Cat scratch disease sounds serious, but it usually isn’t. Caused by the bartonella bacteria, cat scratch disease is transmitted by cat scratches, bites and exposure to cat saliva. Most cat scratch disease infections occur in kids, so makes sure to talk to children about how to properly play with cats so they won’t get bitten or scratched. Especially active cats sometimes scratch or bite when they are restless, so keep your cat well-exercised and entertained with a scratching post and a variety of cat toys.
The most common symptoms of cat scratch disease are swollen lymph glands and a slight fever. Symptoms sometimes don’t show up until a week or two after the scratch or bite occurs and can be delayed for up to two months. Sometimes a pustule forms at the site of the injury and some patients experience mild abdominal pain, chills or a general feeling of malaise. Symptoms for cat scratch disease should be mild: If you experience intense pain or discomfort make sure to seek medical attention right away.
The disease usually resolves itself within a month or two and does not generally require medical treatment. If symptoms are severe or don’t go away on their own, treatment with antibiotics like azithromycin can resolve the problem. Anyone with a compromised immune system who shows signs of cat scratch disease should talk to a doctor right away to avoid complications such as encephalopathy, neuroretinitis, osteomyelitis and parinaud's syndrome.
The best way to prevent getting cat scratch disease is to keep from being bitten or scratched. Don’t tease or rile up your feline friend and she will be less likely to lash out at you. Kittens are more likely to carry cat scratch disease and are also more likely to scratch, so take extra care when handling very young cats. When you are finished playing with your cat, wash your hands with soap and hot water—especially if you’ve been scratched or bitten.
The disease only lasts for a few weeks in cats and is not fatal, so if your cat gives you cat scratch disease you don’t need to worry about getting rid of her or putting her down. Some vets think that cat scratch disease is spread by fleas, so keep your cat flea-free with a quality flea treatment like Frontline or Advantage.