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.