Cat Scratch Disease

Cat scratch disease is an infection that may be transmitted from a cat by scratching, licking or biting. The infection is caused by bacteria, known as Bartonella henselae, which will cause inflammation of the lymph nodes, and is more common in children. The bacteria causing the disease are transmitted from cat to cat through flea bites. Fleas cannot infect humans.

Symptoms of Cat Scratch Disease

The symptoms of the disease will typically occur after an encounter with a feline. You will notice a blister in the area where the cat has bitten or scratched you. This lesion is not painful, and will occur 3 to 10 days after the scratch.

You will also notice a swelling of lymph nodes in the surrounding area of the inoculation lesion. When palpating the lymph nodes, you will feel pain. The skin surrounding the lymph nodes will also be swollen, red and there may also be some pus.

Other symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat and coughing
  • Eye infections, in rare cases
  • Seizures, in very rare cases

The disease is not contagious, but it must be diagnosed to eliminate other possible ailments that cause similar symptoms.


The disease can be diagnosed with a few blood tests and a physical evaluation. Cat scratch disease does not require treatment, as it will go away on its own. The inoculation lesion will heal in a few days, while lymph nodes may stay swollen for 2 to 4 months after the infection with the bacteria.

If the lymph nodes are painful, the doctor may drain them and remove the excess liquid. You can also use wet compresses to relieve the pain. Get some acetaminophen or ibuprofen. In rare cases, antibiotics may be administered.

If the inoculation lesion doesn’t heal in 7 to 10 days and the redness around the wound tends to expand and the fever is elevated, you need to visit your doctor. Also, if new symptoms occur, these can be a warning sign.


Cat scratch disease can be prevented by not playing rough games with your cat. Don’t play with stray cats, and instruct your kids to avoid them as well. After having cat scratch disease once, you will be immune to the bacteria for life.

Wash your hands after playing with cats, as saliva is the main carrier of the bacteria causing scratch disease. If you get a scratch or a bite from your cat, wash the area thoroughly with cold water and antibacterial soap. Disinfect the scratch and apply some antibiotic cream.

Cat scratch disease is not a serious illness and can go away on its own. However, if you notice unusual symptoms, consult your doctor and see if antibiotics are needed.

Meanwhile, if your cat has fleas that are the carriers of the bacteria causing scratch disease, you need to eliminate these from your pet and the entire household.