Was your cat sprayed by a skunk? If your cat goes outside, particularly at dawn or dusk, the much-dreaded skunk attack is a real possibility in the spring and summer months. Find out what to do if your pet was sprayed by a skunk, including precautions to take and ways to get rid of that infernal skunk smell!
When are you and your pets most likely to encounter a skunk?
Skunks are crepuscular (like domestic cats), meaning they are most active at dusk and dawn, but they will occasionally venture out during the day. You are more likely to encounter one during the spring and early summer, which is the skunk birthing season.
You’ll find skunks everywhere from rural woods to city alleys. You may be able to tell if a skunk has been skulking around your home if you notice your garden bed or lawn has been dug up for grubs.
What is skunk spray?
Skunk spray is a yellow oil with sulfur-containing chemicals called thiols. Skunks use their spray as a defense weapon. A skunk can reportedly spray up to 15 feet away and up to 5 times in a row—yikes!
Was your cat sprayed by a skunk? Follow these steps.
Contain your cat in a secure space, preferably outside your house.
Your cat may be panicking from the trauma of getting sprayed by a skunk. You’ll want to secure your cat in a garage or small space where you can comfortably clean him up—preferably not inside your home, to prevent the stench and oils from spreading.
Skip the hose – and the tomato juice bath.
Not only will hosing your cat off with water add to his trauma, it will also make the stench worse. That’s because when skunk spray is exposed to water, the smell becomes even stronger.
As for the old standby: Tomato juice will only mask the skunk smell, rather than eliminate it.
Clean your cat’s eyes and face.
Skunk spray to the face is as painful as pepper spray in the eyes. If your cat was sprayed in the face, you may notice redness or swelling around the eyes—even temporary blindness. And if spray got into the mouth, your cat may experience drooling or vomiting.
First, put on a pair of gloves. Proceed to flush your cat’s eyes with cool water or eye saline solution. You may want to enlist the help of another person, since your cat will likely be resistant to eye treatment. Once you’ve flushed their eyes, apply lubricating eye drops (artificial tears).
Gently wipe as much of the oil off the rest of your cat’s face with a towel or rag.
Apply a deskunking shampoo – store-bought or DIY.
It’s ideal to have a pet-safe skunk odor remover on hand for emergencies like this. But chances are if you’re reading this article, you don’t! In that case, there are effective DIY methods for “deskunking” your pet.
Note: If possible, call your veterinarian or an emergency animal clinic for advice on applying a deskunking shampoo—whether it’s a store-bought purchase or the DIY method below.
Preventative Vet recommends mixing the following common household ingredients as an effective DIY skunk odor remover:
- 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide
- ¼ cup baking soda
- 1 teaspoon gentle liquid dishwashing soap (such as Dawn)
While wearing gloves, apply the mixture thoroughly to your cat’s fur. Avoid the eyes and mouth, as this mixture could irritate the eyes further and cause foaming at the mouth. This means supervising your cat to make sure he does not try to groom himself while the shampoo is on his fur.
Leave the mixture on for 10-20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with water. Repeat this process 2-3 times as needed. Discard any remaining mixture, as it could explode if left in a bottle for too long.
When finished, dry your cat off with a clean towel. A few treats and some much-needed comfort are in order!
Schedule a rabies booster.
Call your veterinarian within 24 hours to schedule a rabies vaccination booster for your cat. Although your cat would not be infected with rabies through skunk spray alone, there is a possibility that the two animals fought during the attack. A bite from a rabid skunk could infect your cat.
Cat sprayed by a skunk? Try not to panic, and follow the steps listed above. Our best advice is to keep your cat indoors at all times. Not only is it better for your cat, it’ll eliminate the possibility of a stinky—and potentially dangerous—skunk attack.