As if we needed another reason to detest fleas, they are responsible for spreading a bacterium called Bartonella henselae to approximately 40% of cats.

Found in flea dirt (droppings) and also deposited via direct bites on the skin, B. henselae can also be spread from one infected cat to another during a fight, and to humans, as well.

If you have a cat that likes to use their claws, we recommend this quick refresher on the dangers of cat scratch disease.


Cat scratch disease is a bacterial infection. If an infected cat bites or scratches you and breaks the skin, or simply licks at an existing open wound, a mild infection can develop at the site of the injury in about 3-14 days. Signs of cat scratch disease include:

  • Fever
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Raised lesions
  • Pus
  • Headache
  • Warm or painful to the touch
  • Poor appetite
  • Exhaustion

The lymph nodes closest to the person’s scratch or bite wound can become enlarged, tender, or painful. Luckily, people cannot infect other people with cat scratch disease.

Cat scratch disease typically resolves itself, but some folks may need antibiotics if symptoms persist. Young children and adults with compromised immunity may need medical attention to guard against complications to the vital organs.

Cat Scratch Fever in Felines

Most cats do not show any signs that they’re carrying B. henselae. Whether they picked it up directly from fleas or from another cat, infected cats rarely show symptoms of the illness. Very rarely, cat scratch disease affects the heart, mouth, eyes, or urinary system in felines.

Kittens under a year are more likely to carry and spread the bacterium because they play-fight with their paws and teeth, inadvertently depositing B. henselae on any open wound or scab.

Feral cats or those allowed to wander are more likely to fight, increasing the chances of infection.

Relatively Easy to Prevent

If you are ever bitten or scratched by your own cat or another, thoroughly wash the affected area with hot water and soap. Also:

  • Restrict your cat from licking any scratches or open wounds
  • Discourage your cat from play-fighting with their claws and teeth
  • Keep your pet indoors to reduce their chances of running into potential carriers of the bacterium
  • Keep your cat’s claws trimmed
  • Maintain monthly parasite prevention
  • Inspect your cat’s coat (and other household pets) for any evidence of fleas, like eggs or flea dirt
  • Wash your hands after a vigorous play session with your kitty

One More Layer

Cat scratch fever may not ever affect you or your cat, but it’s always important to stay in the loop about issues that might come up. If our veterinarians and staff can assist you with any questions, please call us at Godspeed Animal Care.