Dear Dr. Sip and Melissa,
A friend was telling me that in colder weather cats and other animals may seek warmth and shelter in the wheel wells or the mechanicals of a recently driven car and then can get injured or worse when someone heads out for a spin again. Is this really a thing?
--Anthony in Buffalo, NY
Melissa: Hey, if I lived in Buffalo, I’d definitely curl up in a warm wheel well if I were stuck outside.
Dr. Sip: In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve unwedged her from a few wheel wells over the years.
Melissa: Anthony, your friend is right, this is a thing. Certainly it’s a more common phenomenon in colder weather, and it’s also more likely our little furry friends are slower to rouse themselves from dreams of catnip mice when they’re cold. And suddenly find themselves catcaked.
Dr. Sip: Ew. But true.
Melissa: Even dogs and various wildlife may take shelter from frostbite in the nooks and crannies of your Ford Explorer. Or BMW.
Dr. Sip: When you return to your car during those cooler months, bang on the hood, slam your door as you get in, honk the horn…
Melissa: Especially if it’s very early and you hate your neighbors.
Dr. Sip: Well... okay, don’t end up with other problems, but make a racket so anyone tucked in with a cup of hot Friskies, the Evening Mews, and their earbuds on realizes it’s time to skeedaddle.
Melissa: Another option for night-time deterrence is to get some of those motion sensor lights and direct them toward where you park. The lights bursting on might just spook off some of your more jumpy visitors.
Dr. Sip: Just don’t count on this working for everyone. You’ll still want to make some noise each time you get ready for a drive.
Melissa: And in any case, don’t tear out like you’re on one of those high-adrenaline detective shows. Take your time, give the family of mice, the opossum, and Frank the odd accountant guy from next door a little time to crawl out and warm up elsewhere.
Dr. Sip: One hopes not tucked into another vehicle.
Melissa: Because, as you may have guessed, animals stuck in car parts may not fare as well as the cute kitty above, and many do die each year.
Dr. Sip: So give your hood a good-luck “whack." Tell your neighbors ever since you started doing that, karma has been in your favor and parking spaces just open up in front of you wherever you go.
Melissa: The old hood whack is SURE to catch on then!
More about Dr. Sip (who is a practicing vet in Berkeley, CA) and Trainer Melissa (who wrote “Considerations for the City Dog”) can be found here.