What do I do if a snake bit my cat?

If your cat has been bitten by a snake, the very first thing to do is figure out whether the snake was poisonous or not. You can usually tell this by the shape of the bite marks. In North America, there aren't that many species of snake that are poisonous - rattlesnakes, copperheads, moccasins, and coral snakes are the only poisonous ones. Luckily, all their bites are very distinct - they have two big fangs. Look closely at the bite - if it is two big holes that look like a vampire bit your cat, then it has been bitten by a poisonous snake. If the snake bite looks like a half-circle or horseshoe, without any deep punctures, it is probably non-poisonous, but you may not want to risk it due to the high risk of fatality. If you want pictures of the kinds of poisonous snakes, go here for rattlesnakes, here for copperheads, here for cottonmouth moccasins, and here for coral snakes. I would recommend making a trip to the vet anyway if you think there is ANY chance the snake was poisonous - and remember that the cat's fur can obscure the bite mark, so it is not a good idea to rely on that alone.


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If you've got multiple people around, one should attend to the cat and one should go kill the snake. This is easiest with a long garden shovel - slam it down at the base of the snake's neck from a distance and sever the head. Bring the body AND the head with you in a bag to the vet, because it can help them diagnosing the bite. Keep back from the snake, well outside of striking distance - remember that it can jump at you.

What are the symptoms of a snake bite in cats?

Usually weakness, drooling or panting, and then after awhile collapsing into shock or death. It varies depending on how much toxin got into the cat from the snake. The bite area itself will appear red and swollen.

What to do if the snake that bit your cat was poisonous

1) If there is any vet within half an hour of you, get there NOW. Don't screw around with treating it yourself. All you should do is have someone keep the cat quiet and keep it from moving around. Just get there, and get there fast. If it's after hours, call information (411) and get the location of an emergency clinic. Do not decide that your cat is OK because it has no symptoms - it needs to go the vet ASAP, period.

2) If you can't, you have to take care of it yourself. You should know that if the cat has been bitten on its torso, it is much more likely to be lethal. Most bites will be on the legs, but sometimes the head as well. The key is to try to slow down the absorption of the snake venom. If the bite is on the leg or tail, you do this with a tight bandage - you want to slow down the flow of blood. Get some cloth and tie it onto the limb - above the snake bite, so that the bandage is between the body and the bite. Don't make it too tight, but it should be on there pretty good.

Calming the cat down is a big priority too - keep it still, and have someone hold it down and pet it if you can. The more active the cat is, the more blood the heart will pump - and the more poison will get concentrated there.

Do not use either water or ice on the wound - they can actually speed up the rate at which the cat absorbs the venom, and ice can damage the tissue forcing an amputation. Trying to suck out the venom is a bad idea too - it can just make you sick and usually won't help any, and in fact it often infects the wound with germs from your mouth.

The treatment is usually antivenom - but you will not be able to do that much on your own. Try to figure out some way to get the cat to a vet. Calling animal shelters or poison control might be a good idea as well - any place that might be able to help you find someplace to get the pet treated.

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