Sad post: you may want to skip this.

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I came to the top of a hill that leads to a curve to the left. I saw the high visibility jackets of several walkers, the right lane was clear, so I signalled and moved out nearly entirely into the right lane to give them room. Something came out from the right side of the road angling toward the walkers. I hit it. It wasn’t a very hard or loud hit, but I knew I had hit whatever it was. I wasn’t sure it was an animal, just something white moving fast. I thought it was a dog, I thought I had run over a dog! I had a coworker driving right behind me (who knew it was me in front) so I indicated for him to follow me and we pulled in at the garage in town (about a half-mile up the road) and I asked him if he saw me hit a dog. He saw something in the road, yes. There was fur on my tire: white fur. I was so shaken I couldn’t keep the car running, I kept stalling it. I went home and asked my husband to drive me as I was really shaken up. My coworker followed to make sure I was okay. I kept thinking: There were walkers, they were right there – they couldn’t have missed it. I thought that if it was a dog and they would have stopped to help, or an owner would have been close.

It wasn’t a dog. It was a cat. For me, that is worse. Cats have always been my first love. It also meant the walkers didn’t care, and left her lying in the road. Cats are legally considered vermin in Ireland.

She glowed stark white in our headlights. We pulled in, I took a deep breath and got out to walk back and face what I had done. Hubby offered, but no – I had to do this.

She was dead. A calico. Mostly white with black and red patches. I felt her neck, no pulse; her ribs moved in not-right-ways. I knew she was gone. There was a tear in her fur and I could see muscle at her elbow, but not much blood – she had died instantly. I couldn’t pick her up, because I didn’t want to see if the damage underneath was worse than on top; because she was still warm and soft. But I took her scruff and pulled her a few feet into the safety of a farmer’s gate. There is no side-of-the-road at all in this stretch of road, hence my moving out so far for the walkers.

She looked well cared-for, not a stray. Sparkling clean white, not skinny, no dirt around her face or ears. Someone’s pet.

I got back in the car, hubby asked should we try to find the owners. Yes. We went to the nearest house. I knocked, stuttered out what happened and described a calico with black and orange patches. Made circles with my shaking hands to show about how big the patches of black and red were. I had to do it twice – once for the man and once for the woman who came to the door. It wasn’t their cat; theirs was in the shed. But they’d lost two cats since they’d lived there, on the road. Maybe the neighbour on the other side of the road? But they thought her cat was black and white, not calico. They rang her. Her cat was out. We saw her flashlight and went back to the car, turned around and went back. The woman I spoke to came down the road with a flashlight, too.

We parked again facing the kitty and an older woman who was looking at her. It was her cat. In the headlights I could suddenly see that what I took for orange patches was blood and wounds. Oh no, no. I hugged the woman and told her how sorry I was.

Kitty’s name was Sheba. She was about six. She was a mostly-wild stray from a hay loft, had been socialised pretty good and was now indoors at lot, but had wanted to go out tonight (right before I came though) “because it was a nice night.” Her owner always made sure she was inside before she went to bed at night. She would have gone looking later if Sheba didn’t come back in. But by then…other cars wouldn’t have left much. That would have been worse. She thanked me for stopping. I offered to help move the body. The other neighbour offered to help move the body. I was still shaking, my mouth tasted of ashes and my fingers smelled of blood.

I immediately hugged both my cats when I got home.

I thought it was a dog, a small aggressive chasing-type like a Jack Russel. I thought it was charging at the walkers. Now I think the strangers walking past scared Sheba and she was running for home and safety. If I hadn’t been in the other lane, she would have made it. Her timing would have been just fine.

But…if she hadn’t been out at all, she would still be alive. If it had been anyone else who had hit her, she’d have been a grey and bloody flattened splotch by the time her owner went looking. I know it is a touchy subject, indoor or outdoor cats. And a stray is especially impossible to keep indoors, even if you want to. I guess if you live right on a road with an 80KPH speed limit (and I was doing it, for a change, the car is having more issues and slower is better), you can’t expect your cats to live a long and healthy life.

But. If you love your cat, and care about other people, too – don’t let them out. Your thinking that kitty is happier running through the fields doesn’t nearly make up for what I’ve been through tonight.

24 responses »

  1. I’m so sorry. I’m glad you stopped. I have also moved cats for the same reason. I can’t see allowing someone’s pet to be maimed any further. I know it’s prob little consolation, but I’m glad she went quickly. (If you read about the deer thing that happened to me a couple of months ago, you’d know why!)
    I sometimes feel horrible about how Methos always wants to escape outside, but this is why I can’t allow that… :/

  2. That must have been tough. One of my cats only goes out in the garden but she can’t jump the fence cos she’s too fat. The other one is still too little to get out but now I’m not so sure we will let her….

  3. I have always dreaded that I would do that, never meaning to and trying as hard as I can not to. I move them when I find them, even inter them when it’s clear there’s no one going to come for them. I wish that kitty a good passage to the Summerlands and peace for you, and blessings as well for finding the grit to do the right thing. That was hard.

    And I read it just after seeing a neighborhood cat scoot across the street and thinking “WHY isn’t that cat kept in?”

  4. Oh, hugs! You stopped. You found her owner. You noted her life and her passing and grieved. You know her name. It is unfair. Thank you for all that. And not leaving her in the road like that. That always bothers me when they are abandoned in the road. Left.
    Respect for living things. You are good. It’s never easy, but you did what you could.
    RC will never go out. I lost one who was a stray who wasn’t quite ready to let go of that outdoor world. Never again.

  5. Poor you. Poor kitty. It’s a fact of life for country cats – and dogs. And kids. I was next on scene after a ginger kitty was hit down in Limerick during the summer. I had to pick the poor thing off the road before he ended up that squidge of tyre tracks, and tell the mum of the house without alerting her little girls to the fact that their kitty was no more.

  6. I’m so sorry. What a tragic experience. But you did more and felt more than most people would have. You searched and found the owner so that she would know what happened. That takes more guts and heart than most would have done.

    You are absolutely right, keep your pets inside, cats or dogs. You took them to raise so take good care of them.

    Again, I am so sorry for the little cat and you. It hurts just as much whether it’s yours or someone else’s.

    • It does hurt. I’ve never been responsible for taking away someone’s pet before. I just knew that If it were my cat, I would want to know, and not find a cold stiff body by myself at midnight in the cold rain. Or not find anything at all, or anything recognisable. No, I didn’t mean to do it, and would change it if I could – but that doesn’t remove my responsibility to the poor kitty. I can’t imagine not looking for the owners. My hubby was wonderful – he offered to do it but when I jumped out of the car first, he stayed behind and let me. I really appreciated that.

  7. Letting cats out is unfortunately quite common here. Not since I moved out since I’m now on a busy street, but just before I had to travel quite a few small streets before reaching for the main street, very early in the morning. I would see cats almost every morning, 2-3 of them, fleeing in my headlights. Sometimes, I have had to stop because they wouldn’t get off the street, being too used to cars to even fear them.

    Once I was sure I had just hit one. Had to break really hard and frightened my brother who was a passenger because I went too close to the side ditch. “Don’t kill us for a cat” he said. I only drove again after I confirmed I didn’t hit him, I saw him in the mirror. I believe he was running some prey. I’m pretty sure the cat discussed my brand of tires with his fellow cats once back home.

    I just hope I never hit one. But for sure you were not responsible. My thought went with the cat and the lady. I just couldn’t write anything when I first read it.

    I break for squirrels which are very common in Montréal too. I once hit a bird on the highway and that was enough to give myself a really bad day.

    “you may want to skip this” You may just as well have a huge red button with a label that reads “do not push”

    • Okay maybe I should have said ‘dead kitty ahead, do not enter?’ But I really couldn’t do that, I needed to write it out.

      It was horrible. I don’t want that to ever happen again. My worst up until this was being forced to run over an already dead, pizza-pie ginger cat because there was traffic and I had nowhere else to go. Even that story didn’t change the mind of an acquaintance here in town who just loves her cats and thinks they need to be outside. Oh yes, one went missing recently. Can’t imagine where it ended up.

Thoughts? Gardening tips? Cocktail recipes? Don't just like and leave, please - I can talk for Ireland and would love to prove it!

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