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Facts About Cat Scratch Fever

What Is Cat Scratch Fever?

Also known as cat scratch disease, cat scratch fever is a reaction that people can have when scratched or bitten by a cat. While it is not common, it can be dangerous for anyone with a compromised immune system. It is most often seen in households that have several young cats. Since cats with fleas seem to have a higher incidence of causing cat scratch disease, many researchers think it is caused by fleas.


The symptoms of cat scratch fever include a sore area around the place where the scratch or bite took place, and swollen glands. The glands that swell are usually the ones closest to where the cat scratch is, and they often stay painfully swollen for weeks. Fever is a symptom, too, but it only lasts for a few days. The disease can also cause bone pain, tiredness, and abdominal pain.


Cat scratch fever usually needs no treatment, but when the glands are swollen for several months, sometimes antibiotics are prescribed. The best way to prevent it is to stay away from cats. If this is not desirable, a person can avoid situations in which he or she is likely to be bitten or scratched. For instance, don't tease until you have an angry cat on your hands. Discourage play biting and scratching in your young kittens, too.


The fever is spread by bacteria in cat saliva, called Bartonella Henselae. These bacteria get on the cat's paws and fur when the cat grooms itself. You can get cat scratch fever through rubbing your eyes after petting a cat as well as from a scratch or a bite. The cat does not get sick from the bacteria and needs no treatment. However, it's always a good idea to fight fleas on your pets, and this may reduce the risk.


Cat allergies in humans are not related to cat scratch fever. Instead, they are allergic reactions to the dust that forms from dried cat saliva. The cat licks itself, and the saliva dries on it's fur. Most researchers now think this is the true cause of allergies and not the fur or dander. Like other allergies, cat allergy symptoms include sneezing and runny nose.


Cat scratch fever can cause problems for people who have weak immune systems. Some of these people include those with AIDS, diabetes, and cancer. As many as one third of all cats are thought to carry the bacteria, so it would make sense for those with weakened immune systems to take care around cats.

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