When you’re out on an adventure with your cat, it may be tempting to make a stop on your way home to grab a gallon of milk or that pack of batteries you really need, but if your cat can’t accompany you on that errand, it’s best to drop kitty off at home first. You should never leave your cat alone in the car, especially on days with extreme hot or cold temperatures.
On summer days, the temperature inside a car can get as hot as 120 degrees in mere minutes. Heatstroke is a real probability for cats — even in the shade — and high temperatures can cause irreparable organ damage.
And just because it feels comfortable outside to you doesn’t mean it stays that way in the car for your fur-covered friend. Even on cooler days, a cat’s temperature can rise around 40 degrees within an hour, most of which occurs within the first thirty minutes. Cracking the windows does little to nothing to stop the temperature from rising.
Leaving your cat in the car during non-summer months can also be extremely hazardous to your pet’s health and safety. In cooler temperatures, a car can act as a refrigerator, which means your cat could freeze to death. Kittens and senior cats are even more susceptible to cold environments, and cold weather can also exacerbate any medical conditions your cat may have, especially arthritis.
“I can tell you leaving any pet alone in a car is a bad idea,” said Jo Blanton, adoptions manager of Richmond Animal League in Richmond, Virginia. “Even on a cool day, the temperature in a car could be hazardous to a cat.”
Even with the vehicle running and the AC or heat on, it doesn’t guarantee your cat’s safety, so limit your cat’s car travel and never leave your pet unattended in the vehicle.
What to do if you see a cat left alone in a vehicle
Twenty-two states have laws against leaving pets in vehicles — or at least offer immunity to Good Samaritans who rescue animals from cars. Laws and statutes vary by state and even by local ordinances though, so be sure to familiarize yourself with laws in your area.
If you see a cat — or any animal — left alone in a vehicle, there are steps you can take to help them.
- Take down the license plate and the make and model of the vehicle.
- If you’re in a parking lot of a store or business, ask a manager to make an announcement to find the pet’s owner.
- Call animal control or the non-emergency number for the local police department, and stay with the car until help arrives.