Cat scratch disease: causes, symptoms, and treatment

Cat scratch disease: causes, symptoms, and treatment

Cat scratch disease

Cat scratch disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Bartonella henselae. It is very common in children following a cat scratch or bite. This is an infection that is carried by a cat and can be passed onto you. So, if you have a kittie at home, make sure he is clean and clear, for his own protection and yours.

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Causes of cat scratch disease

Cats get infected with B. henselae when flea bites and flea dirt gets into their wounds. When the cat scratches or bites the wound, it picks up the infected flea dirt under their nails or teeth.

A cat can get infected when fighting with another cat. When an infected cat bites or scratches a human hard enough to pierce through the skin, he passes on the germs. Your kittie can also pass on the infection through licking a scab or wound you might have.


The first sign of cat scratch disease is the appearance of tender, swollen lymph nodes near the place where the scratch or biting took place. Other systemic symptoms that a person may develop includes:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Malaise
  • Aches

Symptoms might take as long as 7 to 14 days to develop. In some cases, it can even take up to two months for any symptom to appear. Some other afflictions that patients with cat scratch disease manifest are:

  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscular pains
  • Joints pain
  • Backache
  • Arthritis
  • Abdominal pain

Complications due to the cat disease are rare and they normally occur in children under 5 years old and people with a weakened immune system. In the case of your cat, this might not develop other symptoms. In very rare cases, the infection can cause heart inflammation.


Mostly, healthy people just clear the disease without taking any medication. However, in 5 to 14 percent of individuals, the organism causes an infection to the liver, spleen, eye, or central nervous system. The best antibiotic to use is azithromycin.

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