Vet's corner

Preventing and treating bites and stings


Summertime means longer days and more time for your cat to explore, and laze about, outside. However, it also increases her chances of coming into contact with a range of biting beasties. Follow our expert tips to lessen the sting – or itch!

Bees and wasps

It is your cat’s natural instinct to stalk small, fast-moving creatures, but with the abundance of buzzing insects out in the warmer months – especially bees and wasps – this can be a hazard.

If your cat has inadvertently pounced on a stinging insect, take action quickly. It’s the venom that causes pain (and, in some cases, an allergic reaction) so the longer it’s in your cat’s system, the greater its effect.

If you can see a bee sting, don’t try to remove the stinger with tweezers or by squeezing it out – you could accidentally release more venom from the sac. Instead, scrape over the area with a clean, rigid piece of card then use ice to reduce the swelling. Bee stings are acidic so, once the sting is out, a simple home remedy such as baking soda paste (one teaspoon baking soda mixed with one teaspoon of lukewarm water) may help. Wasp stings are alkaline, so dab a spot of vinegar onto the affected area with a small wad of cotton wool instead.

Stings to the mouth and throat are potentially the most dangerous because any swelling could make it difficult for your cat to breathe, while multiple stings anywhere on your cat’s body could be life-threatening. In both cases, see a vet immediately. They’ll be able to check for signs of an allergic reaction – such as breathing difficulties – and may prescribe antihistamines. Remember, you should never give your pet any human medications, no matter how similar the pet versions may seem. Your vet will need to determine the exact dosage and will know what type of drug will work best for your cat.

Ticks

Tick bites usually occur in long grass, heathland and woods, so cats that like to roam are most vulnerable. Check your moggie when she comes home, especially around her neck and head, and follow these handy tips on grooming to prevent pests from taking hold.

If you do find a tick, remove it as soon as you can by using a special tick hook (rather than tweezers) to prevent breaking off the head, or visit your vet. Try to steer clear of YouTube ‘how to’ videos, which often give conflicting – and sometimes inaccurate – advice on removing ticks safely.

Parasite control is something cat owner Fiona Strayhorn is well acquainted with, as her longhaired Ragdoll cat, Hamish, loves to explore the wheat fields around their home. ‘We use a spot-on tick treatment on Hamish all year round,’ she says. ‘I’d recommend it to all owners, as it works brilliantly – he’s never picked up a single tick.’

Fleas

Your cat could get fleas from any other pets she comes into contact with, or even just by wandering in the same areas as flea-carrying animals such as rodents. Many cats are allergic to flea saliva, which can cause itchiness and inflamed or scabby skin, and even hair loss, if your cat over-grooms the affected area to compensate.

To prevent a flea infestation in the first place, make sure your cat’s flea treatments are kept up to date and, during hotter months, wash her bedding at least once a week on a high-temperature setting.

Horseflies, midges and mosquitoes

Your cat’s fur offers some resistance to these kinds of bites, but her ears and nose can be a target. If your cat appears to be pawing or over-grooming in a specific area, check her for the red, raised lumps that can be a sign of both fly and mosquito bites.

While some vet-prescribed cortisol creams can help halt the itch, prevention is key. To stop insects from breeding around your home, remove or cover all sources of stagnant water (such as ponds or pools) and consider keeping your cat indoors around dusk and in the evening when mosquitoes are most active.

Tip

Use citronella-scented candles in the garden to repel mosquitoes and horseflies. Mesh screens on doors and windows are also an excellent way to prevent pests from coming indoors.

Remember…

If any bite or sting is still red, swollen or causing pain after a few hours, or you notice any difference in the quality of your cat’s coat, it’s best to contact your vet.


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