If your cat has never experienced a bee sting, how do you know whether she’s allergic? You Aunt Wendy had never been stung, either, until that family picnic when they had to rush her to the hospital.
Cats are naturally curious, so when they get stung by bees it’s usually on the face, nose, or paw. Since their bodies are small, a sting can have a greater, faster effect on cats than it does on humans, and how you respond can be the difference between life or death.
Here’s what you need to know about bee allergies in cats.
Not All Allergies are Created Equal
Everyone reacts to a bee sting differently. Some cats don’t show much effect, just a slightly swollen red mark. Other cats will react a little more strongly, with a decent amount of swelling along with itching and visible pain. In the most serious cases, cats who are highly allergic to bees will develop respiratory distress, display a blue tongue, and have a very rapid heart rate. The latter reaction can lead to fatal consequences.
A Normal Cat’s Reaction to a Bee Sting
In most cases, cats react to bee stings a lot like people do. You can expect her to jump or meow when stung (it hurts!) and even to lick or paw at the sting site for a while afterwards. A little redness and swelling is normal as are symptoms like irritation, agitation, and even swelling around the sting site, as long as it’s not overly pronounced. If your cat is still breathing normally within five minutes after a bee sting, she is probably fine.
What should you do for a bee sting? If you feel confident your cat isn’t showing signs of a serious allergic reaction, you can try to treat the sting itself. At the sting site, look to see if a stinger remains; if it does, use the back of a (sterilized) credit card to scrape it out. Tweezers can rupture the venom sack, making matters worse. After the stinger has been removed, apply antiseptic to the area and see if your cat will allow you to ice it for a couple minutes at a time to reduce swelling.
If your cat’s reaction isn’t serious but she’s still pretty uncomfortable, consider giving her a dose of over the counter antihistamine such as diphenhydramine. Always talk to your vet before giving your cat any OTC medications and to find out the correct dosage.
A Highly-Allergic Cat’s Reaction to a Bee Sting
Cats can be allergic to any one of the many compounds found in bee venom. If she’s highly allergic, you’ll know within minutes as her breathing gets quicker, her heart rate escalates, and she becomes panicky or disoriented. Without medical treatment, cats in anaphylactic shock will eventually lose the ability to breathe altogether. If you suspect your cat is in distress, rush her to an emergency veterinarian immediately. If possible, try and remove the stinger using the credit card method mentioned above on the way to stem the flow of new venom.
A veterinarian may administer medications such as corticosteroids or epinephrine (like an EpiPen) to arrest the process of anaphylaxis. They may give your cat IV fluids, and in some cases keep them overnight for observation. If your cat is severely allergic to bees, talk to your vet about what you should do if she’s stung again; they may suggest an EpiPen of your own for home.
Remember that bee allergies can develop spontaneously! If your cat displayed moderate symptoms the last time she was stung, there’s a chance her next sting could produce a worse, more serious reaction. It’s always a good idea to watch your cat carefully for several hours after any bee stings, allergic or not.