Can Your Cat Give You Cat Scratch Fever?

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Cat scratch fever or cat scratch disease is spread by the Bartonella henselae bacteria. The resulting infection causes flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes.

Fever, chills, nausea, vomiting,and fatigue are common with cat scratch fever.  And yes, you get it from a cat. Forty percent of the world’s cats carry the disease, but don’t catch it themselves, or show any signs of having it.

People contract cat scratch fever after being scratched, bitten, or licked by a cat. In rare instances petting a cat who has just licked it’s fur can transfer the bacteria that lives in it’s mouth to your hand.

Tens of thousands of people get cat scratch fever every year in the US. It can happen anywhere in the world, but is most common in places that are warm and humid.

This is due to the fact that it’s usually transferred from cat to cat by fleas and fleas thrive in humid climates. Humans get infected when little Fluffy scratches a flea and flea dirt becomes embedded in her claws and then she scratches you.

That’s where the name cat scratch fever came from. Make sure to wash any scratch or bite with soap and water.

The first sign that you could be infected is a bump or blister at the site of the scratch or bite. The 1/2 inch to 2 inch bump may be mistaken for a bug bite. Within 2 weeks lymph nodes near the injury site become swollen and the flu-like symptoms begin.

Cat scratch fever is not contagious and usually clears up in a few weeks on it’s own. Lymph nodes can remain swollen for a month.

Consult a doctor if a scratch or bite does not heal, you experience joint or bone pain, a fever that does not lower after a few days of taking acetaminophen, or severe pain from swollen lymph nodes. You’ll be examined to see if you have an enlarged spleen and given a blood test to check for Bartonella henselae.


In many cases, antibiotics are prescribed until the infection clears. In extreme cases your doctor may drain very painful and swollen lymph nodes. Once you get through a case of cat scratch fever, you’ll likely never get it again, because you now have built up an immunity to it.

You can lessen you or your child’s chance of getting cat scratch fever by not playing rough with your cat. Don’t force play when Fluffy’s not in the mood.

Teach kids to never ever play with or pick up a stray or unfamiliar cat or kitten. Keep Fluffy indoors and keep her claws trimmed. Get rid of any fleas as soon as possible.

Wash hands with soap and water after playing or petting your cat and don’t rub your eyes until you do. Never let Fluffy lick open sores or scratches.

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