Help! I Think I Might Have Cat Scratch Fever

Here are the most common symptoms of cat scratch fever 🙀

cat scratch fever

No cat parent ever wants to believe that their cat can hurt them. And while it’s super unlikely that your cat would ever hurt you intentionally, unfortunately, cats can make you sick in some cases.

Cat scratch fever isn’t just a cheesy ‘90s song — it’s also an infection in humans caused by the bacteria Bartonella henselae, which is present in the mouths and under the claws of about 40 percent of household pets.

We reached out to Dr. David Culpepper, the clinical director of LifeMD, and Dr. Megan McCarthy, a veterinarian at Best Friends Animal Society, for more insight on cat scratch fever symptoms and what to do if you have the infection.

Causes of cat scratch fever

Simply put, a cat can receive this bacteria by biting or scratching fleas (who are carriers of Bartonella henselae) or by getting into fights with other cats. Afterwards, the cat can transmit the bacteria to his human via a bite or a scratch (where the wound breaks the skin), which is how “cat scratch fever” so cleverly got its name. And while this isn’t super pleasant to think about, a person can also contract cat scratch fever when an infected cat licks an open skin wound on his human’s body.

Cat scratch fever symptoms

While cats infected with Bartonella henselae rarely show any symptoms, according to Dr. McCarthy, the same can’t be said for humans.

“The symptoms of cat scratch fever include swelling, redness and discharge at the wound site,” Dr. McCarthy told The Dodo. “People with cat scratch fever can also develop fever, headache, lethargy and swollen lymph nodes near the wound location.”

“Additionally, look out for a red bump or blister around the site of the bite or scratch, which may or may not hurt,” Dr. Culpepper told The Dodo. “This bite will develop within a couple of days after contact. Then, within the next two weeks, you could also experience a loss of appetite.”

To recap, symptoms of cat scratch fever include:

  • Swelling, redness and discharge at wound site
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes near the wound
  • Red bumps and blisters near the wund

When to contact your doctor if you think you may have cat scratch fever

Here’s the good news: For people in good health, cat scratch fever usually resolves on its own with no treatment needed. But regardless, you should reach out to your doctor if you think you contracted cat scratch fever, as they will be able to determine whether further treatment is needed.

“For infections that do not improve, or in children or those with weakened immune systems, antibiotics may be prescribed to help treat the infection,” Dr. McCarthy said. “Very rarely, serious complications can develop from cat scratch fever, so it is always best to consult your doctor if you suspect cat scratch fever and monitor for any worsening of symptoms.”

Here’s to feeling your best again very soon!