Cat Scratch Fever
(Cat Scratch Disease)
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Cat scratch fever is a bacterial infection. It can start after a scratch or bite from a cat, kitten, or rarely a dog.
For some it can become a serious condition that needs care.
Cat scratch fever is caused by bacteria found in fleas. The bacteria are passed to cats through flea bites.
Cat scratch fever is most common in children and adolescents. It is more common in the southern U.S.. The main risk is being bitten or scratched by a cat or kitten.
Symptoms of cat scratch fever may be:
Rarely, people develop serious problems, such as infections of the:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect cat scratch fever based on symptoms and a recent bite or scratch. Blood tests can confirm the diagnosis. If symptoms are unusual or severe, other tests may be done.
Cat-scratch fever will often pass on its own, without treatment. Those with more severe symptoms will need treatment. Options may be:
To reduce the risk of cat scratch fever:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Winn Feline Foundation
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
Cat-scratch disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/cat-scratch.html. Accessed March 30, 2021.
Cat-scratch disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/bartonella-henselae-cat-scratch-disease. Accessed March 30, 2021.
Mabra D, Yeh S, et al. Ocular manifestations of bartonellosis. Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 2018;29(6):582-587.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 3/30/2021
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