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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.


  1. Where do you look for the cat?

  2. You just have to look around good in the engine. Lift the hood and try to make some noise and it may scare the cat out.

  3. Hopefully, electric cars will make this a thing of the past (no belts, water pumps, etc)...

  4. This seems to have happened to my cat 3 weeks ago. His stomach was cut, and his hind leg. After 2 hours of surgery, and antibiotics, we couldn't kick the fever he had. Turns out he has gotten MRSA. His injuries opened up again, in places, and his iron and white blood cell count was low last week, and no new white blood cells seemed to be forming. But when they found out (Friday) that it was MRSA, they started him on a better antibiotic, and this Monday (today) his fever was down at last. I don't know if this means he is not contageous anymore. I hope his iron and white blood cells are going back to normal. It has cost us about 2000 dollars, too. Or will soon. Am concerned about how safe it is for our children to pat him at this time. And how long the germs live in the house.

    I want to bang on the hood of the car before I get in. Just need to make a new habit.

  5. This just happened to my poor cat. We had a bad thunderstorm and he was hiding in my husbands truck engine. He got stuck in the belt and It broke his front and back left leg. He managed to escape into a nearby bush. It was pouring rain and my hubby couldn't find him. I work for a vet and asked if I could go hunt him down. When I found him, the poor baby was mangled and in shock. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do, and he had to be euthanized. :'(


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