Cats have claws that can sometimes do damage. And while cat scratches might not be as big or as deep as dog bites, they can still cause infection. In fact, according to experts, cat-scratch disease is one of the most common infections from pets.
What Is a Cat-Scratch Disease?
Also called cat scratch disease (CSD), cat scratch fever is a bacterial infection that a person can get after being scratched or bitten by a cat. The bacteria usually live on the skin of cats, but they can also be found in the mouths and claws of infected felines. The bacteria can also be present in a cat’s saliva in some cases.
While CSD is not fatal, it can cause serious complications if left untreated. The most common symptom of CSD is a mild to moderate fever, which typically starts within two to three weeks after someone has been scratched or bitten by an infected cat. Other symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes (often near the site of the scratch or bite)
- Body aches
- Red, raised bumps or pustules on the skin (in some cases)
While most people who develop CSD will only experience mild symptoms, some may develop more serious complications—such as pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord). In rare cases, CSD can even be fatal.
Also, remember that when a cat scratches you, avoid hurting them back. This can further irritate their skin and increase the chances of them scratching you again. In some cases, they can also get infected with bacteria from your nails, requiring you to take them to a vet clinic, like this pet emergency care clinic.
When Should I Go to the Hospital?
You must go to the hospital immediately if you experience severe symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing or breathing. Similarly, visit the hospital if you have a weakened immune system and are experiencing any symptoms of cat-scratch fever.
In most cases, the cat-scratch disease is not fatal. However, it can be risky for people with weakened immune systems. If you have any concerns, it’s important to speak with your doctor.
Treatment for a Cat Scratch
In most cases, a cat scratch will heal on its own within a few days. However, if the wound becomes infected, you may need antibiotics to clear the infection. Your doctor may also require you to get a tetanus shot if you haven’t had one in the last five years.
In addition, antihistamines may be prescribed to help with the itching. In some cases, surgery may also be necessary to remove the infected tissue.
To prevent infection, it’s essential to clean the wound as soon as possible. Do this by running it under cool water for five minutes. Then, apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound and cover it with a sterile bandage.
How Do You Prevent Cat Scratch Disease?
Here are tips you can consider to avoid cat scratch disease:
- If you have a cat, make sure to trim their nails regularly. This helps reduce the chances of them scratching you.
- You should also avoid playing with cats that you don’t know. If a cat scratches you, wash the wound immediately with soap and water. And if it’s bleeding, hold a clean cloth against the wound to stop the bleeding.
- Give your pet many toys to play with, so they don’t get bored and start scratching you for attention.
- Bring your cat to a reputable vet like this veterinary clinic to get them vaccinated and regularly check for parasites.
- If possible, avoid allowing your cat to sleep on your bed. While it may be cuddly, it’s not worth the risk of getting scratches all over your body.
The Bottom Line
Having a pet cat can be a rewarding experience. However, you need to take precautions to avoid cat-scratch disease. If you get scratched, make sure to clean the wound immediately and see your doctor if you experience any symptoms of an infection. Also, cats need vaccination boosters just like dogs (see here about a dog booster in Ceres) as a part of responsible pet ownership.
Vets can offer you a lot of advice on how to take care of your cat and prevent them from scratching you. So, if you have any concerns, make sure to speak with your vet.