Diseases, Shelter and Rescue Resources

Cat Scratch Disease

What is Cat Scratch Disease and is it dangerous? Cat Scratch Disease, sometimes referred to as Cat Scratch Fever or Bartonellosis, is caused by an infection with a bacteria called Bartonella henselae. In most cases, both cats and people infected with the disease recovery quickly.

How Does Cat Scratch Fever Spread

It is believed that cats generally become infected with cat scratch fever through flea feces containing the Bartonella bacteria. After fleas leave feces on a cat, the cat likely grooms itself and ingests the feces containing the bacteria. B. henselae can also be transmitted from infected to naïve cats or kittens through fleas and through direct contact.

Cat Scratch Disease is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be spread from an animal to a human. People often develop this disease after being scratched or bitten by an infected cat with bacteria on their teeth or claws. The disease more commonly affects children than adults.

Cat Scratch Fever Symptoms

Most cats do not show any signs of the disease, so there is a good chance that the disease will go unnoticed in a cat. If cats show any symptoms of cat scratch fever, these might include lethargy, lack of appetite, fever, swollen glands, and muscle aches.

Signs of cat scratch fever in humans usually start with swelling or a small abscess at the site of infection. Another typical symptom is swelling of the lymph nodes nearest to the scratch or bite. A person may also develop flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, fatigue, and loss of appetite. People with a suppressed immune system may suffer further complications, such as heart, eye, brain, intestinal, and skin problems.

Cat Scratch Disease Treatment

Most cats never require treatment for Cat Scratch Disease. Similarly, many humans don’t usually need medical treatment either, although some might need antibiotics. A doctor may drain lymph nodes if they are painful.

How to Prevent Cat Scratch Fever

Because fleas spread this disease to cats, the best prevention is feline flea control. You can also learn to play safely with your cat to reduce the chances of being bitten or scratched. It is also suggested that people do not play with stray cats. If you are bitten or scratched by a cat, you should immediately wash the area with soap and water.
Flea and Tick Finder button

How Serious is Cat Scratch Disease

Someone with a suppressed immune system should have their cat tested for the presence of bacteria. If someone with a suppressed immune system is thinking about buying a cat, they should have the cat tested and ensure that the cat is from a flea-free environment.

If you have more questions on cat scratch fever, call us at 800.786.4751.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.