How Do You Get Cat Scratch Fever?

How do you get cat scratch fever is a fairly common question asked by both cat owners, and those who come in contact with cats. Also known as cat scratch disease it’s only caught from animals infected with a certain bacteria. In this post you’ll learn exactly what cat scratch disease is, how it’s caught, symptoms, and possible treatments.

Don’t ever let the fear of catching this disease put you off getting a cat as it’s easily treated. Only around 40% of felines carry the disease at some point in their lives, and far more common in strays or feral cats.

What is cat scratch fever?

what is cat scratch fever

Cat scratch fever is an illness or disease caught from being scratched by a cat carrying a bacteria known as bartonella henselae. As I just mentioned, around 40% of cats will be infected at some point, so it’s certainly a low risk. Only a tiny number of people ever need to visit a hospital, and it’s mostly those with a poor immune system who are most at risk. Young children are the most likely to get infected as they’re more likely to play with and pet kitties.

If you have children, you should teach them not to play rough with your cat as they can easily get scratched or bitten. Most kids love cuddling and playing with pets, and a strong bond of unconditional love can soon develop.

In order to help keep your cat free from carrying the disease, make sure you keep all vaccinations up to date. You should also worm and treat against ticks and fleas on a regular basis. Frequent grooming, especially if your cat has long hair, will help uncover any unwelcome visitors.

The bacteria responsible for cat scratch fever is often carried in these tiny mites. Doing your best to stop an infestation drastically reduces any risk of catching the disease in the first place. As infection can also be spread through contact with your cat’s saliva, even a small bite could result in catching cat scratch fever.

You can’t stop your cat coming into contact with other felines when going outside, but as long as you keep her free of ticks and fleas you should be ok. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing if your cat has the bacteria as she won’t get sick from it. All you can do is keep your kitty healthy and try to avoid getting scratched!

what are the symptoms of cat scratch fever?

what are symptoms cat scratch fever

Symptoms don’t usually show themselves until several days later, so you won’t suddenly feel unwell after a scratch or bite. If you’re sensitive to cat scratches you may notice itchiness and slight swelling that lasts a few hours or more. However, cat scratch fever is different.

Typically, you’d see blisters or small bumps around the area your cat scratched you. These can last up to 3 weeks before they heal. This is often on your hand or arm as it’s commonly were a cat will grab you. Often an over stimulated cat with pent up energy is inclined to bite or scratch in playfulness. Your cat doesn’t intend to hurt you, and doesn’t realise how sensitive human skin is.

Swollen lymph nodes can appear up to 7 weeks after you’ve been scratched and take as long as 4 months before they go down. You may also suffer from headaches, sore joints, and have a temperature as well.

Those most at risk of cat scratch fever

Though cat scratch fever is rarely serious, there are those who could be at serious risk of the disease. As mentioned previously, it’s mostly those with a weakened immune system liable to suffer the most. If you have diabetes, heart disease, are HIV positive, or are pregnant, you need to be cautious when playing with or handling your cat.

Is cat scratch fever treatable?

If you’re unlucky enough to get cat scratch fever, most of the time it will go away on it’s own. Although the symptoms aren’t pleasant, most times it can be treated at home. Your doctor may possibly prescribe antibiotics if you feel really poorly, and the blisters don’t improve. However you may find simple home remedies such as apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, or witch hazel help soothe blisters.

how to stop a cat from scratching you

how to stop a cat from scratching you

Cats are cute animals with gentle, sensitive souls, but they’re also predatory with sharp claws and teeth! As kittens they learn to scratch and bite from their mother as part of developing hunting skills. It’s natural cat behaviour for kittens to play rough, and gentle biting is totally acceptable among siblings.

However, unless you teach your fur baby that hands and arms aren’t toys, you could soon be covered in scratches! You don’t want your friends to think you’ve been self-harming! A good idea is to get toys such as feather wands that let you play with your cat without involving your hands. One important tip is never pull your hand away suddenly from your cat if she’s holding on to it. Doing so will make her think it’s play, and she’ll hold on even more, digging her claws in as well.

Distraction is often the best way to divert attention. If your cat is in madness mode, and grabbing at you, use a laser pen toy to get her chasing the red dot! It works everytime for my cat.

How do you get cat scratch fever from a stray cat

how do you get cat scratch fever from a stray cat

Feral cats and strays are most likely to carry the bacteria responsible for cat scratch fever. Petting a stray is instinctive to most of us who love animals, but could be risky if you get scratched. Always let a cat you don’t know sniff your hand before stroking it. This minimises the risk of being scratched.

Fleas carry the bacteria, and if bitten, flea dirt can enter wounds. Grooming and licking themselves helps flea dirt get trapped between cat’s claws. As well as that, fighting spreads the bacteria between felines. Cats rarely get ill from carrying bartonella, so there’s very little way of knowing if your cat is infected, apart from blood tests.

Keeping your cat healthy to minimise the risk of catching the disease

Now you’ve learnt all about cat scratch fever and how it’s transmitted to humans, you have a greater understanding of the illness. As you’ve discovered it’s passed onto cats through a bacteria found on fleas and ticks. Keeping up with your kitty’s flea and tick medication can help prevent infestations from strays in the neighborhood.

Even if your fur baby gets into a fight, any fleas deciding to jump on her, won’t survive. Wearing gloves when grooming your cat is also a good idea, especially if your kitty is feisty! One good thing though, is if you’re unfortunate enough to get cat scratch fever, you’ll be immune to it for the rest of your life.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post and found it useful, please share. If you have any experience of cat scratch fever, I’d love to hear about it. Please leave questions or comments below.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)

6 thoughts on “How Do You Get Cat Scratch Fever?”

  1. I had never heard of this before. It would be great if we could avoid cat scratches altogether. However, I disagree with removing their claws. Do you know if it is possible to train cats, not to scratch?

    • Thank you Catherine:) I’m also against removing claws as it’s very cruel and now banned in many countries. I don’t think you’d ever be able to train a cat not to scratch as it’s part of their nature.

  2. My cat Apple who is a Siamese cat can sometimes get rough and has scratched and bite me countless in playfulness.
    Have never had a any symptoms you speak of affect me though. Thank god.
    I too have never heard of this cat scratch fever.
    I am glad I am aware of it now.
    Do you think house cats do not suffer from getting this?
    My cat is a house cat.
    Thanks for this enlightening post.

    • Thank you Adrian 🙂 It’s much rarer for a house cat to carry the bacteria responsible for cat scratch fever. As long as you use spot on flea treatment regularly, and keep your siamese up do date with vaccinations you should be fine:)

  3. I did heard about it and the person was obviously laying because he said once it scratches you there is no turning back, you are going to be admitted in hospital and stay there for days without getting better. He went on about the blisters and you will have agonizing pains the entire body.
    Now I know better and I will share the link with him, proving that he was laying. The worse thing is that lies spread faster than truth. Thanks for opening my eyes with this informative post.

    • Thank you Lucky:) Yes, there is a lot of misinformation out there, and the person who spoke to you was very misinformed. Cat scratch fever is usually very mild and passes on it’s own.


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