What to do if you find a dead cat

Our expert guide tells you all you need to know

Finding a dead cat, whether in a road traffic accident or in your garden or grounds, can be a distressing experience. While difficult to face, there is likely to be an anxious owner looking for their beloved pet or at the very least, peace of mind. If you have found a cat and you’re concerned about what to do next, take a look at our expert guide for more advice.

How can I tell if a cat is dead or injured?

In most cases, it will be obvious that a cat has died. If the cat is found curled up or stretched out in a shed or garden, however, it can be difficult to tell. As upsetting as it may be to look for these signs, knowing what to look for could ensure a cat receives urgent medical attention if needed.

Checking for signs of life

● Look for signs of breathing. Is the cat’s chest moving up and down and can you see the cat’s stomach move?

● Look at the cat’s eyes to see if they are open. Cat’s eyes usually remain open after death, since it requires muscle control to keep them closed. Its pupils may appear larger than usual if it has died. To check whether the cat is unconscious, try shining a light briefly in the cats’ eye. If the pupil’s react, the cat is unconscious but still alive

If the cat is injured

If the cat is unconscious, getting them to a vet urgently should be your priority. Phone the vet in advance so they know you are on your way and can prepare. Wrap them in a warm blanket or towel to keep them warm on the journey, being careful that you don’t cover their head. You can also report an injured animal to the RSPCA in England and Wales or its equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland. The vet may also ask you to contact the RSPCA if you are in England or Wales to get a log number so the RSPCA will pay some of the cost.

● RSPCA – 0300 1234 999
● SSPCA – 03000 999 999 (Scotland)
● USPCA – 028 3025 1000 (Northern Ireland)

Approaching an injured cat

● Be careful of your surroundings, especially if you’re approaching a cat at the roadside. Watch out for busy traffic, or anything else that might put you in danger

● If you’re walking towards an injured cat, be careful. It may be scared and might try to bite or scratch you

● You’ll need something to put the cat into to transport them to the vets. While a cat carrier is ideal, a cardboard box with an old blanket or clothing will do. Remember – always pick up a cat with a blanket to shield you from its claws

I've found a dead cat in my garden. What should I do next?

If you find a dead cat in your garden or grounds, it is you, as the homeowner, that is ultimately responsible for the cat. For the peace of mind of the owner, it is important that you take them to your local vet to check for a microchip.

Wrap the cat in an old blanket or place them in a cardboard box to transport them to the vet. The vet will be able to contact the owners to let them know their cat has been found if they are microchipped and they are usually prepared to look after the body even if there is no chip.

I have hit a cat while driving. What should I do?

Unfortunately, accidents do happen. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having hit a cat with your car, you’ll need to know what to do next. What should you do if you run over a dead cat?

The Road Traffic Act 1988 only gives rules around certain types of animals: dogs, goats, horses, cattle, donkeys, sheep and pigs. If you hit one of these animals with your vehicle, you are required by law to report it to the police.

If you hit an animal not included in the current law, such as a cat, you’re not legally required to report it but may wish to contact the police. Whether you choose to report the accident or not, you should follow the necessary steps to ensure the cat’s owner is notified.

If the cat is alive or you are not sure, follow the advice in the ‘injured cat’ section above.

If the cat is dead, follow these five steps.

● Move the cat to safety

● Take the cat to the nearest vet, transporting them in a box or old blanket or clothing

● The vet will be able to scan the cat for a microchip and contact the owner to let them know if the cat is chipped

● If you’re unable to visit your local vet, get in contact with your local Cats Protection, who may be able to help identify the cat. You can find your nearest branch or centre by typing in your postcode at www.cats.org.uk/find-us

● If you cannot take the cat to a vet or local Cats Protection, you can report any dead animals you find on the road to the local council. www.gov.uk/report-dead-animal

Grief Support Service

The loss of a cat affects everyone differently – even if the cat wasn’t owned by you. If you’re struggling to cope with your emotions or need advice, get in touch with our Paws to Listen Grief Support Service.


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