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Cat Scratch Fever! Questions And Answers

bengal-cat.JPGAn article about cat scratch disease, also known as cat scratch fever, caught my eye today. I’ve heard Ted Nugent’s song, “Cat Scratch Fever,” but I never knew this is a real disease!

Here are questions and answers about cat scratch disease, courtesy of

What is cat-scratch disease, and how do people get it?

Cat-scratch disease is an infection caused by bacteria (germs) carried in cat saliva. The bacteria can be passed from a cat to a human. Doctors and researchers think cats may get the bacteria from fleas, although this hasn’t been proved.You can get cat-scratch disease from a cat bite or cat scratch. You can get the infection after a cat scratches you if the cat’s paws have the bacteria on them. (A cat can get the bacteria on its paws when it licks itself.) With a cat bite, the cat can pass the bacteria to you in its saliva. You can also get the bacteria in your eyes if you pet a cat that has the bacteria on its fur and then rub your eyes. Many people who get cat-scratch disease do not remember being scratched or bitten by a cat.

Cat-scratch disease is not a severe illness in people who are healthy. But it can be a problem in people with weak immune systems. People with weak immune systems include those who are receiving chemotherapy for cancer, those who have diabetes or those who have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Should I call my doctor if I am bitten or scratched by a cat?

Call your family doctor if you notice any of the following problems:

  • A cat scratch or bite that does not heal in the usual length of time.
  • An area of redness around a cat scratch or bite that continues to get bigger for more than 2 days after the injury.
  • Fever that lasts for several days after a cat scratch or bite.
  • Painful and swollen lymph nodes for more than 2 or 3 weeks.
  • Bone or joint pain, abdominal pain (without fever, vomiting or diarrhea) or an unusual degree of tiredness for more than 2 or 3 weeks.

What are the signs of cat-scratch disease?

A sore may develop where a cat has bitten or scratched you. The sore might not happen right away. It may take 3 to 10 days for the sore to appear after the bite or scratch.

The sore may take a long time to heal. An infection of the lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) also develops, most often in the glands that are near the place where you got the cat scratch or cat bite. For example, if the infection is from a cat scratch on your arm, the glands in your armpit may become tender and swollen. The lymph nodes may swell to an inch or more in size.

What tests are needed to diagnose cat-scratch disease?

If you remember that you were bitten or scratched by a cat, your doctor will probably be able to diagnose the illness based on the fact that you were bitten or scratched and then got painful, swollen lymph nodes. When the diagnosis is not clear, a blood test may help your doctor make the diagnosis.

How is cat-scratch disease treated?

In most people, cat-scratch disease clears up without treatment. However, antibiotics (medicines that kill bacteria) may be needed when infected lymph nodes stay painful and swollen for more than 2 or 3 months. Antibiotics may also help if you have a fever for a long time or if the infection is in your bones, liver or another organ.

If a lymph node is very large or painful, your doctor may drain it to help relieve the pain. The lymph node is drained by putting a needle through normal skin off to the side of the node and moving the needle to the swollen node. The needle is then inserted into the node and the fluid in the node is drained out.

Can cat-scratch disease be prevented?

Avoiding cats is the simplest way to prevent the disease, but it is not usually necessary to get rid of your cat. Try to avoid any situation where you might be bitten or scratched by a cat. Do not tease or provoke a cat. Most scratches and bites come from cats that are provoked. Washing your hands carefully after handling your cat is another way to prevent the infection. Getting rid of fleas on your cat will also keep you and your family members from catching the infection.

Cats only seem to be able to transmit this infection for a few weeks. Young cats seem to be more likely to carry the bacteria than older cats. Households with kittens have higher rates of infection. If the kittens have fleas, the infection rate is even higher.

Should cats be treated?
Cats require no treatment. The bacteria doesn’t cause cats to get sick. They merely carry the bacteria that causes cat-scratch disease in people.

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  1. 5 Comment(s)

  2. By James Thomas on Jan 18, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Darlene,

    Great cat site! Quite the cat lover myself.

    Here’s a picture of my beautiful boy TomTom.

    Now, I better continue building up my cat knowledge.



    P.S – I’ve voted for this page on Stumble and also on your Digg posts.

  3. By admin on Jan 18, 2008 | Reply

    James, Your TomTom is gorgeous! What a pretty boy he is.

    Glad you like my blog. Thanks for the votes. Come back again!


  4. By Cat Breeds on Feb 16, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Darlene
    The first impression i got when i read the first paragraphs was that when you get Cat Scratch disease you start scratching yourself like a cat..he he :-)

    James- Thats a cute red cat you got over there!

  5. By Bernice M. on Mar 18, 2008 | Reply

    March 18,2008
    February 2006 my cat scratched me. I had all the symtoms of CSD.
    * March 2006 At the sight of the scratch, blisters broke out, then a crusty, round sore appeared spreading on the back of my hands and up my arms to my elbows lasting until July of 2006. The itching was very intense. It felt like the itching was in my bones.
    * April 2006 My face had swollen up to the point that my eyes were almost swollen shut. A couple of blisters appeared on the edge of my eyelid.
    * August 2006 When the sores spread to the palms of my hands, I went to a dermatologist (because the sores cause extreme pain like several paper cuts) who prescribed erythromycin. Erythromycin did not take the CSD away, however, it kept the CSD at bay.
    * August 2006 to March 2008 while taking the erythromycin, the only symtoms that I have are occasional acid reflux (so I take half a tablet of erythromycin) and very dry, very itchy skin. My palms are especially very dry and cracking. Lotions or Dove soap do not seem to help.
    * If I ran out of erythromycin, the symtoms came back.
    * March 2008 When I stopped taking the erythromycin from March 4-7, my face started swelling up again. The skin on my face became dry, itching, and started to peal. My lymph glands (arm pits) became painful. I started taking the erythromycin again on March 7,2008. The pain in my armpits subsided.

  6. By admin on Mar 18, 2008 | Reply


    I’m sorry to hear about all your troubles with this. I guess you’ve probably tried building up your immune system with diet or herbs. The antibiotic seems to suppressing the infection, but not curing it. I had trouble with a recurring urinary tract infection last year, but when I started taking certain herbs that built up my immune system, I finally got rid of it. If you want more info on which herbs I took, email me.

    Best wishes,


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