Cat Scratch Disease

A Quick Insight Into Cat Scratch Disease; What You Need To Know Leave a comment

Cats are lovable creatures. Every cat owner wants to see his/her cat enjoying good health. There are various conditions that affect the overall well-being of cats. Cat scratch disease is one of the serious conditions which occur in human beings. Cat owners ask many questions about the cat scratch disease and other important facts related to it. For instance,

How do cat scratch diseases affect human beings?

How do cats transmit CSD to human beings?

Is there any vaccine or treatment for CSD?

Which steps I shall take to reduce the risk of CSD?

In this blog, we will discuss Catch scratch disease and other important aspects in this regard under the light of scientific literature and general field experience.

Recommended Read: Allergies In Dogs And Cats; A Quick Overview is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This means we may promote and supply links to products on and earn a commission for any resulting sales made. This comes at no extra cost to you.

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What Is Cat Scratch Disease?

Cat scratch disease (CSD) is also known as “Bartonellosis/cat scratch fever. This is a bacterial infection.

Causative agent:

This serious infection is caused by “Bartonella spp. There are almost eight species of Bartonella that are responsible for the causation of infection in human beings. However, Bartonella henselae is mainly found in cats.

Host range:

This disease occurs in humans, dogs, cats, horses, and in other animal species.

Mode of transmission:

As the name indicates that, this disease occurs in human beings through a scratch by an infected cat.

Another mode of transmission includes cat fleas which feed on the blood of cats. These fleas take the blood meal from containing Bartonella and transmit it to human beings.

Note: These bacteria multiply inside the flea and shed the bacteria in feces. These infected feces when coming in contact with the humans, they cause disease.

 What Are Important Signs Of CSD?

There are various signs of CSD, but here we have summarized a few important key signs in human beings.

Typical signs:

  1. Low grade fever with chills
  2. Swelling of lymph nodes (Lymphadenitis).
  3. Visible lesions on the skin and conjunctiva (membrane that covers the eye white).
  4. Fatigue


In case of severe disease, liver enlargement, abrupt weight loss, pneumonia, arthritis, and enlarged spleen occurs. Severe complications are observed in individuals with underlying medical conditions (Immunocompromised individuals) i-e kidney diseases, HIV, chemotherapy, etc.

Note: The typical signs may disappear within few days but the swelling of lymph nodes can last up to several weeks.

Are Cats Only The Carrier Of Bartonella Infection?

No, this is not true. There are other animal species that also carry this infection. Currently, there are nearly 27 species of animals that carry this infectious pathogen. However, further research is on the way.

Is Cat Scratch Disease A Self-Limiting Condition?

Yes, generally the symptoms of cat scratch disease can go on their own without any medications. But in some cases, they can become dangerous particularly for immunocompromised individuals. So, talk to your physician, he/she can suggest a better treatment plan.

Is There Any Vaccination For Cat Scratch Disease?

Currently, there is no vaccine available for cat scratch disease. However, combinations of various antibiotics can be given to combat with the Bartonella henselae infection in human beings. However, this infection is self-limiting and will disappear after a few days with exceptions.

How Can Be Cat Scratch Diagnosed?

There are different methods for the diagnosis of cat scratch disease (CSD). This condition can be diagnosed on the basis of signs and symptoms. PCR and other blood culture tests can be performed to detect the presence of Bartonella in the cat’s blood.  All along with that, antibody testing can also be formed to check out the exposure to bacteria.

Can Declawing Help To Limit The Spread Of CSD To Humans?

Although many people believe that declawing helps to reduce the spread of Bartonella infections to human beings but there is no strong evidence present in the literature in this regard.

The important preventative measures include the formulation of an effective flea control program. Keep your cat flea-free and minimize contact with the flea dirt to every possible limit. Keep your cat clean and reduce all the ways to contract the CSD. For example, cat bite, cat scratch, and other possible ways.

How Can I Reduce The Likelihood Of CSD Transmission?

You can follow the following steps to reduce the chances of transmission of CSD.

  1. Try to restrict the movement of your cat (Keep her indoor)
  2. Wash any scratch, bite with any disinfectant or soap on immediate grounds.
  3. Ensure the proper nail trimming of your cat.
  4. Keep your dog flea-free and get recommendations from your vet.
  5. Try to avoid rough play with your cat.
  6. Don’t tease a cat unnecessarily.
  7. Wash your hands thoroughly with an antiseptic handwash before or after handling a cat.
  8. Never let your cat to lick your wounds, mouth, nose and eyes.
  9. You need to avoid petting stray or feral cats. Remember, they are the potential source of Bartonella infection.
  10. Get a flea control schedule for your kitten as well. As discussed earlier, kittens are the potential source of Bartonella infection. A kitten with high burden of flea is more likely to transmit cat scratch disease to human beings.

Can My Healthy Cat Carry Bartonella Infection?

Yes, some cats with Bartonella infections show signs and symptoms. However, some cats stay asymptomatic (don’t show any clinical signs) but these cats can also carry the infectious pathogen.

What Are Infected Cats Shows?

An infected cat shows the following important symptoms if infected with Bartonella.

  1. Decreased appetite
  2. Swelling of lymph nodes
  3. Red eyes
  4. Lathery
  5. Fever
  6. Vomiting

Cats can also be recovered within 2-3 days.  This is better to stay in touch with a registered veterinarian.

Is It Fine To Get The Cat Treated With Antibiotics Just To Stay Safe?

Well, this is not an appropriate approach. Don’t give your cat antibiotics unless she shows signs. It is never recommended to treat healthy cats with antibiotics. On the other hand, I will recommend you to let your cat naturally deal with this infection.

Can Cat Scratch Disease Cause Heart Problems In Cats?

Yes, but the chances of heart problems are rare. Most cats show no signs and get recovery within a few days after the infection.

Are Kittens Major Source Of Cat Scratch Disease?

Yes, kittens are more likely to spread the infection to human beings as compared to adult cats. The research studies have shown that kittens younger than 1 year of age are the major carrier of CSD.

Note: Kittens are more likely to scratch and bite while playing because they learn how to attack the prey.

How Do I know If I Got Cat Scratch Disease?

This is important that if a cat bites/scratches you, then wash that particular area immediately. The lymph nodes near that area will become inflamed within 2-3 days. All along with that, other symptoms i-e low-grade fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, and stomach upset can also help you know this disease.

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Cat scratch disease is a mild to a life-threatening condition in human beings. Cats show mild and self-limiting symptoms. Generally, cats don’t require any extensive treatment and this infection resolves within 2-3 days or a week.

However, this infection can become complicated in individuals having a weak immune system such as HIV, chemotherapy patients. Additionally, this infection can be cured with a long course of a combination of different antibiotics. It is never recommended to treat a healthy cat with antibiotics to keep them safe.

Only treat that cat that shows the clinical signs and symptoms of CSD. Being a responsible owner, take care of the overall hygiene of your cat. Always play in a gentle way and avoid unnecessary stress in your beloved feline friend. 

Try to keep an eye on the movement of your cat and restrict it to an indoor environment. If you get an accidental bite or scratch by your cat, wash that area immediately with an antiseptic soap.


Klotz, S.A., Ianas, V. and Elliott, S.P., 2011. Cat-scratch disease. American family physician83(2), pp.152-155.

Wear, D.J., Margileth, A.M., Hadfield, T.L., Fischer, G.W., Schlagel, C.J. and King, F.M., 1983. Cat scratch disease: a bacterial infection. Science221(4618), pp.1403-1405.

Zangwill, K.M., Hamilton, D.H., Perkins, B.A., Regnery, R.L., Plikaytis, B.D., Hadler, J.L., Cartter, M.L. and Wenger, J.D., 1993. Cat scratch disease in Connecticut–epidemiology, risk factors, and evaluation of a new diagnostic test. New England Journal of Medicine329(1), pp.8-13.

English, C.K., Wear, D.J., Margileth, A.M., Lissner, C.R. and Walsh, G.P., 1988. Cat-scratch disease: isolation and culture of the bacterial agent. Jama259(9), pp.1347-1352.

Biancardi, A.L. and Curi, A.L.L., 2014. Cat-scratch disease. Ocular immunology and inflammation22(2), pp.148-154.

Lamps, L.W. and Scott, M.A., 2004. Cat-scratch disease: historic, clinical, and pathologic perspectives. Pathology Patterns Reviews121(suppl_1), pp.S71-S80.

Daniels, W.B. and MacMurray, F.G., 1954. Cat scratch disease: report of one hundred sixty cases. Journal of the American Medical Association154(15), pp.1247-1251.

Ormerod, L.D. and Dailey, J.P., 1999. Ocular manifestations of cat-scratch disease. Current opinion in ophthalmology10(3), pp.209-216.

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