Cat Scratch Fever: The Immune Challenge that your cat can transmit to you

Bartonellosis, also known as “Cat Scratch Fever,” is a bacterial infection that is transmitted to cats from fleas or other parasites through their feces which the cat ingests when grooming.  Cat Scratch Fever (CSF) can be transmitted between animals and humans.  Cats can become carriers of the disease and be able to transmit Bartonellosis (or CSF) to their owners (or other people) through bites and scratches.

Most cats with a robust immune system that acquire Bartonellosis will display very few symptoms which may include lethargy, loss of appetite, or a mild fever.  However, with today’s prevalence of immune compromised cats, veterinarians are seeing symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, inflammation of the heart, eye infections, muscle pain, and systemic inflammation.  Oral and gum disease in kittens and older cats are thought to be a very common modern day manifestation of Bartonellosis.  Cats with an optimally functioning immune system, however, are very unlikely to suffer with these tooth and gum problems from a Bartonella infection.     

For people, those at greatest risk of contracting Bartonellosis from their favorite feline are those that are immunocompromised.  In fact, people with a robustly performing immune system that are exposed to Bartonellosis through a cat scratch or bite are unlikely to have much progression of the disease as a balanced immune system will likely have little problem eliminating this type of threat to one’s health.

People with compromised immune function, however, are at greatest risk for having Cat Scratch Fever develop into something more serious such as Pink Eye or other inflammatory conditions of the eye, bone infection, and even an inflammation related brain disease that can lead to death.

Cat Scratch Fever is a relatively minor infection that could lead to a devastating outcome in a person whose immune system is in a weakened state.  This is a prime example of the importance of maintaining a strong immune defense that stands ready to protect both you and your cat from a wide range of threats to your health.