Feline Bartonellosis and Cat Scratch Disease Infection

Cat scratch disease (in humans) or feline bartonellosis (in cats) is a bacterial infection transmitted through open wounds or cat scratches. People who handle young cats for a prolonged period are more often at risk for an infection, though the bacteria may infect all ages, sexes and breeds of cats.

Feline Bartonellosis

There is not a lot of information on feline bartonellosis, and most information is extrapolated from studies on human cases of CSD. Cats are considered the main carrier of the disease, though evidence suggests that fleas and cat mange play a large role in the transmission to other cats as well as humans.

A cat may also contract the disease after having been scratched by an infected animal, such as during a fight.

Sometimes, a cat infected with feline bartonellosis may not exhibit any signs at all. In this instance, treatment is not necessary. However, common symptoms that may appear include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Red eyes
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Decreased appetite
  • Reproductive difficulty (in advanced stages)

If a cat does display symptoms of the disease, an antibiotic treatment will be prescribed, with additional supportive care as necessary. Occasionally, feline bartonellosis may cause anomalies on the skin and resemble certain cat skin allergies or disorders.

Cat Scratch Disease

In humans, CSD is rarely a serious disease, but can be dangerous to people with immunodeficiencies. CSD infected people who are also carrying advanced HIV may exhibit dementia or other neurological disorders. Children afflicted with CSD often display dementia and permanent neurological damage.

The common symptoms of CSD in humans are:

  • Blistering at the site of the scratch
  • Red or purple skin lesions
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen liver or spleen

To properly diagnose CSD, a biopsy and blood test is necessary.


As the only treatment is a strong dose of antibiotics, the best defense against contracting CSD is good hygiene. As bacteria cause the disease, it is important to wash any cuts or scratches you may receive from your cat. The same is important for your cat, and you should never let your cat lick its scratches or open wounds. If signs of an infection show, treat it with antibiotics immediately and visit your vet.

To prevent scratches, some advocate declawing cats. However, as cats need their claws for a number of activities, this may be an unwise route.

Feline bartonellosis and its accompanying CSD is a somewhat uncommon disease that can be treated with antibiotics. However, in some cases, CSD may cause neurological damage. It is important to maintain the good hygiene of both yourself and your cat, and to seek medical attention promptly if you suspect that either you or your pet may have contracted an infection.