Cat scratch disease, also known as cat scratch fever, is a bacterial infection spread by cats. You can get this if an infected cat licks your open wound, or if they bite or scratch you hard enough to break the skin. The risk is increased with kittens, because they are more likely to scratch.
How Do Cats Get Infected?
Cat scratch disease is caused by a bacterium called, Bartonella henselae. Nearly half of all cats carry this at some point in their lives, and most show no signs of illness. Kittens are more likely to have the infection and spread it to people. How do they get infected with Bartonella henselae? Most commonly from flea bites and flea droppings, or by fighting with (getting bitten or scratched by) other cats who are infected.
What are the Symptoms of Cat Scratch Disease?
Common symptoms off cat scratch disease include:
- A cat scratch or bite that gets red or swollen, does not heal, or gets worse
- Swollen or painful glands, under your arms if you were scratched on your arms or hands, or in the groin if you were scratched on your legs or feet.
- Flu-like symptoms like headache, fatigue, joint pain, decreased appetite or fever
- A body rash
How to Treat Cat Scratches
If your cat scratches or bites you hard enough to break the skin, wash the area well with soap and water right away and call your doctor if you develop any of the symptoms of cat scratch disease we’ve just discussed.
How to Prevent Cat Scratch Disease
- Trim your cat’s nails regularly
- Do not allow your cat to lick your wounds
- Don’t play rough with your cat, encouraging them to scratch or bite
- Wash cat bites or scratches with soap water right away
- Wash your hands with soap and water after playing with your cat, especially if you’re around young children, elderly people or people with weakened immune systems
- Don’t pet or touch stray or feral cats
- Keep your cats indoors to decrease their chance of getting fleas or coming into contact with potentially infected cats or other animals
- Control fleas (see my article, How to Get Rid of Fleas and How to Prevent Getting Them in the First Place).
How to Stop Your Cat from Scratching You
Scratching is important for a cat’s health and well-being. But it’s important to teach your cat where and what to scratch and also learn how to stop cat scratching. Here are some tips:
- Trim your cat’s nails often
- Provide a scratching pad or a scratching post. You might also read my article, How to Stop a Cat from Scratching Furniture which contains helpful tips about why cats scratch and things you can do to stop it.
- Make sure your cat is getting enough attention, exercise, playtime and mental stimulation. Read my article, How to Keep Indoor Cats Happy for tips.
- Consider whether your cat is anxious, nervous or upset. Get help on this from my article, Cat Stress Relievers – 10 Things That Stress Your Cat Out!
- You may also get helpful tips on keeping your cat from biting and scratching from my article, How to Train Your Cat to Stop Biting.
I’m Glad You Know About This
I’m glad you found out that cat scratch fever exists and that you’re educating yourself on what it is and how to prevent it. This is especially important if you have a new kitten or if you’ve adopted a feral or stray cat. It’s also important to know that small children, elderly people and people with a compromised immune system are more at risk of getting cat scratch fever, and for some, it can be serious.
If you have an outdoor cat, please be aware that you don’t know where your cat has been or what they may have come in contact with. Prevent fleas, wash cat beds and blankets regularly and make it’s your family’s habit to wash your hands after playing with your cat.
For Help with Cat Behavior?
If you feel you need help with your cat’s behavior, I can recommend a very good resource for cat training called, Complete Cat Training Guide from KingdomofPets.com. This is a downloadable ebook containing step-by-step instructions on how to solve 25 real-life cat behavior problems. This program is $37 and comes with a full money-back guarantee.
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