Fortunately, poisonous snakes are rare in north-western Europe so the chances of your cat meeting one are minimal. Poisonous adders, although rare, do exist, and a cat living near areas of heathland, such as the New Forest in the UK, or the Ardennes in continental Europe, may come into contact with them on occasions. Cats are more likely to encounter venomous toads in gardens, but they are nowhere near as dangerous as an adder.
A cat sees an adder as an intriguing plaything, but an adder belongs to the viper family, and could be harmful. Adders possess a venom that is strong enough to kill a cat, but successful treatment is possible.
It is possible to recognise an adder very easily by the black zig-zag patterning down its back. The danger is that your cat is bitten a long way from home, and you do not recognise the cause of its injury. Hopefully however, if a cat has been wandering, he will be able to return home before the venom overwhelms him.
Speed of treatment is likely to be vital in determining whether or not your cat survives an adder’s bite, so if you think he has been bitten, you need to seek veterinary advice immediately.
Your cat will clearly be unwell, and may collapse with signs of respiratory distress. On careful examination, you may be able to recognise the area of swelling with the two fang marks where the cat was bitten.
Try to keep your cat as calm as possible to slow the passage of venom around the body. You could also apply an ice pack to the area to prevent the venom travelling around the body too quickly.
Young cats will catch toads readily, but they soon learn to avoid them because a poison produced by the glands on the toad’s body can cause severe irritation in a cat’s mouth. A cat that has recently caught a toad will start to salivate profusely as a symptom of the resulting discomfort. There is little that can be done under these circumstances at home in terms of first aid, as attempting to wash your cat’s mouth out is a difficult task, which will be stressful for your pet. You should seek your vet’s advice.
- If a cat bites a toad, the toxins in its skin cause the cat to produce excess saliva, which is visible as froth around the mouth.
- Cats can distinguish between toads and frogs because frogs lack the protective skin secretions. As a result, frogs are at much greater risk of being caught by cats, particularly around spawning time when they start congregating at ponds.
- If you suspect that your cat has been bitten by a snake, then look in the vicinity of his head or front legs, where the snake may have struck in response to the cat’s attempt to catch it.
- Adders are most likely to bite defensive in in the spring and autumn. They are less active when the weather is cooler and may therefore find it more difficult to slip away when confronted by a cat.
Take ice cubes out of the freezer and put them in a clean sock. Tie up the end of the sock, and hit it with a hammer to disperse the ice. This will ensure that more of it comes into contact with the site of the bite.
It’s a long process: you have to disinfect the site, cut away the skin to a depth of about 5mm (Yiin), then suck out the venom, and spit it out immediately, an almost impossible task with an unhappy cat. Better to take your cat to a vet as fast as possible, for an antiserum injection.
It should survive as long as your cat does not puncture the skin of the amphibian.