Kitten claws holding a finger.

The space that cats and their owners share is full of mutually beneficial affection, but it can also contain loads of bacteria. Fortunately, those of us with robust immune systems may never face the effects of disease carried by felines, but that doesn’t necessarily eliminate the risks. The fact remains: Cat scratch fever, or cat scratch disease (CSD), is a zoonotic disease that can easily pass from cat to person. Keep reading to learn how to protect yourself from the disease:

It Is a Rarity

We’ll start with the good news: Cat Scratch Disease is rare. That said, the bacteria that causes the disease, Bartonella henselae, is far from eradicated in our modern world. Indeed, a shockingly high number of cats either presently carry the bacteria or have in the past. The reason for this is simple. Fleas.

Just One 

Bartonella henselae is transmitted by fleas. Flea dirt (feces) can cause the disease if it enters the mouth or bloodstream of a cat. If flea dirt accumulates around the nails or between the teeth, a cat can spread the disease if they scratch or bite another individual. 

Most healthy felines will not present symptoms associated with CSD. However, kittens under the age of one are more likely to carry the disease and spread it to people. In rare cases, CSD may cause issues in the heart, eyes, mouth, or urinary system. 

A Risk to People

If you are bitten or scratched by a cat that has fleas infected with cat scratch fever, you may develop CSD. They could also pass the infection to you if they lick at an open wound.

It’s a good idea to thoroughly wash and disinfect a scratch or bite. Most people will clear an infection of CSD without the need for antibiotics. However, young children (under 5) and those with compromised immunity can get fairly sick with the illness affecting the eyes, kidneys, joints, nervous system, and heart. 

A blood test can confirm the bacteria and would likely precede a prescription of an antibiotic to reduce swelling of the lymph nodes.

What Can You Do?

All cats regardless of lifestyle (indoor and outdoor) benefit from year round parasite prevention. Since fleas bring the dangerous CSD bacteria onto their host, it’s critical to protect your cat (and the entire household) from this parasite. Further, maintaining consistent prevention practices minimizes the risk of other diseases, allergic dermatitis, and an infestation of the home.

Cat Scratch Fever

If you have any questions about cat scratch fever, your cat’s parasite prevention, or their lifestyle, please give us a call at (260) 637-7676. Our staff is always here for you at Dupont Veterinary Clinic at Coldwater.