‘Brrr’ months are also the ‘purrfect’ time for cats to shelter in your car’s engine bay: Here’s how to keep them out

The days are getting colder, and not only humans are feeling this snuggle-able weather, but animals as well, particularly cats.

In the coming months, stray or street cats (which many call “pusakals”, short for “pusang kalye”) will seek warmer shelter. Some will find comfortable accommodations under your car—bigger cats tend to simply stay directly under the vehicle, while the smaller ones may perch themselves on top of tires. Kittens and juveniles, however, can manage to squeeze into the engine bay, and these are the most problematic ones when it’s time for you to go.

While cats resting under your car or on your tires can be easily spotted, not so with kittens sleeping under the hood. Needless to say, there are horrific consequences for kittens trapped in running engines. We’re sure you’d also not want such a terrible fate to befall such innocent creatures.

Here are some tips on how to safely and humanely get cats and kittens to move out of the engine, and out of the way, when you need to use your car.

1. Make it a habit to check around and inside your car before you start the engine.

Photo credit: TessDrive PH

This may be a difficult habit to form, especially if you’re frequently in a hurry. But it will only take less than a minute of your time to make sure no cats are under or inside your car. Be on the lookout, especially, for cats directly in the path of the tires. Pop the hood and peer inside the engine bay to make sure no kittens are sleeping there. Use a flashlight if necessary.

2. Before starting the engine, honk your car horn.

Photo credit: Cottonbro

Whether you see a cat or not in and around your car, briefly honk your car horn to make sure no cats approach the car as you start your engine. Loud sounds deter cats, and honking your horn may also startle kittens hiding inside the engine bay, enough to make them jump out and away from the car.

3. Tap your hood, too

Photo credit: Sleepi Alleyne

Another way to make cats and kittens move away from the car is to tap firmly and loudly on your car’s hood. You can do the same on specific points around your car’s body, like above the wheel well, beside the trunk, etc.

4. Use food to lure them out.

Photo credit: Karen Laårk Boshoff

When you do spot a kitty inside your engine area, you can use cat food to lure them out. Sardines can usually do the trick. Place the food near the kitty, so it can smell it more quickly.

5. Use water, but don’t spray.

If food doesn’t work, then get some clean water and gently pour it on the area where the kitten is hiding. Never use powerful water sprays or hoses, as the volume and force of the water spewing out may harm the kitten’s frail body, and may force the poor thing to stay put.

6. When all else fails, you will have to actually reach in and pull the kitten out.

Photo credit: Malte Luk

It’s a hassle, indeed, but the alternative—leaving the cat in to die there—is just unthinkable. So, just make sure you’re also in protective gear during the extraction. Wear gloves impenetrable to clawing and biting, especially when handling feral cats or stray kittens.

7. Try spraying areas off limits to cats with a simple homemade mix of white vinegar, lemon juice, and fresh rosemary.

Photo credits: Cottonbro, Ksenia Chernaya, Karolina Grabowska

Cats are known to despise the scent of white vinegar, citrus, and rosemary leaves. Also, these three substances are safe to use. You can spray this on cloth or rags, and place them in the crawl spaces kittens would most likely use to get into your car’s engine bay.  

How about you, what’s your trick to get cats and kittens out of your car’s engine bay? Do share your tips in our comments section.

Lemon credit Cottonbro; Vinegar credit Ksenia Chernaya; Rosemary credit Karolina Grabowska; Sardines credit Karen Laårk Boshoff; Car hood credit Sleepi Alleyne; Crawling under credit Malte Luk; Car horn credit Cottonbro