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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cat Vs. Fan Belt

As the weather in the Northern Hemisphere gets cooler, everyone needs to be aware of a very tragic possibility.  When temperatures drop, cats will often dry to find warm, dry places.  This all too commonly includes a car's engine.  The cat will climb up into it from underneath and make themselves cozy.  The person doesn't notice the cat there until the engine is turned on and the cat gets caught in the fan belt or other moving parts.  And this can be a very, very bad thing.

Today I saw a cat unfortunate enough to have this happen to her.  She was an indoor cat that had somehow managed to sneak out without the owner knowing.  He got into his truck and drove to his mother's house.  He never knew that she was in the engine until he turned the motor off and heard her screaming.  They had to literally take apart the engine to get her out, and they're not sure if it will ever run properly again.  She was rushed into my clinic and brought straight back to me.

As soon as I saw her I knew it wouldn't be good or easy.  I have heard of cats that have literally been cut in half in situations like this, and thankfully that wasn't the case here.  But part of her tail had been chopped off and her left hind leg was a mess.  The tibia (long bone in the lower leg) was shattered and completely exposed, with marrow missing from the center.  The skin and muscle was stripped from the bone from the upper leg down to the ankle, and I could see the bones in the ankle joint.  Several of her teeth were chipped, likely from her chewing at the engine.  The claws on all her paws were torn and bloodied by her attempts to escape.  There may have been internal injuries, but I couldn't see anything else at first glance.

Even given all of that there was a chance of saving her.  She would have had to be stabilized first, as she was in shock, and then had her leg and tail amputated.  If there were no other injuries, she could have ben okay.  However, she was looking at close to $2000 worth of medical care in the next 24 hours, and this wasn't a financial possibility.  In the end, we elected to euthanize her, as there was no way she could survive without extensive care and surgery.

This is a tragic accident, and one that is difficult to prevent.  It's hard to check your engine every time, but try to be aware of the possibility.