How To Recognize a Snake Bite on a Cat
Facebook Pinterest Twitter

How To Recognize a Snake Bite on a Cat

Est. read time: 5 min.

Snakes get a bad rap: They’re typically unlikely to bite unless surprised or on the defensive. Nevertheless, this slithery species is seen as one of the most fearsome in the animal kingdom—even felines agree, which is why cats hiss to imitate snakes! But what if you come across a snake bite on a cat? Learn what to look for and how to treat your pet in the unlikely event that this happens.

Cat snake bite symptoms: Non-venomous

Non-venomous snake bites on cats are much more common than venomous, but these kinds of bites can still be dangerous. Cats are most likely to be bit by a snake on their legs. Typically (because there are always exceptions), non-venomous snake bites are horseshoe- or U-shaped and may be accompanied by pain and bleeding—but not swelling. 

Cat snake bite symptoms: Venomous

On the other hand, venomous snake bites typically appear as two puncture marks. This type of bite will likely be accompanied by pain and swelling. Other symptoms to watch for in your pet include: 

  • Bleeding
  • Pale or white gums
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Dilated pupils
  • Incoordination
  • Paralysis
  • Convulsions

How to treat a snake bite on a cat

If you notice a bite mark or any of the above symptoms on your cat (but didn’t observe the attack itself), we recommend taking your cat to an animal hospital right away. Treatment should begin as soon as possible after the bite.

  • Approach your cat carefully. If your cat is nervous or anxious, restrain him if necessary.
  • If possible, clip the hair from the bite area on your cat.
  • Flush the area thoroughly with sterile saline solution or mild soap and water.
  • Transport your cat to the veterinarian immediately. 

If you observed your cat being bit by a snake, try to take note of what kind of snake it is (for instance, rattlesnake) or any of its identifying marks. If possible, snap a photo of the snake. Do NOT approach the snake unless you are certain it is deceased. If you’re able to bag the dead snake (wear gloves), bring it along with your cat to the animal hospital. 

The veterinarian will want to know any information you have about the snake, where the attack took place, and where and how long since your cat was bit. A venom test kit, blood work, and cultures may be performed to identify the snake and determine treatment. The vet may need to administer antivenom, IV fluids, feeding tubes, and oxygen, depending on the severity of the situation. Unfortunately, if treatment for a venomous snake bite on a cat isn’t immediate, the bite is often fatal. 

Venomous snakes in the U.S.

We’ve compiled an incomplete list of common venomous snakes in the U.S. If you’ve seen these snakes in the wild or know that they exist where you live, you can be better prepared for the unlikely event of a cat snake bite.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
© Ltshears / CC-BY-SA-3.0

  • Identifying characteristics: Largest venomous snake in the Americas (up to 8 feet long and 35 pounds); black diamond patterns offset by yellow borders.
  • Prime habitat: Pine forests, mountains, dry marshes, and coastal areas of Florida and the lower southeastern U.S.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Photo by Gary M. Stolz

  • Identifying characteristics: 4-5 feet long, 10-15 pounds; brownish “base” with cream outlines.
  • Prime habitat: Sandy, sun-warmed deserts, salt marshes, and rocky mountain areas; range extends from the Southeast to Mexico, California, and halfway into Canada.

Coral Snake (Eastern and Western)

Coral Snake
© elvissa / CC-BY-SA-2.0

  • Identifying characteristics: Brightly colored with primary black and red stripes, and smaller yellow encircling stripes.
  • Prime habitat: Southern part of North America.

Copperhead Snake

Copperhead Snake
© Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren / CC-BY-SA-2.0

  • Identifying characteristics: 2-4 feet; reddish-brown, coppery bodies with chestnut brown crossbands.
  • Prime habitat: Along the Eastern Seaboard as far north as New York and inland as far west as Nebraska.

Cottonmouth Snake or Water Moccasin 

Cottonmouth Snake or Water Moccasin
© scott.zona / CC-BY-SA-2.0

  • Identifying characteristics: 2-6 feet; large, triangular heads, dark stripes by each nostril, and pale snouts.
  • Prime habitat: Semi-aquatic regions, marshes, swamps, and warmer streams and lakes.

Timber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake
© Ltshears / CC-BY-SA-3.0

  • Identifying characteristics: 3-6 feet, up to 10 pounds; dark brown or black crossbands on a yellowish-brown or greyish background; may have a rust-colored vertebral stripe. 
  • Prime habitat: Northeastern U.S.

Mojave Rattlesnake

Mojave Rattlesnake
© Alan D. Wilson / CC-BY-SA-3.0

  • Identifying characteristics: 2-4 feet; typically grey, tan, brown, olive-green, or light yellow, with a diamond pattern.
  • Prime habitat: Southern areas of Arizona, California, Utah, New Mexico, and parts of Texas; prefers open areas of sparse vegetation and sandy, desert conditions.

Massasauga or Black Rattlesnake

Massasauga or Black Rattlesnake
Photo by Tim Vicekrs

  • Identifying characteristics: 1-3 feet; grey, black, or light brown with large, light-edged chocolate-brown blotches on the back and smaller blotches on the sides.
  • Prime habitat: Most common in Ontario, Michigan, and through the upper Missouri valley with populations reported in Colorado and ranging down to Mexico; prefers marshes and grasslands.

How to prevent a snake bite on a cat

The best way to prevent a cat snake bite? Keep your cat indoors! Other ways to reduce the risk are to keep your grass mowed and clear your yard of spots where snakes more commonly reside, such as logs or wood piles.

Learning how to recognize and quickly react is the best way to prepare for a snake bite on a cat. 

Make pet care easier and smarter with a self-cleaning litter box.


Cover photo © Umberto Salvagnin / CC-BY-SA-2.0

cat paw on a garter snake - how to recognize a snake bite on a cat


11 reasons why