The other day, after driving my car around, my older daughter gave me some news that no car owner wants to hear: “The car is making some strange sounds.”
“Strange sounds” often means that you have to take your car to a garage and get some bad news from a mechanic. And if you’re as clueless as me about cars, the mechanic can tell you just about anything, such as “the front brakes need to be replaced,” “the shock absorbers are not absorbing shocks anymore” and “the cat sitting on the gas tank needs to be removed.”
I’m not sure how much it costs to remove a cat, but Shelby Ingram, a woman in Johnson City, Tennessee, would know. She had been hearing strange sounds from her Toyota Highlander and took the car to a Toyota dealership. An automotive technician removed some panels and spotted a kitten stuck on top of the gas tank. He was able to set the kitten free and the grateful animal thanked him by biting him three times. This incident will undoubtedly result in a new chapter in the next edition of “Auto Repair for Dummies.”
If you own a car, you may think it’s unlikely that you’ll ever have to pay a “cat removal” bill. This may be true, but it’s not just cats you have to worry about: it’s all kinds of animals, including rats, snakes, and even cheetahs. Some of them are looking for shelter in your car, some are seeking food, and some just need a ride and don’t want to pay Uber.
You don’t have to worry about cheetahs in most parts of the world, but if you’re driving through the Serengeti in Tanzania, you may want to keep your windows closed. In March 2018, a cheetah jumped into a Land Cruiser and joined several tourists on their safari. The tourists tried their best to not look frightened, and the cheetah eventually jumped out of the car, obviously pleased that it could give its fellow cheetahs a first-hand report on the growing market of ride-sharing.
Finding a cheetah in your car can be quite scary, but no more frightening than discovering a snake in your engine compartment. If this happens to you, it’s wise not to drive your car to a garage. Instead, use your phone to do a search for “snake charmers in my area.”
This is what a man in Odisha, India, did in July 2020 when a seven-foot cobra crawled into the engine of his parked car. A snake charmer managed to charm the snake out of the car and release it into a nearby forest. I’m not sure how much a snake charmer charges for extracting a snake, but I presume it’s not as much as my dentist charges for an extraction.
When it comes to unexpected expenses, the animal that produces the highest repair bills for the average car owner is undoubtedly the human. But aside from humans, the biggest culprits are rodents, particularly rats. Rats love to enter engine compartments and chew on wires. This has become a bigger problem in recent years, because car manufacturers have switched from petroleum-based insulation for wires to soy-based insulation, which is more environmentally friendly. Rats love how friendly it is. The engine compartment is an all-you-can-eat buffet on a cruise ship for them. Papa rat gives his son a hug just before he climbs aboard, saying, “Enjoy the soy, my boy!” And mama rat says, “Don’t forget to drop us a line or two!”
If you’re concerned about animals in your car, you may want to read the preventative tips provided by Levi Price and Dr. Nicki Frey of Utah State University Extension. “Rattle your keys and bang on the hood as you enter your car,” they write. “This should wake the animal up if it’s asleep and encourage it to exit the vehicle.” (Rattling your keys and banging on the hood also works well with sleeping teenagers.)
Thankfully, after my daughter told me about the “strange sounds” coming from my car, I drove it around and did not hear anything unusual. Perhaps those “strange sounds” have moved to the fancy car that my neighbor drives.