Many cat owners will agree that cat scratches are part of life. While some people are blessed with pleasant felines who enjoy getting handled, many cats are a little more particular about being touched. Even the most pleasant cat can release its claws when it’s time for a trip to the vet.
While most cat-related injuries are often just slight punctures or cuts that can heal on their own with time, some scratches can be a lot more dangerous.
What Is Cat Scratch Fever?
Cat scratch fever is a bacterial infection that humans contract from cats infected with the bacteria Bartonella henselae.
While commonly contracted from a bite or scratch, humans can be infected by cat scratch fever by having an open wound licked by your cat. Cat scratch fever is transferrable from a tick or flea that was feeding on an infected cat. Thankfully, it is not possible to pass on cat scratch fever from one human to another.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 500 out of 12,000 diagnosed cases of cat scratch fever leads to hospitalization. Based on the study, most cases of cat scratch fever happen during kitten season and in southern parts of the United States. Some of the most common victims of cat scratch fever are children between five to nine years old.
How Do You Know if Your Cat Has Cat Scratch Fever?
According to the CDC, 40% of cats experience having cat scratch disease at some point in their life. Often, kittens are more likely to have it than adult cats. Some cats experience mild inflammation of their organs, but most cats don’t exhibit any symptoms or get sick from it at all.
While this is great for your cat, it is not the best for you. A lack of symptoms in cats means that there is no real way to check if your cat is a carrier of this disease, which means everyone who owns a cat is at risk. Cats are not born with cat scratch disease and often get it from other animals. In most cases, treatment for cats infected with cat scratch disease is not necessary for their health.
What Are the Symptoms of Cat Scratch Fever in Humans?
While cats can get away unscathed from cat scratch fever, the same is not always true for humans. When left untreated, infected humans will begin to experience cat scratch disease symptoms between three days to two weeks after the infection.
For mild cases, cat scratch symptoms can also appear in the form of a high fever, migraine, lack of appetite, rashes, fatigue, or joint pain. Most infected people will under this category and will exhibit minimal discomfort during the healing process.
However, for more severe infections, the area around the infected cat bite or scratch may appear to be red, swollen, and pus-filled lesions. In some cases, an infected person’s lymph nodes may also become tender and painful.
Risks of Cat Scratch Disease
When it comes to cat scratch fever, some people are at higher risk of complications than other people. These include people with weakened immune systems or people with auto-immune disorders. For example, people with transplanted organs, diabetes, HIV/AIDs, or undergoing chemotherapy.
Some of the additional complications that people experience with cat scratch disease include Bacillary angiomatosis, a skin disordered characterized by lesions, and Parinaud’s oculogladular syndrome, a painful and irritating eye condition combined with swollen lymph nodes.
What are the Treatments for Cat Scratch Disease?
Treatments for cat scratch disease varies on the various symptoms that arise. If the bite or scratch is deep, doctors may clean the wound before applying a bandage to stop the bleeding.
For more severe irritations, some doctors may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or antibiotics to treat infections. Thankfully, in most cases, a mild infection will clear on its own after enough rest.
Consult a medical professional for the best possible treatment if you suspect that you contracted cat scratch disease.
How to Avoid Cat Scratch Disease
As with many things, prevention is better than cure. To avoid cat scratch disease, here are some things that you can do.
Adopt Older Cats
With kittens having a higher likelihood of cat scratch disease, people at higher risk of cat scratch disease should consider adopting older cats. Other than this, there are many advantages to adopted older animals.
Avoid Petting Strays
While it can be tempting to enjoy a loving stray, there are many reasons why you should not pet strays. Stray animals often carry many diseases which include the cat scratch disease that they can pass on to you when you don’t expect it. Often, strays also have ticks and fleas that can cling to your clothing and transfer to your pet at home.
Invest in Tick and Flea Medication
While a house cat may spend most of its life indoors, it can still be infected by ticks and fleas in several ways. From standing too close to the window to being exposed to an infected pet at the vet, your cat will still be at risk of contracting cat scratch disease and passing it to you. Your vet can recommend various preventive treatments that you can do to avoid further infection from other cats.
Clean Cat-Related Wounds Immediately
Once you have been bitten or scratched by a cat, don’t wait too long to clean the wound. To avoid infection, wash the wound with soap and running water for at least five minutes. After cleaning, dry the wound and wrap it with sterile bandages to stop the bleeding.
Protect Yourself from Cat Scratch Disease
Most people will be fine from a small bite or scratch from their furry friends. However, because most cats do not exhibit any symptoms when infected, it is always best to err on the side of caution.
By always cleaning your cat-related injuries immediately and going to a doctor when you suspect an infection, you can avoid the worst symptoms of cat scratch disease. In addition, by making sure you keep your cats healthy and parasite-free, you can severely reduce your risk of acquiring cat scratch disease.