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My Pet World: Develop this winter-time habit to save pets' lives

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I have a sad story to share. I feed two feral cats in my neighborhood. I have gotten them fixed and look out for them every day. When we got the big freeze a few weeks ago, the temperatures dropped to single digits.

I was worried sick about where they would sleep those nights. I even put a chicken coop heater on the patio to offer them and any other animal warmth. The good news is, they survived the big freeze and continued to show up at our door each night for food. It was such a relief.

But then the unthinkable happened. On Christmas Day, we left the house to visit some friends. On the way, we heard a thump and thought we had hit an animal. So, we turned the car around and discovered the animal lying in the middle of the road was one of our feral cats. Apparently, he had gotten into the wheel well for warmth, and we didn't know this when we drove off. He fell out of the wheel well, and, we hope beyond hope, he was killed instantly. We were devastated to lose one of these feral felines in such a traumatic way.

Someone told me a few days later that when it's cold outside, you should hit the hood of your car to scare out any animals that may have crawled into your car engine for warmth. I didn't know to do this and assume others don't either. Can you share this story? Maybe it will prevent this from happening to other animals. It's just devastating to have something like this happen.

— Patricia, Nashville, Tennessee


Dear Patty,

I am so sorry to hear about your loss, and on Christmas day, no less. I actually shared your story with several family members and friends and was surprised to learn that they didn't know either that they should hit the hood of their car to scare an animal out of the engine.

Apparently, this is not common knowledge as I hoped. As you point out, an animal also can crawl into a wheel well, so all parts of the car should be knocked on before starting the engine. So, yes, I am sharing your story in the hopes that people living in cold weather will begin implementing this life-saving habit before starting their car.

People with a remote starter for their cat also need to think about this since turning on a car engine from a distance prevents one from banging on the vehicle. If there is a remote horn or alarm, one should activate that to scare an animal out from under the vehicle.


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