With temperatures plunging below zero in the Portland area, I’ve been bundling up in layers of clothes. Unfortunately, our animal companions that live outside cannot. Cats have fur, which gets thicker during the winter months to keep them warm, but during these frigid days their fur is often not enough. Cold weather forces cats to seek refuge in many places, including under the car hood. However, finding warmth under the car hood places cats in a very dangerous position. If you start your engine while the cat is present, he or she could be at serious risk of injury or even death.

There is a simple way to prevent this from happening: bang on the car hood or honk the horn before starting the engine. This gives the cat time to escape. I recently read of an incident in Portland where a homeless cat was killed by the fan belt as it sought refuge under the hood. Also, check the top of every wheel before starting your car. Outdoor cats may have tucked themselves away in the wheel well as they seek protection from the snow, wind, and subzero temperatures. Following these simple steps may save a cat’s life.