Cat Scratch Fever

Cat Scratch Fever

Cat scratch fever is an infection resulting from a scratch or bite from a cat.

The ailment is also known as cat scratch disease (CSD), debre's syndrome, debre-mollaret syndrome, cat scratch adenitis and a number of other names.

Scratch fever is not a disease of the cat.

Cat's cannot get the ailment but are the carriers of a bacteria (Bartonella Henselea.)

There is some difference of opinion, but it is generally believed that this bacteria thrives in the saliva of cats and is transferred from their mouths, to their paws and claws during grooming.

When a cat carrying the bacteria scratches, or bites, a human the bacteria is passed to them.

A cat licking an open wound can also transfer the bacteria.

Cats and kittens that are hosts of Bartonella Henselae do not show any outward signs so it is not obvious which cats can spread cat scratch disease.

Kittens are more likely than adult cats to be carrying the bacteria.

It is estimated that around 40% of cats and kittens carry the bacteria, but considering that only 22,000 or so humans are treated for cat scratch fever each year in the USA, it can be seen that it is a relatively rare disease.

However, an unknown number of moderate infections probably go untreated, the sufferer perhaps mistaking the symptoms for flu.

young bengal cat licking pawIt is generally believed that bacteria thrives in the saliva of cats and is transferred from their mouths to their claws during grooming.

Children and adolescents are more prone to cat scratch fever than are adults.

This could be because children are more likely to receive a scratch from a cat through rough play, than are adults.

Because veterinarians handle many cats, and get scratched, they are also more likely to be infected than most adults.

Bartonella Henselae is spread from cat to cat by fleas.

Whilst it is not thought that fleas can directly pass the bacteria to humans, it can be seen that good cat flea control will reduce the risk of infection.

Cat scratch fever is not contagious from human to human.It appears that experiencing one episode of the disease likely means that you will not be infected again.

What Are The Symptoms of Cat Scratch Fever?


A bite or scratch that fails to heal or gets worse with time. A small papule or pustule at the site of the wound.

Mild flu like symptoms such as, low grade fever, headache, joint pain, tiredness, and loss of appetite.

Swollen and sore lymph nodes.*

Less commonly or rarely.

High fever, confusion, severely swollen lymph nodes, eye disorders, hepatitis, pneumonia, seizures.

*A lymph node is a small bean shaped gland found in many areas of the body, but mainly under the arms, in the groin and at the neck. The nodes can remain swollen for some time after other symptoms have disappeared.


The majority of instances of cat scratch disease clear up in three to four weeks without any particular treatment.

In more severe cases, where inflammation of the lymph nodes persists, antibiotics may be prescribed. Badly swollen lymph nodes may need surgically draining.

The effects of cat scratch adenitis upon immune-compromised people (for example, those with HIV/AIDS, or receiving chemotherapy,) can be more serious if left untreated, and in some cases potentially life threatening. Again, treatment is usually administered by antibiotics.

If you have been bitten or scratched by a cat and swelling develops around the injury, or you experience flu like symptoms, or swollen lymph nodes, to be on the safe side contact your doctor.

Several factors may have a bearing on your doctor deciding on the most appropriate treatment, if any, - the severity of the wound, your age, your health in general and your medical history.

Prevention of Cat Scratch Fever

If your cat is found to be the bearer of cat scratch disease is does not mean that your cat has to go.

If there is a cat in your household, whether a carrier of the disease or not, the best preventive measure is that everyone learns to avoid cat scratches and bites.

Playing with a cat is good, good for the cat and good for you. But rough play is not good. In rough play scratches happen, its unavoidable. Sometimes bites happen too. Do not attempt to pet, or play with, a cat that clearly wants to be left alone.

If you should get scratched or bitten, by your own or any cat, wash the wound as soon as possible with antibacterial soap and running water.

Do not allow a cat to lick scratches or open sores or on your skin.

Do not rub your eyes after handling a cat.

Keeping your home thoroughly clean reduces the risk of your cat becoming a carrier of the bacteria. Keeping your home and cat free of fleas does too.

Zoonotic – a disease which can be transmitted from animals to humans.

Cats are, by and large, clean animals. They make wonderful companions and very loving pets. As with any animal and human relationship, hygiene is of paramount importance.

Cat scratch fever is one of several zoonotic diseases that felines can pass to humans.

It must be stated again that it is a relatively rare disease and in most cases it has mild effect. Enjoy the company of your cat.

This page was not written by a doctor. Always follow the advice of your physician.

Cat Distemper.
Prevention of cat distemper is far better than treatment, and the most effective way to prevent the disease is by suitable vaccination. Don't leave the health of your cat to chance.

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