Insect stings come with the territory of parenting a cat who ventures outdoors, including bee stings. But not so fast, indoor cat parents! Inside kitties can also suffer a bee sting if they like to spend time on a patio or catio. But what should you do if your cat’s stung by a bee?
First, it’s important to understand why bees sting in the first place. The most common reason bees sting is defence. Unfortunately, our adorable cats love to go after these fast-moving, small creatures—and sometimes get stung for their actions.
Where should you start if your cat is stung? “First, inspect the area for a stinger,” says Dr Shannon Barrett, Charleston-based house-call veterinarian and owner of Downward Paws, and try to remove the stinger, if possible. (We’ve more tips on that below). “However, if you are seeing any signs of weakness or anaphylaxis, don’t waste time looking for a stinger. Instead, get your cat to the veterinary clinic.”
With the help of Dr Barrett, we look further into the signs and risks of bee stings, plus what to do.
Signs That My Cat Was Stung By A Bee
For a non-allergic reaction bee sting, some common symptoms may occur. Dr Barrett notes that you’ll likely observe your cat licking the site of the injury, perhaps even excessively grooming the area, as a response to the pain and itch of the sting. “Swelling and discomfort at the site of the sting will likely follow,” says Dr Barrett. “Cats may also meow and cry; we will sometimes see them drool.”
A bee sting may last up to 24 hours before beginning to subside. It’s important to monitor your cat over that time as signs of an allergic reaction (more on that in a minute) can appear between 10 minutes, or even up to a few hours, after the sting.
According to Dr Barrett, the most common areas of the body you’ll find bee stings are the paws and mouth. Though bee stings aren’t poisonous, they can still be life-threatening due to an allergic reaction. “Younger cats are more likely to be stung compared to their older counterparts,” says Dr Barrett. “Bees seem like a fun toy to a young cat, and batting them around with their paws is hard to resist.”
What To Do If My Cat Gets Stung By A Bee
First things first, if your cat gets stung by a bee, it’s helpful to try and remove the stinger. “This is recommended because, if the venom sac is still attached to the stinger, the venom can continue to flow into the cat,” says Dr Barrett. “Although this only usually occurs for less than a minute, that is still several seconds of bee venom injected into the skin. This may be avoided if the stinger is removed promptly.” She also emphasises that removing the stinger does not release more venom via squeezing the venom sac—this school of thought has been debunked.
Dr Barrett shares the following tips and steps for removing the stinger:
- Use tweezers to remove the stinger or use something stiff, like a credit card, to scrape the stinger out
- Make a baking soda and water paste to neutralise the venom’s acidity
- Apply a pet-safe cold compress to help reduce swelling
- Consult your vet before giving your cat any medications
Additionally, Dr Barrett says it’s important to try and prevent your cat from licking the site of the sting—which may require the use of an Elizabethan collar (or cone) for 12-24 hours. Be sure to keep outdoor cats recovering from a sting inside for at least 24 hours in case of an allergic reaction. “If they do not eat or drink, contact your veterinarian,” says Dr Barrett.
Is My Cat Allergic To Bee Stings?
As mentioned, it’s important to keep a close eye on your cat in case of an allergic reaction. Though rare, an allergy to bees can cause life-threatening complications if your cat is stung. If your cat exhibits any of the following symptoms, get to a vet immediately:
- excessive swelling
- pale gums
- change in pulse
- trouble breathing
How Can I Prevent My Cat From Getting Stung By A Bee?
Sometimes the most obvious answer is, well, the answer. Keeping your cat indoors is the most effective prevention when it comes to bee stings.
However, that’s not realistic for every cat. If there’s a hive on your property, look into getting it professionally removed.
If a hive is not present, rethink your flower placement. “Try to keep plants that attract bees far away from areas where your cat likes to frequent,” advises Dr. Barrett.
When To See A Vet
As discussed, any of the above allergic reaction symptoms warrant an immediate trip to the vet. But a non-allergic reaction can likely be handled at home as long as the stinger has been removed and your cat does not exhibit any additional symptoms or experience a worsening of symptoms.
But another reason to take your cat to the vet for a bee sting is the number of stings. “The more stings, the more venom, and the more quickly you need to take your cat to the vet,” says Dr Barrett who adds not to waste time in this scenario looking for the stinger or applying home treatments. Just get medical attention ASAP.
“If you are concerned, it is better to be on the safe side and have your feline friend evaluated by your vet, as allergic reactions can be fatal. Luckily, most bee stings cause temporary discomfort but do not require a trip to the vet,” says Dr Barrett.
At best, a bee sting is an uncomfortable day in your cat’s life. At worst, it can be a life-threatening allergic reaction, or serious reaction if stung several times, that requires immediate vet care. Within the first 24 hours of the sting, be sure to try and get the stinger out, treat the area appropriately, keep your cat indoors, monitor your cat for an allergic reaction, and, when in doubt, call your vet with questions or concerns.
Unfortunately, it’s not just bees that cat parents have to keep an eye on: ants and wasps are also common cat stingers, too. “Unlike bees, ants are capable of stinging multiple times, and they also bite cats before stinging them,” says Dr Barrett, who also points out that wasps and hornets do not have barbed stingers, like bees do, and can sting cats multiple times without dying.
“Bees are also more active in spring and fall,” says Dr Barrett, “so be more vigilant during these seasons.”