It is doubtful that when rocker Ted Nugent ripped his guitar into the song “Cat Scratch Fever” he was thinking of a cute, little furry kitten causing you a fever and swollen lymph nodes.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) about 40% of cats carry the Cat Scratch Disease (CSD) at some point in their lives. Bacteria known as Bartonella henselae cause CSD. Kittens are most likely to carry these bacteria and can pass it on to people through bites and, more commonly, scratches.
There is little cause for alarm though because the likelihood of contracting the disease and it being very serious is slim. An estimated 2.5 cases per 100,000 people in the U.S. per year contract it. Those with poor immune systems are at the greatest risk for complications.
Usually, the site of the scratch will show signs of infection such as redness, swelling, and pus. Some other symptoms of CSD that will show up within 2 weeks of the scratch can include: swollen lymph nodes, a mild fever, fatigue, and a poor appetite. Healthy people that contract CSD don’t usually require treatment, as it will resolve itself in time.
Cats don’t show any signs of being infected that make it impossible to visibly identify which ones have the disease. Studies show that there are other ways people contract B.henselae besides cat contact. Environmental sources, other animals (even dogs) and fleas can carry it.
Common sense precautions to take to avoid contracting CSD includes not playing rough or teasing your kitten and to, if scratched, wash the area with soap and water.
Doctors may diagnose CSD after exhausting several other tests because CSD can take on identifying symptoms of other illnesses. Since CSD is non-threatening to people with healthy immune systems, it is still safe to enjoy your little kitten, even if you have named him Ted.