Discover the world of Cat Scratch Disease in this informative blog. From understanding its causes and symptoms to exploring effective treatment options, we delve into everything you need to know about this zoonotic infection. 

Learn how this bacterial disease can be transmitted from cats to humans and gain valuable insights on prevention.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cat Scratch Disease is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted from cats to humans.
  • The infection can occur when a cat scratches, bites, or licks an open wound of a human, leading to the transmission of the bacteria.
  • Most healthy individuals recover from Cat Scratch Disease without specific treatment, but antibiotics may be prescribed in severe cases or when complications arise.

What is Cat Scratch Disease?

Cat Scratch Disease is a zoonotic bacterial infection that can be transmitted from cats to humans. It is caused by the bacterium Bartonella, specifically Bartonella henselae.

It typically starts with a small scratch or bites wound that becomes sore, red, and painful over the next few days. The infected area may develop a blister or pustule, and nearby lymph nodes may become enlarged and tender. In some cases, individuals may experience fever, headache, and fatigue.

What Are the Causes of Cat Scratch Disease?

Cat Scratch Disease is caused by the bacterium Bartonella henselae primarily, which is carried by infected cats. Cats can contract the bacteria through fleas and flea dirt. When a flea carrying the bacteria bites an infected cat, it can leave the bacteria in its feces (flea dirt), which can then be ingested by the cat or caught under its nails during grooming.

Signs & Symptoms of Cat Scratch Disease

If you've been bitten or scratched by a cat, understanding the symptoms can help you identify potential infection. Here are feline scratch disease symptoms to watch for:

  • Break in the skin: To contract this disease, a cat bite or scratch must break the skin, allowing the bacteria to enter the wound.
  • Sore, red, and painful site: Within a few days, the scratch area becomes inflamed, causing discomfort, redness, and soreness.
  • Enlarged lymph nodes: The infection can progress, leading to swollen and tender lymph nodes near the scratch site.
  • Fever, headache, and fatigue: Infected individuals may experience flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, and fatigue.
  • Complications for immunocompromised individuals: It can pose severe complications for those with weakened immune systems, such as young children, the elderly, or individuals with conditions like HIV/AIDS.
  • Potential organ involvement: In immunocompromised cases, the bacteria can affect internal organs like the heart, eyes, and brain, making prompt medical attention crucial.


Cat Scratch Disease Diagnosis

The diagnosis is usually based on the presence of characteristic symptoms, such as a history of exposure to a cat and a compatible clinical presentation. Sometimes, a healthcare provider may perform laboratory tests, such as a blood test or a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, to detect the presence of Bartonella antibodies or DNA.

Cat Scratch Disease Treatment

Most healthy individuals will recover without specific treatment. However, medical advice should be sought promptly if bitten or scratched by a cat. In severe cases or when complications arise, doctors may prescribe antibiotics, such as azithromycin or doxycycline, to help clear the infection. Treatment for the infected cat may also involve a long course of antibiotics.

Preventing Feline Scratch Disease

To protect yourself from Cat Scratch Disease, follow these simple steps:

  • Treat your pets for fleas: Since fleas carry the bacteria that causes the disease, controlling fleas reduces the risk of your cat getting infected. Treat all pets in your home, including dogs.
  • Keep your cat indoors: This helps minimize their exposure to infected animals and reduces the chances of scratches or bites.
  • Trim your cat's claws: Shorter claws are less likely to cause deep scratches that can lead to infection.
  • Practice good hygiene: If your cat accidentally scratches or bites you, wash the area promptly with warm soapy water. Avoid letting your cat lick or groom the wound.
  • Seek medical help if needed: If you have a weakened immune system, feel concerned, or experience symptoms, contact your veterinarian for guidance.


In conclusion, Cat Scratch Disease is a rare but potentially severe infection that can be transmitted from cats to humans. Understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatment is crucial for ensuring the health and safety of both feline friends and their human parents. By taking preventive measures, such as flea control, keeping cats indoors, and practicing good hygiene, the risk of infection can be minimized. 

However, if you or your cat experience persistent issues or concerns, don't hesitate to book a veterinary check-up. Your veterinarian provides the necessary guidance and support for your pet's well-being. Stay proactive and keep your beloved cat and yourself in good health.

Frequently Asked Questions

How common is cat scratch fever?

Cat Scratch Disease is relatively uncommon.

Is cat scratch disease serious?

Feline Scratch Disease can be serious, especially for immunocompromised individuals.

Who’s most at risk for cat scratch disease?

Anyone can get Cat Scratch Disease, but young children and those with weakened immune systems are more at risk.

Can you get Lyme disease from a cat scratch?

No, Lyme disease is transmitted through tick bites, not cat scratches.

Can cat scratch disease be cured?

Feline Scratch Disease can be treated with antibiotics.

Can cat scratch disease kill you?

In rare cases, Cat Scratch Disease can lead to severe complications, but it is not usually fatal.

Can you get a disease from a cat scratch?

Yes, Cat Scratch Disease is a zoonotic disease that can be transmitted from cats to humans through scratches.