In cat scratch disease, which is caused by bacteria, the pathogen mainly passes through scratch injuries of the cats in the human organism. The cats themselves do not get sick at all or only slightly.

What is the cat scratch disease?

In the case of poor health or a weakened immune system, for example in the context of an HIV infection or AIDS disease, the usually harmless cat scratch disease can result in blood poisoning, meningeal or heart valve inflammation.
© tpap8228 - Cat scratch disease is a common infectious disease in which the local lymph nodes are inflamed. Also fever, limb and headache can be added. The cat scratch disease, which is transmitted by scratching or biting wounds from the infected cats to humans, is usually harmless. The pathogens include the bacteria Bartonella henselae and Bartonella clarridgeiae .

It is believed that the cat can also catch the flea infestation, but the assumption is not proven. According to research, every tenth cat carries the bacteria in it. From human to human, the disease is not transmitted, but only from cat to man. Especially people with a weakened immune system are affected more and more frequently by the cat scratch disease.


Basically, the cat scratch disease can affect any person, however, cat owners are particularly vulnerable due to the transmission route. Since young animals in particular are contagious, the cat scratch disease occurs increasingly in households in which very young cats are, but also by older animals, the disease can be transmitted. Most people affected by the disease are up to 21 years old or still in childhood.

The reason for this is that children often have intimate contact with the pet and, on the other hand, do not yet have a fully developed immune system. But even adults with a weakened immune system are more likely to suffer from the cat scratch disease. They also often show a heavier course. The pathogen reaches the claws of a cat in various ways: When the animal licks its paws, the bacteria, which are contained in the saliva and blood, reach the claws.

Another possibility is when fleas settle and suck the blood of the cat. They are excreted with the feces of the fleas and are in the fur. As the injection site itches, the cat scratched and the droppings of the fleas get under the claws. If the cat licks a human skin that has previously been scratched or damaged, the virus can be transmitted. In addition, as the flea bites people, a direct transfer is possible, which is much less the case.

Symptoms, complaints & signs

The initial symptoms of cat scratch disease may be noticeable in as little as two to three days, but it is also possible that this will take two months. Therefore, the cat bite after such a long time is often no longer suspected as a trigger. Possible symptoms include scratching or biting the cat, even though they may have healed.

Also red pustules or papules in the area of ​​the wound and swollen and inflamed, sometimes painful lymph nodes on the armpits or neck are signs of a disease. Possible side effects include flu-like symptoms such as fever, head, limb, neck and abdominal pain, chills, nausea and vomiting.

In the case of poor health or a weakened immune system, for example in the context of an HIV infection or AIDS disease, the usually harmless cat scratch disease can result in blood poisoning, meningeal or heart valve inflammation. Caution should be exercised in the case of people with health problems or underlying illnesses.

Diagnosis & disease course

Since the symptoms of cat scratch disease are often very different and may also occur in other diseases, the physician must know the development of the disease. Of course, the crucial question is whether there are cats in the household. Furthermore, a blood test is done. When the body has come into contact with the pathogen, it forms specific antibodies against the bacterium which can be detected in the blood.

Using a blood sample, the pathogen can also be grown, which takes several weeks. Then a clear result is possible. If diagnosis is difficult, tissues can also be harvested from a swollen lymph node to reliably detect the disease. Most cat scratch disease is harmless.

Complications rarely occur when, for example, the bacteria infect the heart, bones or lungs, causing inflammation. If the pathogens multiply in the blood too much, it can lead to blood poisoning and anemia, which is life-threatening and must be treated in an intensive care unit of the hospital.


In most cases, the cat scratch disease only comes to a very late diagnosis. This disease can show the first symptoms only after a few months, so it comes in most cases, too late treatment. As a rule, those affected mainly suffer from pain caused by the bite or scratching of the cat.

Papules and pustules develop on the body. The affected regions can swell up and cause pain. Not infrequently, sufferers continue to suffer from fever and a lethargy. There are also symptoms that resemble ordinary flu. In the worst case, however, it comes to a blood poisoning and thus inflammation of the heart or brain. The patients also suffer from nausea, vomiting and chills.

The everyday life of the person affected is restricted and there is a reduction in resilience. The cat scratch disease is treated with the help of antibiotics. There are no further complications. However, these can occur when the patient is already suffering from a weakened immune system. At the same time, life expectancy may also be reduced.

When should you go to the doctor?

If people who are in direct contact with cats show health changes, they should consult a doctor. For sudden changes in the appearance of the skin, such as redness and the formation of poplars or pustules, a doctor is needed. If the first symptoms appear a few days after contact with cats, a doctor visit is also necessary. If pain occurs, fever or increased body temperature and swelling on the body, consult a doctor.

If lymph nodes in the neck or in the armpits increase in circumference and sensitivity, this is considered a disease advice that should be followed up. For flu-like symptoms such as repeated vomiting, nausea or dizziness, a medical examination to clarify the cause is necessary. Chills, abdominal pain, digestive problems, discomfort of the limbs, aching bones or the head should be presented to a doctor.

If there are any existing complaints or increase in intensity, a visit to a doctor is required. Fatigue, fatigue, a drop in usual performance and a sense of illness are to be examined by a doctor. In a cat scratch disease, symptoms often appear after a bite or scratch on the skin. In addition to the signs described, a visit to a doctor for poor wound healing is necessary.

Treatment & Therapy

Since the cat scratch disease is a bacterial infection, it can be treated well with a complicated or severe course with an antibiotic. This is usually taken for four weeks. If the disease is accompanied by flu-like symptoms, antipyretic drugs or analgesics may be prescribed.

In people with a strong immune system and without a disease history, however, no medication is usually necessary because the symptoms occur in these individuals only slightly and sound of themselves again.

Outlook & Forecast

In healthy adults, usually only mild flu-like symptoms in the form of head and body aches or mild fever, which require no medical treatment. The patients suspect primarily the presence of a mild flu and avoid a visit to the doctor. They use warm baths, cold wraps, ginger tea or rubbing with Franzbranntwein as a home remedy to alleviate the symptoms. An intact immune system can usually combat infection with the bacterial pathogens of the cat scratch disease itself.

A physician must always be contacted if the fever rises or there is an exacerbation of existing symptoms. Also in a locally occurring, inflammatory reaction after a scratch or bite injury by a cat.

In elderly, children or chronically ill persons, however, the immune system is not fully functional and usually unable to fight the infection itself. In order not to lose time, a doctor must be consulted immediately and a drug treatment started.

Especially with children, it is important to teach them to prevent a new disease certain rules of behavior in dealing with the cat. In the presence of open wounds, you should keep away from the cat with a patch until the first treatment and never lick it by the wound.


As a precaution, after wounds by cats, the wounds should always be well cleaned and disinfected. After contact, it is recommended to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. The cats should also be reliably freed from fleas regularly. A vaccine is currently not available. In the case of an acute underlying disease, it may make sense to deliver the cat as temporarily as possible.


The cat scratch disease is treated acutely. Scheduled follow-up examinations are not found in everyday practice. After a single illness, the treating physician points to preventive measures designed to prevent the recurrence of typical symptoms. However, the patient has a responsibility for this. So flea control in cats is fundamentally important. Also a sufficient hygiene after the contact with pets is absolutely necessary.

In certain people, the cat scratch disease causes complications. The risk group includes persons with a weakened immune system. In the worst case, life-threatening blood poisoning develops. Affected patients should avoid contact with pets because of the danger. However, this is not controlled by the attending physician. He tells this after a first diagnosis. The patient himself is responsible for the implementation.

For a long-term treatment, which can be part of the aftercare, there is no reason. Mostly it comes to a spontaneous healing. However, the patient can get infected again at any time. A blood analysis allows a clear diagnosis. With longer course an antibiotic promises a speedy relief. Pet owners must consistently comply with the preventive measures described. This reduces the risk of infection. The instruction regarding suitable preventive measures in everyday life replaces a scheduled follow-up examination.

You can do that yourself

Cat disease is a bacterial infection that has symptoms that are not unlike those of mild flu. Healthy adults with an intact immune system usually do not require medical treatment. Mostly, those affected are not aware that they have not just caught a cold. Even those who have been injured by a cat and fear that they have been infected with the cat disease, can wait first. Less severe side effects such as headache and pain in the limbs or mild fever can also be safely treated with over-the-counter medications. However, a doctor should be consulted whenever the symptoms get worse, especially if a high fever sets in or the scratch or bite wound becomes inflamed.

Caution should also be exercised with children and the elderly as the immune system of these groups of people is not or is no longer fully functional. If a cat lives in the house and these people show signs of the cat disease, should not be experimented with self-help measures, but immediately a doctor be drawn. The same applies to persons whose immune system is weakened due to an illness.

The pathogens are also found in the saliva of the cat. To reduce the risk of infection, children should learn that they can become ill if they allow the pet to lick open knees or other minor injuries.

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