On the night of 29th of April, 2017 our Red Point Siamese Henry was killed by a car in front of our house. Even though he was wearing a collar with all our details on his tag, he was left to die alone – the driver did not stop. A few years earlier, a fluffy white boy named Snowy didn’t come home. After months of searching, his family pieced together through neighbours and other witnesses that he had been run over, then picked up by the council binmen and taken to landfill – he was microchipped.
Normally, these two incidents would not end up in the mainstream news. These stories would not be talked about beyond the sphere of close friends and family, and when discussed, would even be met with comments such as, ‘Well, that’s just what happens.’ Or, ‘It’s just a cat.’
But not this time. This time, I wrote this viral blog to the driver who killed Henry. It was off the back of this blog that Mandy Lowe (Snowy’s owner), who had been campaigning for years for compulsory microchip scanning from all councils, contacted me and a few months later, the official CatsMatter movement was born.
Our campaign’s ultimate goal is to challenge UK law surrounding cat’s welfare on UK roads, because all cats matter. We continuously liaise with MPs and Government Departments and work tirelessly towards making it illegal for drivers to leave the scene without reporting if they hit a cat. We also call for it to be mandatory for all councils to scan every cat found and notify the owners, as well as spreading this message far and wide, in the hope of changing driver mind-sets that it is ‘just a cat’.
Scoff if you must, but the grief we feel after the loss of a cat is every bit as painful as that felt after losing a human, so why are drivers and councils leaving and binning our cats as if they are nothing? You wouldn’t see that with a dog, or certainly not a human. But cats, well… I guess society says it’s ok. But we are here to say it isn’t.
In general, there needs to be more awareness and consideration towards cats on roads. If not because they are much-loved, integral parts of people’s families, then for the simple fact that if drivers were more vigilant in looking out for cats, they would be far less likely to put many other vulnerable road users, like children, the elderly, the disabled and cyclists, at risk.
According to figures released from Petplan in 2005/6, drivers in the UK hit 630 cats every day – and those are just the ones we know about. Petplan’s research also found 35% of drivers admitted to either hitting or nearly missing a cat, and three out of four drivers confessed to having no idea what to do if they were to hit a cat. 13% admitted that they would leave the cat for dead – though the campaigners at CatsMatter believe this particular statistic to be higher in reality, based on our own canvassing and campaign experience.
Hitting a cat with your car isn’t just a traumatic event for a driver. It unquestionably is for the cat and it certainly will be for the person (or people) who love him or her – but how a driver handles that situation will determine the degree of trauma experienced by all parties involved. Does a driver want to spend the rest of their life wondering if they could have saved the cat they hit, or done something differently? Do they want the idea of the poor animal’s family searching the streets, seeing the cat’s missing posters on social media and through the towns – knowing that they are responsible for this prolonged agony and have done nothing to ease the owner’s suffering? If they have a heart, the chances are probably not.
We believe that most drivers are inherently good people, and more often than not, it is a combination of panic at having to come face-to-face with the scene (as well as confronting the owner afterwards), coupled with a general lack of knowledge about what the correct protocol or moral thing to do would be after hitting a cat, that leads so many to make the most destructive decision: to drive off and do nothing.
Drivers also need to be held lawfully accountable. If only because where empathy fails, a hefty fine or other legal consequence may serve as an adequate reminder that, though they may not think much of killing a cat, society certainly does and has deemed it wrong to do so and not report it.
The way that both drivers react, and many of our local councils treat our beloved cats after road traffic accidents is an epidemic and it needs to change.
CatsMatter works to do just that. As a 100% non-profit, grassroots organisation, we exist solely on the support of likeminded people who volunteer, donate and buy campaign materials from our online shop. If you would like to get involved, please visit the website or email us here.