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This disease is caused by a germ (Bartonella henselae) spread by either a cat bite or scratch.
About half of the wild or feral cats in the Southeastern part of the U.S. have been exposed to this germ and may be carriers.
In other parts of the country the disease is not prevalent.
Transmission from cat to cat is believed to be from fleas.
Transmission from cat to human is from ... take a guess ...
cat scratches. But also bite wounds.
The disease in humans is usually moderate but it can be long term and serious...especially in HIV positive or other people with weak immune systems
We're All God's Creatures
On This Page:
A little about cat scratch fever... a sometimes serious disease that people can get from cats.
Toxoplasmosis and Ringworm are two other diseases that people can get from cats. Information about these diseases are on their own pages. Click here to go to our pages about many more diseases that people can get from pets.
Cat Related Information On Other Pages:
"What To Expect When You Go To The Vet"
if your pet should have a problem with ...
To include Femoral Head Removal, Hip Dysplasia, Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries, Panosteitis, Radiographic Demonstrations, Disc Disease, and Bone Surgery
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Cardiology Heart disease in Cats, Cardiac Hypertrophy, Valvular disease, Cardiac Insufficiency, Congestive Heart Failure, Heartworm Disease, and a little history about the milestones in treating heart disease Cats: general information page and directory of diseases and problems specific to cats including vaccine recommendations, leukemia, feline viral infections, feline upper respiratory disease and cats that just aren't feeling well. Dermatology: Skin problems including allergies, rashes, bacterial infections, and itching. Hair Loss, Yeast Infections, Hormonal Problems Heart disease; Cardiac diseases, vascular diseases, stroke, & heartworms Hormone Diseases: Diabetes, Thyroid Disease, Cushing's Disease or Hypercortisolism, Addison's disease or Hypocortisolism, Pancreatitis, obesity as a disease Infectious Diseases Colds, Distemper, Parvo, Leptospirosis, Bruceellosis, Panleukopenia, Feline AIDS, Leukemia, Hepatitis, Kennel Cough, Ringworm, Rabies, FIP, Canine Herpes, Toxic Shock Syndrome, & More Intestinal problems: diarrhea, constipation, torsion, indigestion, and gas. Also pancreatitis, vomiting, esophagitis, colitis, parvo and other types of dysentery Metabolic Diseases: Diabetes, Thyroid Disease, Cushing's Disease or Hypercortisolism, Addison's disease or Hypocortisolism, Pancreatitis, obesity as a disease Parasite Problems Fleas, Ticks, Heartworms, Intestinal Worms, Mosquitos, Lice, Mites, and other welfare recipients Poisons Snakes, Insects, household chemicals, plants, and foods that might poison your pet Skeletal-Muscular Problems Arthritis, Fractures, ACL, Ligament Injuries, Disc Disease, Pannus, and many other problems of the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments Skin Problems: allergies, rashes, bacterial infections, and itching. Hair Loss, Yeast Infections, Hormonal Problems Surgery: Spays, Castrations, Testicle Recipes, Soft Tissue Surgery, Hard Tissue Surgery (Bones), C- Sections, Declawing, Tumor Removal and Cancer Surgery
Other Topics on This Site
Zoonotics: Diseases, worms, and parasites people get from pets.
Includes information about Prescription diets used to treat disease, and a discussion about the pet food industry
Includes information about feline and canine heat or estrus, breeding, C-Sections, pyometra or Infected Uterus, dystocia, no milk, mastitis, & brucellosis
Also newborn care, undescended testicles, and alternative to spaying and castration
WildLife Page: Taking care of baby bunnies, squirrels, and birds. A very funny story about beavers, and other misc information Our Dog Page: a directory of problems of concern in dogs including parvovirus, distemper, canine herpes, and other diseases
Cat Scratch Fever
Symptoms of cat scratch fever include inflammation at the wound site but often rashes, inflammation and swellings at other places on the body because the germ is spread through the lymphatic system.
If you have lymph node swellings and IF you tell your physcian that you were bit or scratched by a cat, he or she will probably quickly deduce that you're likely to have "cat scratch fever" and treat accordingly. But unfortunately, a lot of the time the patient will simply be feeling terrible... like having the flu and neither you nor your physcian will have a clue.
NOTE: The very temporary swelling and irritation that most people experience for a day or two after a cat scratch is probably not true cat scratch fever but rather a simple, localized inflammatory reaction.
FIRST AID: Transmission of the germ into your lymphatic system or your blood stream is greatly reduced if you quickly and aggressively wash the bite wound or scratch with soap and water and a good antiseptic.
(This is also true for rabies transmission)
At our veterinary clinic, we are frequently scratched and occasionally bitten.
After washing the scratch well, we find that applying Bag Balm takes away the pain and the local irritation pretty quickly and in 30 years of practice there hasn't been a single staff member that has had to be seen by a physician because of scratch bite fever. So wash wounds out as soon as possible!
For those of you who don't know about Bag Balm, it's a hundred plus year old product sold by the Dairy Association of Vermont for applying to udders that are scratched, sore from sucking calves or milking machines, or chapped, frost bit, sunburned or otherwise painful. But it's great for people as a hand or foot softener, for insect bites, scrapped knees, chapped lips, ingrown nails and most other things that itch, burn, swell, or hurt.
Bag Balm is sold to treat chapped and sore cow udders and is available in feed stores, pet and
animal catalogs, and at many vet clinics including ours.
Don't encourage cats to play rough and don't allow children to tease and annoy cats.
Keep fleas under control.
And if you're sick enough to go to a physician, don't forget to tell him or her that you were bitten or scratched by a cat.
The lymphatic system is designed to trap, kill, and dispose of the zillions of microscopic germs that invade our bodies every time we touch, kiss, eat, sratch, or breathe. We don't talk much about the lymphatic system (it's kind of like the sewer system in a big city) but it's a big deal and in addition to being like the sewer system for your body it's also the ARMY Reserve for your immune system. But sometimes germs like Bartonella henselae not only survive the lymphatic system war zone but use it to be transported to other parts of the body where it will colonize and cause inflammation and disease.