In this month’s article, we will be discussing a notorious disease found in some feline companions, known as Cat Scratch Disease. This condition arises from the bacteria known as Bartonella henselae, which is zoonotic in nature.

This means that this disease can be transferred to humans from cats. Transmission occurs from either a bite or a scratch from a cat to a human. This disease is also commonly referred to as ‘Bartonellosis’ or ‘Cat Scratch Fever’. Bartonella henselae can be found in the feces of fleas which find their habitat on the cat’s skin. Cats can transfer this disease to one another through the sharing of fleas. Ticks can also be carriers of this bacteria and spread it to cats.

When cats scratch themselves from the fleas, this bacteria will stick to the cat’s nails. Hence, when a cat scratches a human, the bacteria will then easily enter the human skin it encountered. When a cat is infected, the common symptoms he or she will experience is fever, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting, stiff and sore muscles, red eyes, lack of appetite and a history of fleas or ticks will be present. If your cat is experiencing any of the listed signs, we highly recommend seeking immediate medical care from your local veterinarian. At this point, your veterinarian may choose to conduct a few tests to confirm a diagnosis of Cat Scratch Disease. Common tests that may be performed are known as Western Blot, Immunofluorescence, ELISA testing or a PCR test. Once an official diagnosis has been made, your veterinarian may prescribe a course of antibiotics. With certain patients, your veterinarian may also choose to wait and observe a selflimiting process take place. Some cats are able to produce antibodies against this bacteria on their own, and in this case the symptoms will be mild on presentation and self-limit their existence. If there are no at-risk individuals at home from the cat, then the veterinarian may wish to opt for this option to allow the cat’s immune system to fight the disease on its own.

Majority of the cases do resolve within a few weeks of given treatment. It is important to place your cats on flea preventatives in order to avoid this condition entirely or to avoid reoccurrence. Keeping your furry companions away from wooded areas is essential in protecting them against exposure of ticks that may also carry this bacteria. Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed well is another precautionary step that can be applied to ensure less exposure of the bacteria’s resting place. As a human, if you have been scratched by a cat, it is wise to immediately wash the wound with soap and water to best prevent the bacteria from entering your body. Immunocompromised individuals may benefit from regularly having their cats checked for any bacteria or conditions present in order to keep themselves safe as well.

 Dr. Sifti Bhullar