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Winter and Your Pets: Cats and Cars

By Colleen Williams
published: January 24, 2018 - updated: May 13, 2021 • 2 min. read
keep cats safe in the winter
keep cats safe in the winter

This winter, if you can’t bring your cat inside, keep an eye out for their safety, as well as other cats that may be walking the cold streets. Outdoor resident cats love to spend their time hiding under and in cars, and this can pose serious dangers to them, including injury, suffocation, or even death.

Cats Seek Shelter Under Cars

In cold conditions, cats will often hide underneath parked cars to stay dry from rain and snow. They have also been known to crawl into the engine compartment to seek the warmth of a recently shut off motor. Before you drive off, always check under your car for animals. Kick your foot under the car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine if you know there could be a cat sheltering under your car.

It’s Dangerous Under Cars

Underneath cars can also be a pretty frigid place. Prolonged exposure to the cold can lead to frostbite and hypothermia, both of which are serious and should be treated by a veterinarian. Antifreeze, oil, and coolant can also leak and pool beneath cars, where curious cats may drink from the puddles. Antifreeze poisoning is serious and can lead to death if untreated. Drivers backing out may not see or hear a sleeping feline under a car and accidentally run it over, leading to fractures or death.

Suffocation Can Occur

If a cat is hiding beneath a car and it snows, it can become trapped if more than a few inches of tightly packed snow fall. This can lead to oxygen deprivation and suffocation if the cat cannot escape. A cat that is trapped under a car can also suffocate if the car is turned on and carbon dioxide exhaust takes up what little oxygen is left.

Treatments and Costs of Cold Related Injuries

Frostbite and hypothermia are serious injuries that should be treated by a veterinarian. The treatment of hypothermia includes warming the animal, possibly with internal fluids. Frostbite treatment includes warming of the areas, antibiotics, and possibly amputation. Costs for treatments are about $200 to $400, depending on the extent of the injuries.

In winter it’s extremely important to shelter pets from the elements. However, cats can sometimes prove elusive! The next best thing is to provide safety for your cat, and check under cars for critters and cats. If you see your feline outdoors in the snow or cold temperatures, it’s possible they have frostbite or hypothermia, so try to get them veterinary care. If you spot other cats who may need help, contact a rescue or feral cat organization for local recommendations and advice.

Are you a proud pet parent to a kitty? Then you might want to check out Healthy Paws cat and kitten insurance. From covering the most common accidents and illnesses to being there for the big emergencies, pet health insurance is a great way to make sure your cat gets the best care, no matter the state of your wallet. Even indoor cats can benefit!


colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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