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5 Easy Steps To Take For A Cat Bitten By A Snake While Hiking

A snake slithering on a brown log

Cats are becoming increasingly popular on hiking trails as their adventurous owners bring their purring pals on their journeys. Hiking with cats is a lot different than hiking with dogs, but one thing is for sure – cats are just as susceptible to snake bites as dogs.

A cat bitten by a snake should be immediately removed from the snake and taken to a veterinary clinic. The quicker you get to a vet, the better the prognosis. Even a non-venomous snakebite should be treated.

Below, we’ll outline the 5 steps to take for a cat bitten by a snake while hiking (or just walking around the neighborhood or yard!). Follow along for a step-by-step guide as we traverse the interactions between our furry pals and those slithering snakes.

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Cats And Snakes: The Basics

G cat sitting on some cement blocks in the woods

Like dogs, cats are curious by nature. If they see a snake on a hike, they may be tempted to chase it or, at the very least, investigate it with a good whack from their paws.

Snakes in the United States are not likely to go after cats – they would much rather be left alone to prey on smaller critters like mice and moles. However, if the cat corners the snake or starts to bat at it, it may retaliate with a toothy bite.

In these instances—when snakes feel threatened by cats—accidents happen, and you end up with a cat bitten by a snake.

Let’s discuss where cats are most likely to run into snakes and how to look for symptoms of your cat being bitten by a venomous snake.

🐍Here’s Where Snakes May Be Hiding On Your Hike

Taking a cat on a hike is not like bringing a dog. Cats like to do their own thing, go their own way, and dart off at inopportune times. Luckily, when you have your cat harness trained, you have some control over their movements. You can learn how to harness-train your cat here!

Here are some likely places where your cat may interact with a snake on a hike:

  • On the trail: Snakes love to sunbathe on trails exposed to the sun, especially early-morning sun. Keep an eye out for unusual shapes on the trail – it could be a snake curled up.
  • Leaf litter: Copperheads often use leaf litter as a way to camouflage themselves while they wait for prey. While these reptiles don’t see your cat as prey, they may strike if disturbed.
  • Rock outcroppings: Snakes love rocky areas because they offer protection from predators and prime basking locations on the warm stones.
  • Tall grass: Snakes have predators, too, and tall grass offers them an abundance of cover to move about without attracting the attention of hawks and owls. If your hike takes you through a meadow of tall grass, be on the lookout for snakes.
  • Near water: Some snakes, like cottonmouths, prefer to live near bodies of water. If you take your kitty near a stream, lake, or river, be cautious, especially near large rocks at the water’s edge.
  • Under rocks and logs: While we’re not suggesting your cat is planning to look under a rock on their hiking adventure, it is possible for them to approach a rock or log that has a snake underneath. 

In addition to using your vision to identify snakes, keep your ears on alert. Some snakes, like the rattlesnake, give off an audible warning when you (or your curious cat) get too close. 

Other snakes hiss or even growl! If you see or hear any signs of a snake, keep your cat safe by walking them far away from the noise. Check out our guide on what to do if you see a snake on a hike for more details on how to hike safely around these slithering serpents.

🌲What Time Of Year Are Cats Likely To Encounter Snakes?

A cat playing with a snake in the yard

The time of year has much to do with snake activity and the chances that your cat is exposed to a snake. However, it is also highly dependent on where you live.

For example, snakes may be active all year long in places like southern Florida, Texas, and California because of the warm weather. On the other hand, the active window for snakes is much shorter in northern climates like Minnesota, North Dakota, and Michigan.

In general, snakes are most active from mid-March through October. They are mainly active in the Spring during mating season in colder climates. Snakes do not have a specific breeding season in warmer climates and may be active all year.

The Prognosis For A Cat Bitten By A Snake

A cat bitten by a snake getting examined by a veterinarian

When I was a kid, I remember learning about venomous snakes and spiders, and for whatever reason, I was made to believe that all venomous snake and spider bites were life-threatening.

As I got older and did more independent research, I realized that almost all snake and spider bites in the United States are not life-threatening. In fact, you don’t need antivenom most of the time, and the prognosis is very good for humans living in the US.

That said, things are a little different for cats. Cats have smaller bodies than humans and have a more challenging time processing venom. The good news is, the prognosis for a cat bitten by a snake—even a venomous snake—is fairly good as long as you get it to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Even though snake envenomation doesn’t happen with every bite, you should treat every snakebite as if it’s from a venomous snake.

🐾Cats Vs. Dogs

Although cats and dogs are both beloved pets, their responses to snakebites and venom are different. Overall, cats tolerate snake venom better than dogs.

An article from the Australian Veterinary Journal found that, of 6,200 domestic animals bitten by snakes in Australia yearly, 91% of cats survived when given antivenom, and 66% survived without. On the other hand, dogs survived 75% when given antivenom and only 31% without.

Cats tend to get bitten on their arms because they bat at snakes, while dogs are likelier to get bitten on the face and head as they sniff the snakes.

Dogs are more likely to show symptoms of a snakebite than cats. A cat bitten by a snake will hide to avoid showing its owners and other animals in the house that it is sick. This can be detrimental to getting it treated on time, which is why it’s super important to supervise your cat closely on hikes and walks.

By the way, if you hike with your dog, read our guide on the steps to take for a dog bitten by a snake.

✨5 Steps To Take For A Cat Bitten By A Snake

Now, let’s review the steps you should take if your cat is bitten by a snake on a hike. In its most simplified form, here’s what you should do:

  1. Remove your cat from the snake
  2. Try to remember everything you can about the encounter
  3. Carry your cat back to the car
  4. Avoid home treatment
  5. Drive to the nearest open veterinarian clinic

Next, we’ll go over each step in detail so you know exactly what to do for a cat bitten by a snake. After all, our cats are our furbabies! We want what’s best for them, but sometimes nature has other plans.

1. Remove Your Cat From The Snake

Snake sunning itself

The first step is to remove your cat (and yourself) from the snake. Despite popular belief, most snakes have some venom. Even ‘harmless’ garter snakes have a small amount of neurotoxic venom they deliver to their prey.

That said, only a few species of snakes have enough venom to cause harm to your cat. Snakes need this venom to incapacitate prey, so they don’t necessarily want to spend it defending themselves. For this reason, snakes do not normally bite more than once if the antagonizer (your cat) is removed from the situation immediately. 

While hiking, you might notice your cat investigating something and then jump away. Or, you may actually see the snake itself. A cat bitten by a snake will give some indication that they have tangoed with a slithery reptile. 

In any case, grab your cat and remove them from the snake immediately. This prevents multiple bites that may or may not contain more venom. A harness and leash come in handy here. We use the PetSafe Come With Me Kitty Harness, which comes with a bungee leash!

2. Remember Everything You Can About The Encounter

After removing your curious cat from the snake, try to get a look at it. Remember what it looks like, its color patterns, where the attack happened, and where your cat was bitten. 

Some of the best ways to identify a snake species are:

  • Color and pattern: Bright colors often indicate a venomous snake, such as the coral snake. Specific patterns can help identify venomous from non-venomous snakes. For example, an all-black snake is more likely a rat snake. In contrast, a snake with a visible diamond pattern could be a rattlesnake or copperhead.
  • Head shape: If you can do so safely, take a close look at the head of the snake. Is it distinctly triangular? Or is it more streamlined? Pit vipers have a triangular-shaped head due to the storage of venom glands.
  • Pupils: Again, if it’s safe to do so, check out the snake’s pupils. If they are slit like a cat, they are venomous. If they are round, they are non-venomous. This is not true 100% of the time, but it’s a good bet.
  • Where you encountered it: Certain snakes are known to hang out in specific areas. For example, if you encounter a snake near the water, that can help narrow down which type of snake your cat was bitten by.
  • Snake behavior: Behavior can say a lot about a snake. Did the snake retreat when you got near it, or did it stand its ground and ready for a strike? This can provide some insight into the snake species.

This information can help a vet identify what kind of snake bit your cat. If needed, this can help them choose the correct antivenom to give your kitty.

Only spend time investigating the snake if it’s safe to do so. It is extremely helpful if you can get a picture of the snake with your phone, but again, your top priority should be your and your kitty’s safety.

3. Carry Your Cat Back To The Car

Whether or not your cat was bitten by a venomous snake, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Once you’ve removed your cat from the situation and examined the snake, it’s time to head to the vet.

If you’re hiking or walking around the neighborhood, carry your cat to your vehicle. Allowing your cat to walk will increase its heart rate, which can cause the venom to spread faster. 

Some cats don’t like being picked up, so carrying a cat backpack on your hikes and walks is always a good idea. This way, you can place them in the pack and safely return to your vehicle. The Jespet Cat Carrier Backpack is perfect for those forest adventures!

4. Avoid Home Treatment

There are two essential things to remember for a cat bitten by a snake: keep it calm and get it to a vet.

You should avoid all home treatment and first aid attempts, such as a tourniquet, ice packs, or attempting to ‘suck out’ the venom. These treatments can do more harm than good, and it’s better to get them to a vet as fast as possible rather than waste time on home treatment.

While it’s not recommended to perform home treatment, it’s never a bad idea to be prepared for any situation! You never know how long your kitty will be at the vet. The Pet Evac Pak is a backpack you can place in your car for emergencies and contains everything your cat could ever need, with enough food and water to last 72 hours.

5. Drive To The Nearest Vet

The final step in your cat bitten by a snake guide is to take your feline friend to the nearest open veterinary clinic. It doesn’t have to be an emergency vet hospital, and it doesn’t need to be your cat’s personal vet.

Google or Apple Maps can help you find the nearest open clinic. As you drive, call the office and explain the situation—this can help the vet prepare for your cat’s arrival. 

Once you arrive at the vet, your cat will likely receive standard treatment, such as IV fluids and medication for swelling and pain. Give the veterinarian every detail you can remember about the event to help them diagnose and better treat your cat.

If your cat requires anti-venom, your description of the snake and the environment they were in can help the vet correctly identify which anti-venom to give.

🐱Signs Of A Cat Bitten By A Snake

Two cats sitting in the grass near a wood pile

If you have a cat, you know how independent these little fuzzballs can be. They like to do their own thing and wander off to their own path. For this reason, we may not always be present when our kitties are battling a slithery serpent.

If your cat comes home and is acting off, check for these venomous snake bite symptoms:

  • Discolored skin around a bite wound: This indicates a hematotoxin, which causes bleeding beneath the bite site.
  • A puncture wound that doesn’t stop bleeding: Some snake venom contains anticoagulants that prevent clotting. If the bite wound continues to bleed, it is likely caused by a snake.
  • Swelling on the arms or paws: Cats are likelier to bat snakes and get bites on their arms. Check for swelling of their arms and paws.
  • Neurological symptoms: Muscle twitching, dilated pupils, and paralysis may indicate they were bitten by a snake with neurotoxic venom.
  • Presence of bite marks: Bite marks will vary based on the type of snake and its size. Venomous snakes generally leave two puncture wounds, while non-venomous snakes leave a horseshoe-shaped ‘U’ with tiny teeth marks. This is not the case 100% of the time.

These clinical signs indicate a snakebite. You know your cat the best. If they seem off, it’s a safe bet to take them to a vet to get them checked out, even if you didn’t witness them getting bit by a snake.

💚How To Keep Cats Safe From Snakes

Green snake on a branch.

If you’re anything like me, hitting the trails with your whiskered companion by your side (or perhaps leading the way with that signature cat confidence) fills your heart with joy. 

But as with all adventures, being prepared is a top priority, especially when our furry friends accompany us. Let me share some simple yet effective tips to ensure you and your purring explorer enjoy safe and happy trails together.

After all, their health and care are top priorities!

Keep Your Cat Close—Harness and Leash are Your Best Friends

First, investing in a sturdy harness and leash is non-negotiable for kitty adventures. This dynamic duo not only keeps your cat safe from wandering into less-than-safe territories (like the path of a curious snake) but also ensures it’s always within your protective reach. 

Plus, it’s a great way to gently guide your cat away from potential dangers, all while letting them lead the adventure at their own pace.

Supervision is Key—Eyes Like a Hawk

When out and about, channel your inner hawk with vigilant supervision. Cats are naturally curious creatures, often intrigued by the slightest movements underfoot—be it a leaf or, you guessed it, a snake. 

By watching your feline friend’s every move, you can swiftly intervene if they stumble upon a slithery inhabitant. Remember, it’s all about enjoying the adventure together safely.

Know Thy Enemy—A Little Homework Goes a Long Way

Before you set off on your next outdoor escapade, do some surveillance on the area you plan to explore. Familiarize yourself with the types of snakes that might call those trails home, especially noting any venomous ones. 

This knowledge will give you peace of mind and help you make informed decisions about which paths to tread and what areas to give a wide berth.

Adventure Smart—Timing and Terrain Matter

Consider planning your hikes when snakes are less active. Snakes like to bask in the sun in the early morning and evening to soak in as much warmth as possible. During the middle of the day, they tend to slink back into a crevice or cave so they don’t overheat.

Try planning your hike for late morning or early afternoon when snakes are more likely to hide away.

Additionally, sticking to well-trodden paths can minimize the chances of unexpected encounters with wildlife, including snakes. It’s all about choosing the right time and terrain for your shared adventures. After all, snakes aren’t the only thing to worry about out there! Read our guide on what to do if you see a wild animal on a hike for a detailed look at what to do when encountering animals like bears, cougars, and moose.

Wrapping Up Our Feline Adventure

Cats are such a joy to watch as they hunker down and wiggle their butt before leaping on a leaf or sprinting up a tree. Hiking with our purring pals is an adventure like no other, but there are some unwanted side effects to hiking with cats: wildlife. Specifically, snakes.

Cats are curious by nature, so they’re likely to investigate if they see a snake. If your cat is bitten by a snake, remember the 5 crucial steps to take:

  1. Remove your cat from the snake
  2. Try to remember everything you can about the encounter
  3. Carry your cat back to the car
  4. Avoid home treatment
  5. Drive to the nearest open veterinarian clinic

Getting your kitty to a vet within the first few hours of being bit gives them the best chance of survival. Keeping a close eye on your cat as you hike, knowing the local snake species, and planning your hikes for midday will help avoid encountering these slithering reptiles. 

Until next time, enjoy your journey with your four-legged pals and give them an extra pet from the Dirtbags With Furbags!

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