Cats are always getting into everything, so there is a chance that they could have a run-in with an angry or frightened bee one day. While most cats aren't highly sensitive to bee or wasp stings, some fall into the allergic minority. For these feline friends, bee venom can lead to severe illness or even anaphylactic shock and is life-threatening. So, what should you do if your cat gets stung by a bee, and how do you know when it might be an emergency? Here is what cat parents need to know.
Is It Bee Stings or Wasp Stings?
Outdoor cats, especially younger cats, are more likely to get a bee or a wasp sting since they can access gardens, parks, and other areas where bees are commonly found. While it is far more likely to be bee stings, it is not uncommon for other flying insects to sting.
The difference between a bee and a wasp sting is bees leave their stingers behind, and Wasps and other flying insects can sting multiple times.
What to Do When Your Cat Gets Stung by a Bee
While most bee stings do not lead to an extreme reaction, it is still important to identify and treat a cat's bee sting. There are a number of things to do to care for your cat if it is stung by a bee, and during the whole process, you should always be monitoring your cat for early signs of a serious reaction so that you can seek immediate veterinary care.
Identify the Bee Sting and the Stinger
First, you will need to identify that your cat is stung by a bee. Cats are generally stung in the face or on their front paws, so if you suspect a bee sting, check there first. Is there any localized swelling, like a swollen paw? Look for other physical symptoms, such as redness and tenderness around the sting site. You may also notice a small puncture wound where the stinger enters the skin.
In addition to physical symptoms, a bee sting can cause behavioral changes in cats. They may exhibit signs of discomfort or pain, such as excessive grooming or compulsive licking. Some cats may become restless, agitated, or exhibit signs of distress. Cats may cry or also display other signs of pain, such as limping. Other cats will become withdrawn and hide away.
Stay Calm and Assess the Situation
If your cat gets stung by a bee or wasp, it's important to remain calm. Assess the situation and ensure your safety, as a cat in pain or distress may behave unpredictably. Approach your cat slowly and gently to avoid further stress. If you suspect that your cat has multiple stings, it's crucial to seek immediate veterinary care. Don't delay in getting professional help to ensure your feline friend receives the necessary treatment and support.
Remove the Stinger
If you determine that your cat has been stung by a bee, it's important to promptly remove the stinger. A stinger continues to release bee venom even after the insect has left and will worsen the sting the longer it remains lodged in your cat's skin.
If you find the insect still attached to your cat, exercise caution while removing it along with its stinger. Use a flat object, such as a credit card, to gently separate the insect from your cat's body. Be cautious to avoid getting bitten or scratched by your cat during the process.
If the stinger is still embedded in your pet, carefully use a flat object to remove it. It's crucial to act promptly, as a bee's stinger can continue to release venom for up to three minutes after the sting. Gently scrape it across your cat's fur until the stinger comes out. Exercise caution during the stinger removal process, ensuring not to squeeze the venom sac attached to it. Squeezing the sac could lead to the release of more venom. Handle the removal gently and focus on minimizing any potential further exposure.
Apply First-Aid for Mild Reactions
After a bee sting, gently clean the area with mild soap and warm water. This helps remove any residual venom and reduces the risk of infection. Pat the area dry with a clean, cooled towel.
Another way you can provide some first-aid relief is to apply a cold compress to the sting and any swelling. A bag of frozen peas or an ice pack wrapped in a tea towel can work well for mild swelling from a single sting and help minimize swelling. Place it gently on the swollen area for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat this process several times a day.
Once the stinger is removed, you can treat the affected area. Some pet owners make a thick paste of baking soda and water to apply to a bee sting, but there are mixed reviews on whether this is helpful.
Oral antihistamines can often be given to a cat stung by bee to soothe any pain and reduce the allergic reaction, but you should consult with your vet first before administering any medication to your cat.
Observe Your Cat For Allergic Reaction
Most allergic reactions to bee stings will show up within 20 minutes, but some reactions can be delayed for hours, so it is essential to keep an eye on your cat for several hours after it has been stung. If your cat struggles to leave the bite alone, a cone may be needed to prevent trauma or infection to the affected area.
Feed your cat a bit less during the hours following a bee sting to reduce the chance of digestive issues. If your cat was bitten on or in the mouth, use dry food softened with water rather than canned food to prevent an upset stomach. Fresh water should be offered and available at all times to maintain hydration.
If your cat's symptoms persist or worsen over time, it's advisable to seek veterinary care. If you notice persistent swelling, increased pain, or significant behavioral changes in your pet after a sting, it could indicate an infection or a more severe reaction. These signs warrant immediate attention from a veterinarian to ensure proper evaluation and appropriate treatment.
Complications and Severe Reactions
There are a few signs of moderate to severe allergic reactions to cat bee sting. It's important to recognize the signs of a severe reaction quickly, as complications in severe cases can lead to anaphylaxis. Look out for the following symptoms of an extreme allergic reaction to bee stings:
- Severe or extreme swelling, especially on the head or neck
- Excessive swelling beyond the sting site
- Hives, such as bumps under the furs or red spots on the belly
- Excessive itching
- Difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, rapid breathing, or drooling, as these are signs that the airways are closing up
- Agitation due to the nervous system being affected
- Dizziness, lethargy, or lack of alertness
- Persistent and uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea
- Excessive drooling and rapid heart rate
If you observe any of these symptoms or suspect that your cat is having a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting, it is very important to seek immediate medical care. These extreme reactions can rapidly worsen and may even lead to neurological or organ damage, so prompt medical intervention is essential to ensure your cat's safety and well-being.
Note that if a cat has been stung by a bee before and had an allergic reaction, any future insect stings can result in more severe symptoms.
When to Call a Veterinarian
You may want to get veterinary treatment whenever your cat gets stung just so that they can walk you through what to do. They can advise you on how to treat a mild sting and recognize any extreme reactions, so you know whether they can be life-threatening.
You should always contact a vet if you notice or suspect any symptoms of anaphylaxis, as this can be fatal. A veterinarian will be able to use treatments to reduce the severity of allergic reactions and prevent anaphylactic shock.
Sometimes, a cat may experience a bee sting in a remote or challenging location, such as their mouth or throat. This can be particularly dangerous as it may cause swelling or obstruction, affecting breathing.
If your cat has been stung in or around the mouth, or if your cat continues displaying behavior that might lead you to suspect an obstruction, seek help as soon as possible. Getting immediate medical care can prevent anaphylactic shock and prevent an extreme reaction that may put your cat's life at risk.
To minimize the risk of your cat getting stung, consider the following tips:
- Avoid leaving food or garbage uncovered, as it can attract bees.
- Keep your cat indoors during peak bee activity times, especially on sunny afternoons.
- Remove or relocate bee hives or nests near your property to reduce the chances of encounters.
- Trim bushes and vegetation around your yard to discourage flying insects from nesting.
By implementing these prevention tips and staying vigilant, you can reduce the likelihood of your cat getting stung by bees and ensure their overall well-being.