Cats are creatures with high levels of curiosity and natural hunting instincts, and this combination of traits can lead them to bring home a variety of trophies to prove their love for their human. Whilst some cats are content with bringing home stuffed toys that they stole from a poor unsuspecting child (yes, I do know a cat that does this), other cats like to bring you more ‘active’ treats.
Earlier this year a cat living in Australia brought a live Highland Copperhead snake into the home of an unsuspecting family, causing them to quickly leave the premises. Snakes usually hibernate during cold weather, which would have made this incident bad enough, however this happened in the summer months when snakes are more aggressive and prone to biting, raising the question of what to do if the cat had been bitten.
Whilst this may seem to be an isolated incident, a quick Google search brings up dozens of stories where cats have brought snakes into the home. There are even some instances where the snake has made its way up the toilet pipe (yes, Australia again), and the cat has caught it coming out of the bowl. So if you live in an area where there are snakes of any toxicity, learning what to do is vital for both your family and cats health and safety.
If you live in an area where there are poisonous snakes, reassess the need for your cat to go outdoors, at least in the summer months, when snakes are active. Even catios are unable to keep a small snake out, and even worse can trap the cat in the cage with them. However, as we all live in different countries, areas and cultures, if keeping your cat indoors is not a suitable then make every effort to keep your backyard clear of long grass, and remove piles of rubbish that snakes may like to hide in.
Know The Signs
Ensure that you get to know the signs of a snake bite and what to do if you suspect your kitty has been bitten. At the beginning of summer, when snakes first emerge from hibernation, their venom glands tend to be fuller and their bites at this time are much more severe. The signs of snake bite are varied, and your cat may show some or all of the following symptoms:
If your cat displays any or all of these symptoms, call your vet as soon as possible. A good vet always has a 24 hour emergency number, so ensure that you have this in a handy place such as on your fridge, and easy to find. You are likely to be in an anxious state if your cat has been bitten and having to search through the junk draw in an emergency will add unnecessary stress.
Your vet may take several steps to help your cat. Oxygen supplementation, intravenous fluids, and antivenom to neutralise the snake venom in your cat's body. It is important to know that antivenom only neutralises any venom in the cat’s body at the time of administration. It is not a vaccination or preventative for future snake bites.
What is Antivenom
Antivenom is produced by gradually immunizing horses to the venom of a species of snake. The horse’s blood is then collected, and the serum is separated and purified to make antivenom, containing specific antibodies to the toxins in the snake venom.
Snake antivenoms are expensive to produce and have limited shelf life; these factors are reflected in their high costs.
Approximately 80% of pets survive snake bites if treated quickly. Of the 20% of pets who do not survive, the main cause is due to the bite being treated late, or not at all.
Recovery usually takes between 24 to 48 hours if the pet receives prompt veterinary attention, however some pets will take longer to fully recover if the poison has been able to cause substantial tissue damage or compromised the internal organs. In these cases, intensive and prolonged nursing care may be needed.
If you see or find the snake that bit your cat, do not try to catch it. Snakes are just as poisonous to humans as they are to cats. Call your local Parks and Wildlife centre and they will send a professional snake catcher. And if you do live in an area where snakes make their way up into your toilet, we suggest you call your local plumber about solutions to this issue, or it may not be your cat that gets the bite!
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