Cat Care Wellness

What is Cat Scratch Fever?


Cat scratch disease (CSD), commonly known as cat-scratch fever, is a bacterial infection passed to humans by cats through scratches or bites. The bacteria that causes the disease is called Bartonella henselae.  Cats are only carriers of the disease, and, except on very rare occasions, don’t exhibit any symptoms themselves. Here is everything you need to know about cat scratch fever.

How do cats become infected? How do people become infected?

Cats typically contract CSD from fleas. This can be through a flea bite, or by ingesting flea dirt when grooming. Because cats rarely display any symptoms, it can be difficult to tell if your cat is carrying the bacteria, which causes high rates of infection among humans. Cats pass the disease to humans through scratching, biting, or saliva entering an open wound.

What are the symptoms in cats? In humans?

On a rare occasion, a cat does show signs of CSD, it’s important to take them to the vet right away. CSD can cause heart inflammation and difficulty breathing, along with infection in the mouth, urinary systems, or eyes.

The first indication of cat scratch fever in humans is a bump or blister where the cat has scratched or bitten you. This is often followed by swollen lymph nodes around the area. Other symptoms include a headache, fever, poor appetite, or lethargy. If you develop any of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away. It’s unlikely that CSD will cause more serious complications, but it can cause joint pain, abdominal pain, and may affect other internal organs that may require extensive treatment, especially in people with weakened
immune systems.

How do you treat CSD?

Antibiotics are used to treat both cats and humans when necessary. Symptoms in people aren’t usually severe enough to warrant treatment and they tend to go away on their own after a few weeks. Treatment is only given to cats who display symptoms of the disease, otherwise, the bacteria leaves their body on its own.

How do you prevent your cat or yourself from getting cat scratch fever?

For cats, the most important prevention method is flea control. Consult with your vet before applying any flea product, then use a veterinarian-approved flea product for pest control. Use a flea comb to inspect for any fleas or flea dirt, and make sure to keep your cat’s nails trimmed (if you are worried about cutting your kitty’s quick, a groomer or vet will be able to do this for you).

People should make sure to wash cat scratches and bites right away. Even if you haven’t been scratched or bitten, wash your hands immediately after playing with your cat to prevent any saliva from entering your through your eyes, nose, or mouth. Avoid playing rough with your cat and keep open wounds away from your kitty’s mouth.

While cat scratch fever can sound scary at first, it’s no reason to avoid playing with your cat. As long as your cat is consistently treated for fleas and you wash your hands after playing you and your cat should be healthy and happy!

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