Cat Scratch Fever Is More Than Just a Catchy Tune.

That's right. Not only is Cat Scratch Fever a real disease, but, it can be transmitted from cats to humans. With cats, the primary means of transmission to humans occurs when the cat bites or scratches someone. The cat gets it from flea feces, which it ingests when it grooms itself. Humans can also acquire the disease through exposure to ticks. 

Your cat will probably not become all that sick when infected. Typically, cats experience swollen glands, muscle aches and mild fevers. In humans, the infection tends to also be fairly mild, however, approximately 25,000 cases of cat scratch fever result in brief hospital stays, every year. Most of these hospitalized patients are children, as kids are more likely to play with kittens, who are more inclined to bite and scratch while playing. 

Cat claws are incredibly sharp

While cat scratch fever symptoms usually appear within 7-14 days after transmission, it can be up to 8 weeks before they become apparent. Symptoms tend to include swollen lymph nodes near the site of the bite, general malaise, headache and fever. These symptoms don't usually merit more than a brief period of rest, during which they tend to resolve without medical treatment. However, some patients do ultimately require a course of antibiotics.  

The good news is that cat scratch fever is not life threatening to human beings, though it can pose a serious risk to patients suffering with compromised immune systems, such as people undergoing chemically based treatments or those diagnosed with the AIDS virus. While most cat owners need not worry about whether their cats are, in fact, carriers of the disease, those who must take exceptional care in defending their health are encouraged to have their cats tested and, if positive, treated. Being vigilant against flea outbreaks is critical to vulnerable patients, as well.

Getting Specific About Cat Scratch Fever Symptoms 

Again, the majority of cat scratch fever cases appear to impact people 21 years and younger. Symptoms may include:

  • Small, reddish papule or bump near the site of the bite or scratch
  • The appearance of swelling and infection at the site.
  • Lymph node swelling near the site
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Mild fever
  • Poor appetite
  • Abdominal cramps of nausea
  • Muscle pain

Cat scratch fever symptoms in cats can include: 

  • Lethargy or poor appetite
  • Swollen glands or fever
  • History of tick or flea infestation


Diagnosing Cat Scratch Fever

People affected by this disease can usually recall being bitten or scratched, by a cat. A small reddish rounded bump is typically found at the site of the bite or scratch. Your physician may recommend additional testing to correctly identify and isolate cat scratch fever as being the issue. Culturing or growing the bacteria responsible for the disease from a blood sample is still considered the single most reliable method for diagnosing the illness. The disease may appear to surface intermittently, and may require multiple tests to confirm.

Treating Cat Scratch Fever

 Most physicians will clean the wound site thoroughly, encouraging their patients to avoid young cats for a while. Should the lymph nodes be swollen or painful, they can be "aspirated," to eliminate excessive pus. At this point, bed rest and even antimicrobial therapy may also be required. The majority of cases seem to resolve within just a few weeks, though minor symptoms can linger for months. In most cases, the cat involved does not need medical attention.

 Feline Companions For Immunocompromised Patients

Anyone who is not physically well might be served by having a pet. Studies have proven that both cats and dogs can help their owners enjoy lower blood pressure and fewer cardiac problems. However, patients undergoing chemotherapy or who are known to have AIDS are at far higher risk of experiencing the more severe cat scratch fever symptoms. In these instances, cat owners are encouraged to have their cats tested for the bacteria's presence, prior to bringing a new cat into their homes. Cats should also be confirmed as having come from a flea free environment.  

The precise risk of getting this disease from a cat is not known, but, if you have ever been bitten or scratched by a cat, clean the abrasion immediately. Should symptoms surface, such as swollen glands, fatigue or headache, do not hesitate to see your physician.

The potential for serious illness in cats depends in large part, on the disease's clinical presentation. Monitor the cat for recurrent symptoms while it’s being treated and immediately contact your vet should symptoms such as fever or swollen glands surface.

Embracing Prevention as a Strategy Against Cat Scratch Fever.

If you can prevent your cat from getting sick in the first place, that is the best strategy possible. Endeavor to keep your cat and your home completely free of ticks and fleas. Keep your cat's nails trimmed and resist the temptation to play rough with cats and kittens.(Another good reason to never spar with a cat with your body parts!)   Since there is currently no vaccine available to prevent the disease from infecting your beloved feline, these strategies are your very best chance for keeping the disease at bay.

*Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons