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Fan Belt Injury in Cats

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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To a cat that finds himself outdoors in cold weather, there may be nothing more inviting than the coziness of an automobile that has just returned home. The engine provides plenty of warmth and seems like the perfect place to curl up and take a nap.

Unfortunately, you can't see the cat snoozing on the engine and when you turn on the ignition, you may hear an abnormal sound coming from your engine as well as screams from your cat. After immediately turning off your car and opening the hood, you may find a traumatized and potentially seriously injured cat. The primary source of this trauma is from the fan belt as it begins rotating at top speed.

A variety of injuries can occur to the cat by the fan belt. Lacerations throughout the body is very common. Often, bones can be fractured and skin can be torn off the body. If the belt or some other part of the engine strikes the head, significant head trauma and brain swelling can occur. Lungs can be bruised leading to difficulty breathing. Severe trauma to the face can occur as well as penetrating abdominal wounds. In a few cases, the fan belt may even amputate a leg or may cause so much damage that the injured part of the body will need surgical amputation.

What You Can Do

The first thing to do if you suspect your cat may be in the engine is to turn off the engine. Open the hood and try to locate the cat. Sometimes, cats will still be on the motor and easy to remove. Other times, the cat may be trapped within the engine and you may even have to dismantling some of the engine to remove him. In a few cases, cats fall to the ground and frantically run off. Do not assume that just because the cat ran away that he is not injured. It is very important to find your cat as soon as possible.

After removing or capturing the cat, take him directly to your family veterinarian or local emergency facility. Even though he may look normal, internal damage may have occurred. Immediate examination and treatment is crucial.

Prevention

As you walk by your vehicle, knock on the hood a couple of times. This is a good idea any time of the year but is especially important in the winter. Another option is to honk your horn before starting the engine. This will often scare the cat out of the motor. This is most important is within a few hours after you have returned home and the engine has not had a chance to cool.

If you see your cat walking around, you can probably assume that it is safe to start your engine. But, be aware that your cat is not the only one looking for a cozy napping area. Neighborhood cats may also find your car irresistible.

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