/ flashing light/ for dogs
  • Reflective collar/ flashing light around arm for the person walking the dog
  • Also make sure that you have a strong, short leash so that your dog does not dash unexpectedly into traffic

It doesn’t take long to do these things, and it can prevent an injury, or even save a life

Questions about pets from listeners

  • I have a 9 year old white cat who gets open sores on her face. I have tried steroids and antihistamines and they worked for a time but now it has broken out very badly and I can’t seem to clear it up. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Maureen
  • We have goldfish in a pond out the back garden, we got them this summer. I heard that they live deep down in the pond during winter to avoid the really cold surface – is that true? If so, how do we feed them?
  • Would Pete recommend getting a budgie for our family? The kids would like a pet, but we don’t think we could dedicate the time to a dog, and my wife hates cats! Do budgies need a lot of care and attention?
  • Both of my 10 week old kittens have webbed front paws and Their claws seem to stick out at an angle. Is this likely to cause health problems down the line? Also, what is the best age to have them spayed?
  • Pete I have a serious question, can I goldfish swim backwards! My fish Fred is a lively thing but notice that he is bumping into the side of the bowl and moving backward very quickly would there be something wrong with his fins?
  • My son wants to buy a tarantula spider I am shaking as I type this as I am so frightened of any creepy crawlies, any advice of feeding, living conditions etc, Susie

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