Cat Scratch Disease

One of the most common questions that come up on the subject of cat scratch disease is whether or not the disease can be passed on to humans.

It is possible for your cat to pass this disease on to you in a number of ways, the most common being by a cat biting or scratching you.

Here's how it works: cats get special bacteria from fleas, which is then passed onto humans through the cat's saliva. Though these bacteria are not harmful to cats it can cause a serious infection in humans.

The cause of the disease is something called Bartonella Henseke. It affects the lymph nodes around the neck, head and upper areas of the body. Kittens are most commonly infected, with 40% of cats being said to have had it at some point in their lives.

Those at greater risk are people with a weaker immune system, such as a person with HIV/AIDS, an organ transplant patient or someone with cancer.

Common symptoms include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Lost of appetite

Cat Scratch Disease Treatment options

In most cases no treatment is needed, as it will heal on its own. However, you may wish to take Tylenol or Iburofen for any pain or soreness, and use a warm compress on swollen lymph nodes to ease the pain. Be sure to seek medical attention to confirm that Cat Scratch Disease is indeed what you have.


The best thing you can do to prevent this disease is to avoid getting scratched or bitten by your cat. Even while playing with your cat there are always cues you can take to avoid a scratch, so pay close attention to any aggressive behavior.

  • Here are some things to watch for: 
  • Hissing or growling
  • Loud, angry sounding meows
  • He starts swiping his paws at you
  • His tail is pointed up and flicking, and his back fur is bristled out

Steps to reduce your risk:

  • Don't rough play with your cat
  • Wash all cat scratches and bites right away
  • Wash your hands after petting your cat
  • Control the fleas on your cat
  • Do not let your cat lick any of your open wounds

If you do experience any symptoms after a cat bite make sure that you see a doctor.

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