If you’re a cat person, you’ve probably heard of “cat scratch fever”, or some other form of illness you can contract when a cat scratches or bites you. While some write the illness off as a myth and others avoid our feline friends entirely because of it, the notion that someone can get sick from an animal attack is nothing new. So, is “cat scratch fever” real? Read on to find out:
What is “Cat Scratch Fever”?
“Cat scratch fever”, or better known as Cat Scratch Disease, is indeed real. The illness is caused by a kind of bacteria called Bartonella henselae, which is commonly found around fleas and kittens. When someone contracts cat scratch disease, their symptoms are like that of any bacterial infection. Swelling, scabs, and pustules around the scratch are common. It is also possible for someone to develop a fever and swollen or tender lymph nodes as well. Cat scratch disease is rare and usually occurs in children under age 15, whose immune systems are not fully developed. However, for those who have immunodeficiency complications like HIV, AIDS, Diabetes, or are receiving cancer treatments, are at an increased risk.
Do all Cats Carry It?
The short answer? No. Bartonella henselae infects cats just like humans and can be contracted by flea bites, fights with infected cats, wound contamination, and rarely in blood transfusions. Even if a cat gets infected, most stay relatively unaffected by the bacteria their entire lives, and can recover from it quickly. In the case your cat has developed a serious infection, it is always best to consult your veterinarian for treatment options, depending on the severity of the illness. In cats, cat scratch disease can sometimes cause the heart to swell, making it difficult for the cat to breathe. Infection may also spread to the mouth, eyes, and urinary system, which can make it easier for humans to contract it from their housecats.
What to do if You’ve Been Scratched
If you’ve been scratched by a cat, there isn’t much need to worry. For those who are at an increased risk of developing infections, call your doctor as soon as possible. In the meantime, clean the wound with soap and warm water, a wound cleanser, or a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to wash away bacteria. From there, cover the scratch with a bandage to avoid further contamination.
If you begin to develop a fever, swollen lymph nodes, or your wound becomes infected, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Why do Cats Scratch People?
There are many reasons why a cat would scratch someone, and they aren’t always malicious. For example, a kitten who doesn’t quite know how to control its claws may scratch you during play, while kneading, or while trying to climb you. Claws are for more than just defense. Cats will use them to help maintain traction while walking and climbing, improve their grip, and even use them for scent-marking things they love. When threatened and unable to hide, a cat may also attack someone if provoked. Always listen for hissing and growling to see if a cat is angry. You can also note an arched back, stiff posture, and ruffled fur to see if your cat is scared of something or ready to fight.
Remember to consult your doctor (and your pet’s) if you have any medical concerns. To browse other wound care products for humans, visit Medical Supply Depot.