December 12th, 2007
Cat recovering from snake collar
A Tasmanian cat has used up at least one life learning that it's not all right to attack native wildlife.Usually, Jelly the cat kills birds. But when Jelly bit a snake, the snake bit back, twisting itself around the cat's neck like a necklace.
The cat's owner, Wendy Wallis, was playing with her children in the backyard when she noticed the cat was walking towards her with something around its neck.
At first Ms Wallis thought the cat was carrying a bird.
"Jelly was about half way up the backyard when I realised it was a snake, and then it was panic stations, because all the children were outside,' she said.
"I knew Jelly would follow us inside, so I picked the children up and went inside before she followed me."
With the family safely inside, Ms Wallis took a picture of the cat and its snake collar through a glass door. Jelly's eyes look droopy because she's been bitten by the snake.
The venom from a copperhead snake can kill a human, but when snake wrangler, Matthew Stafford, arrived he was more worried about being bitten by the cat.
"No, the cat was good, it was really good, it was surprisingly pleasant," he said.
"I was expecting it to be quite agitated - it was afraid to see me as with any stranger I suppose, but once the owner came outside and he was able to hold the cat for me, it calmed down quite a bit.
"It was all over and done with in about 10, 15 seconds."
Jelly's owners took the cat straight to the vet. A day and $1,000 later, Jelly's on the mend. She's still on a drip but is strong enough to stand up and eat.
Her owners have just called the vet, Andrew Nicholson, to ask how she's going.
"She's mobile, she's walking really well, her pupils have come down," he said.
"We've still got her on fluids but we'll have her off the fluids this afternoon."
Mr Nicholson says he doesn't know how many times the cat was bitten by the snake but he's sure it was the cat that struck first.
"It's more than likely that the cat was wondering through the backyard at the same time as the snake and attacked the snake, picked it up," he said.
"I think Mr Wallis said it had a bite wound in the middle of its back so I suspect the cat's just picked it up and the snake's just wrapped itself fair around the neck a couple of times to try and protect itself. That's the most likely scenario anyway."
The idea that it was the cat that bit the snake first, not the other way around, is shared by Mr Stafford.
"Snakes won't usually attack unless they're aggravated and cats are known for biting snakes; dogs are known for it too, cats are just a lot more inquisitive than dogs, that's all," he said.
"It's hard to say, but with the snake being bit where it was, it would have been hard for the cat to bite it with it being around its neck, so I'd probably say that the cat got itself into a bit of mischief this time. Lucky to get out the other side of it."
Jelly is being told to stay inside and stop using up her lives on curiosity.
And the copperhead snake?
It's being cared for by a wildlife volunteer and treated for the cat bite on its back.
Once the snake has recovered from becoming a collar it'll be released back into the wild in a spot that's far away from Jelly the cat.
Australian Snakes - Copperhead Snakes from Snake.com.au
National Geographic - Australia's 10 most deadly snakes
The Australian Venom Compendium