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Cat Scratch Fever is More Than Just A Song

Cat scratch fever is also called cat scratch disease or CSD. It is a bacterial infection that people get from cats who are infected with Bartonella Henselae bacteria. The CDC estimates that one out of 24 people who get CSD will be hospitalized from it.

You get cat scratch fever from a scratch or a bite from an infected cat. You can also get it from the saliva (drool) of an infected cat getting into an open wound or into your eyes. So if you are petting a cat that drools, as some do when they are relaxed, don’t touch your eyes. Sometimes you an et it from a flea or a tick who is carrying it, but that is more rare. It is not transmitted between humans.

If a cat has cat scratch fever, they don’t really have many or any symptoms. Cats can be carriers of the bacterium but it doesn’t typically make them sick. It is estimated that 40% of cats are carriers of CSD. Because it doesn’t typically cause any symptoms, treatment is not recommended for cats.

If a human catches CSD, they can have the following symptoms:

  • bump at the scratch site
  • swollen lymph nodes near the scratch site
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • low grade fever
  • prolonged fever
  • body aches
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • sore throat
  • backache
  • chills
  • abdominal pain
  • join pain
  • rash


Some of these symptoms can take a few days, and up to 2 weeks, to start.

The best way to avoid cat scratch fever, beyond not playing with cats, is to not have rough play with cats. Stay away from cats that scratch and bite. Keep your cats nails trimmed so they are less likely to be able to make a deep scratch. Don’t allow your cat to lick your eyes or any open wounds.

Cats get the bacteria from infected fleas and ticks. The best way to keep your cat from being a carrier is to help prevent a flea or tick infestation. We recommend a monthly Frontline Flea and Tick treatment. It is easy to use and very effective. If you have any questions about your cat’s flea and tick treatment or CSD, please set up an appointment to speak with your Albuquerque vet.