Poking about on the internet, it looks like on the average day in the UK, 630 cats are hit by cars. As far as I know, cars are the major killers of cats in the UK. For the cat who goes out unsupervised, there’s also the risk of getting injured in fights with other cats, catching diseases from them, getting lost, getting stolen, getting mistreated by humans… a cat out alone is facing a number of risks.
Cats aren’t great for the local wildlife, killing birds, small mammals, amphibians, slow worms… I’ve lived with cats who hunted, and the amount of wildlife a young cat can get through, is troubling. Keeping cats inside at night really helps with this and means you will never face surprise entrails first thing in the morning.
The cat who goes out on a lead, with a person, is a lot safer than the cat who goes out alone. The cat on a lead also has very little scope for killing wildlife. It’s also a lot of fun, and gives you meaningful time with your cat. I don’t know why people assume cats want to be independent – in my experience, cats love attention and often like doing things with their people. If they aren’t bored, they aren’t so motivated to hunt or get in fights.
I routinely encounter people who tell me either their cat would never put up with a lead, or that they tried it once and it didn’t work. Cats are complicated creatures, but mostly it comes down to which one of you is most determined. Cats can be trained, because they can be persuaded that something is in their interests. Given how dangerous cars are for cats, I’m surprised there aren’t more people exploring leads for cats.
Cats of course are only a percentage of the number of creatures killed on roads every day. Cars take a terrible toll on wildlife and domestic creatures alike. The RSPB reckon cats kill 27 million birds a year in the UK, which is appalling, but they also say that there’s no real evidence these deaths contribute to bird population declines. More over here if you want to dig in – https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/animal-deterrents/cats-and-garden-birds/are-cats-causing-bird-declines/
Cars also kill about 30 million birds a year, but these are likely to be healthy, active birds while there’s reason to think cats tend to take birds who weren’t so viable anyway.
In both cases, these are causes of death that have everything to do with human choices and human behaviour. We could do a lot to reduce cats killing wildlife, and cars killing wildlife.
Speed is a major factor here. It always is when it comes to road accidents. At a slower speed, you stop in a shorter distance. You’ve got more time to notice and avoid hitting someone. At a lower speed you do less damage and the impact is more survivable. Cars kill and injure a lot of humans, too.
So many drivers routinely treat getting there a bit sooner as more important than the risk of death or injury to themselves or others. I see it a lot as a pedestrian. No doubt sometimes this is because of the pressure people are under, and the dire implications of not being on time – lost jobs, benefit sanctions etc. But none of this is really necessary. So many road deaths and road injuries should be avoidable, if only we had a culture that put care first.