Symptoms of Cat Scratch Disease

Cat scratch disease or cat scratch fever passes from cat to human through scratches. Usually, cat scratch fever affects children more than adults. The bacteria that cause the illness remain more prevalent in kittens than cats.

Cat scratch fever only affects humans. Cats may have the bacteria in their bloodstream without ever having any ill effects. Humans need to be careful, especially if they have weak immune systems.

If you own cats, train your cat to use toys for playing, not people's hands, feet or toes. Because Bartonella spreads through scratches and bites of infected animals, it is important that pet owners train their cat that scratching is not okay.

How Cat Scratch Disease Spreads

Discovered in 1889 and named in 1931, cat scratch disease occurs when a feline is carrying the Bartonella bacteria in their bloodstream. Scientists believe that at least 40 percent of all cats have the Bartonella bacteria in them.

Cats pick up the bacteria through the bite of an infected flea or tick or during a scuffle with another cat. Cats with fleas scratch themselves and pick up flea droppings or tick pieces in their claws. Because the flea droppings and tick body contain that cat's bacteria-filled blood, they pass the Bartonella onto another cat or to a human through a playful or intentional scratching.

Symptoms of Cat Scratch Fever in Humans

Once a human has been scratched by a cat sick with Bartonella, the bacteria multiply forming a swollen red bump near the scratch site. Within three weeks, the bacteria spreads to the lymph nodes. Typically, the Cat Scratch Disease dies out in three weeks causing only mild symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen scratch site
  • Swollen lymph nodes

In those with inefficient immune systems, Bartonella bacteria move beyond the lymph nodes into the rest of the body. They end up causing:

  • Encephalitis
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Infection of the heart valves

Treatment for Humans with the Cat Sickness

If you suspect you have cat scratch fever, visit your doctor. He will recommend you take antibiotics if the symptoms have not cleared up after a couple months. Antibiotics are important if the infection has spread to your bone marrow or organs.

Other Diseases Linked to Bartonella Bacteria

While cats cannot develop cat scratch fever, there is a strong link between Bartonella and health issues that affect cats. These health conditions are:

  • Endocarditis
  • Eye inflammation
  • Lymph node problems
  • Reproductive troubles

Prevention Methods for Your Cat

To keep your cat from spreading the bacteria that causes cat scratch disease and from developing other health problems, use a flea prevention medication. Keep fleas out of your home and keep your cat inside and away from other cats. As long as the cat cannot get its infected blood trapped in its claws, there is no risk of spreading cat scratch fever.

Cat medicine products are available for flea prevention and killing off any fleas or eggs that are currently on your cat. They are a useful tool in eliminating fleas from your home.