Cat Scratch Fever: Treatments, Symptoms, Recovery, Causes

Cat Scratch Fever: What Is It?

Many of us associate Ted Nugent’s 1970s rock anthem with the phrase “cat scratch fever.” Cat scratch fever, however, is a medical illness known as bartonellosis, not just a nice tune. Bartonella henselae, the causative bacteria, is most frequently transmitted to humans by a cat scratch and frequently causes a fever.

Cats, especially young cats and kittens with fleas, are frequently infected with Bartonella henselae. Dogs and rabbits among other animals are susceptible to infection. Most cats exposed to the germs that cause cat scratch fever or cat scratch sickness do not become ill. However, through bites and scratches, it can put humans at risk of contracting diseases.

Cat Scratch Fever Symptoms

The majority of cats with cat scratch fever are asymptomatic, which means they don’t exhibit any clinical symptoms and seem normal. Very rarely, a cat may exhibit symptoms of illness, such as:

An increase in lymph nodes

Temporary fever, sluggishness, and/or anorexia

pregnancy failure

bacterial infection of the heart

Keep in mind that most cats with cat scratch fever are healthy and do not exhibit illness symptoms. On the other hand, cat scratch fever symptoms appear more frequently in people. The most frequently reported are as follows:

pustule where the scrape was.


An increase in lymph nodes

Cat scratch fever causes

A bacteria known as flea dirt, which is carried by the fleas’ feces and digestive byproducts, is what causes cat scratch fever. When cats have a flea infestation and scratch themselves with claws that are tainted with the Bartonella bacterium from flea filth, the cats become ill. Ticks have been proven to harbor the same bacterium.

When a human is bitten or scratched by a cat and the wound is contaminated with infectious flea excrement, this results in cat scratch fever. Flea-infested cats frequently scratch and chew on themselves, transferring bacteria to their claws and oral mucous membranes.

How Doctors Identify Cat Scratch Fever

Cats are hardly ever tested for cat scratch fever because the majority of infected cats never exhibit any symptoms of the illness. On rare occasions, testing may be done on a cat who will be donating blood.

Based on past exposure, the majority of veterinarians will establish a preliminary diagnosis. The likelihood of catching the bacterium when the cat is shedding it in its blood will be increased if they decide to test for cat scratch fever by advising repeated testing intervals.

What to do if your cat has cat scratch fever, according to the vet

Cats are probably the source of the infection, but they are unlikely to get sick themselves. This is crucial to keep in mind if your doctor has diagnosed you or a member of your family with cat scratch fever. The immune systems of the majority of affected cats will tackle the infection on their own and do not necessitate a trip to the clinic.

Even while the majority of cat scratches do not cause cat scratch fever, it is crucial to completely clean any cat bites or scratches. If a cat has scratched you or a member of your family and you or they have a bump at the site of the scratch, followed 1-3 weeks later by swollen lymph nodes and/or a fever, consult your doctor about what to do next.

How to treat cat scratch fever

Cats with cat scratch fever hardly ever need medical attention. The majority of cats’ immune systems can treat the virus on their own without any help.

Occasionally, cats who contract the illness may need to receive antibiotic treatment. When cats with the condition live with immune-compromised people, treatment is occasionally undertaken. For at least three weeks, antibiotic medication is the preferred form of treatment. Due to the Bartonella bacteria’s propensity for developing antibiotic resistance, treatment can be difficult.

Human Cat Scratch Fever Treatment

The majority of cat scratch fever episodes are self-limiting and heal without medical intervention. Certain situations call for the use of antibiotics. Rarely, some people may experience a more severe, chronic version of the condition. These individuals frequently have an underlying illness that impairs their immune system’s ability to operate, making them immunocompromised.

Consult your doctor about the best course of action if you think you could have cat scratch fever.

Treatment and Recovery from Cat Scratch Fever

Most cats with cat scratch fever don’t exhibit any symptoms and fully recover on their own. Fewer cats may need to relax for a few days before their immune systems can control the infection in those rare cases where they get a minor fever and/or swollen lymph nodes. Make careful to finish the recommended course of antibiotics if your cat has been prescribed them for cat scratch fever. The duration of antibiotic medication may be many weeks.

Cat scratch fever in humans typically heals on its own over the course of 2 to 8 weeks. However, lymph node enlargement could continue for a while. People with weakened immune systems may face more serious infections, more complications, and longer recovery times.

How to avoid cat scratch fever

The best method to protect yourself and your pets from cat scratch fever is to regularly treat your cat for fleas and ticks. Cat scratches and bites with flea-contaminated claws and/or mouths are the main sources of cat scratch fever transmission. Flea control will significantly reduce both your and your cat’s risk of contracting cat scratch fever.

If a cat bites or scratches you, it’s crucial to wash the wound well with soap and water. Numerous additional bacterial species can live in a cat’s mouth or claws even if it does not have cat scratch fever.

It should be possible for anyone to own a pet cat even if they are immunocompromised due to cancer, HIV, or other immune system illnesses. You can avoid cat scratch fever by taking these easy precautions:

All year long, administer routine flea and tick prophylaxis to all household dogs.

Don’t allow cats to go outside because doing so exposes them to more fleas and the bacterium Bartonella henselae.

In order to reduce your risk of getting bitten or scratched by your cat, try to avoid encouraging physical play.

If your cat does bite or scratch you, make sure to carefully treat the wound with soap and water.

Keep your cat’s claws clipped so that they won’t damage your skin if they scratch you.

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