Home Life Style I didn’t stop when I hit a cat. Is that really that horrible?

I didn’t stop when I hit a cat. Is that really that horrible?

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Under section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, a driver must stop and report accidents involving specified animals, including horses, cows, sheep, pigs, goats and dogs, but not cats.

Last year, I was driving along a country road in Cheshire around midday on a sunny day, to visit my grandparents, when I accidentally hit a cat.

The red-and-white cat appeared from a field and began running along the grass verge on the opposite side of the road adjacent to my car.

If it had looked like it was going to hit the road, I would have slowed down to avoid it. Instead, he seemed about to return to the field.

So it was a shock when the cat suddenly crossed both lanes and I felt a thud as it passed under the rear wheel. The noise and the way the car shook told me he most likely wouldn’t have survived.

Under section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, a driver must stop and report accidents involving specified animals, including horses, cows, sheep, pigs, goats and dogs, but not cats.

I say “most likely” because I didn’t stop to find out. I simply continued my journey.

No doubt some will call me heartless, including my animal-loving wife, whose initial reaction was mortification when I told her.

But my main reason for not stopping was that this occurred on a blind curve on a country road, so it would not have been safe for me (or other drivers) if I had stopped my car.

That said, if it had been a dog, I would have 100 percent stopped, even if it meant stopping further down the road and walking back.

Partly out of legal obligation, but also because I see dogs differently than cats. After all, dogs are man’s best friends. Cats, on the other hand, always seem distant and less adorable to me.

If cat owners want their pets to roam freely, as most seem to do, they must accept the inherent risk of them taking advantage of our roads or elsewhere.

Accidents like mine are no reason to criticize drivers, whether we stop or not. After all, I had no legal obligation to stop. Under section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, a driver must stop and report accidents involving specified animals, including horses, cows, sheep, pigs, goats and dogs, but not cats or wild animals.

According to Cats Matter, a group that campaigns on this issue, around 230,000 cats die each year in road traffic accidents in the UK, leading many people to call for a change in the law, believing that if drivers were legally required to stop, then the lives of many people could be saved. But it’s not that drivers deliberately target cats; accidents happen.

At home that night, my wife couldn’t understand why I didn’t stop to check on the poor cat’s well-being. Once she knew where the accident occurred, she was more understanding. However, she commented that if she had been with me, she would have insisted that I stop when it was safe, so she could run back to check it out.

I’m not alone in my cat’s hit and run. A hot topic on Mumsnet recently was divided opinion over whether it’s reasonable not to stop if you hit a cat with your car: 53 per cent said yes. Ironically, of those who said they would stop, some would only do so in an attempt to locate the owner so they could pay for the damage to the vehicle, and I can understand that.

cat owners

Cat owners “should be realistic about the risk of traffic accidents,” writes an anonymous contributor

Because just as cat owners have to accept that other people may feed their stray cat or spray it with water to dirty their garden, they also have to be realistic about the risk of traffic accidents.

If none of this makes you comfortable, then the only answer is to treat a cat as you would a dog, keeping it with you at all times, leashed in public, and only allowing it to roam on your own property.

You may think my attitude is cold. However, I felt really bad knowing that I had hurt an animal, especially one that was probably someone’s beloved pet.

I didn’t mention the cat when I got to my grandparents’ house for fear of disturbing them, but I checked my car for damage; Fortunately, it was fine, except for a small scratch on the hubcap.

To those who say I got my priorities wrong, I would say that it would have been dangerous (for me and other drivers) to swerve, brake hard, or cause a hazard by stopping. I did what I felt was right at the time and I have no regrets.

  • As told to Sadie Nicholas

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