Do you own a cat? Here’s what you need to know about cat scratch disease

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Cats may not be known as man’s best friend, but owning a pet cat comes with many benefits – including decreased feelings of loneliness and anxiety. However, if you have a cat or work with cats, it’s important to be aware of the risk for cat scratch disease (CSD).

CSD is a bacterial infection spread by cats. Cats usually get infected with the bacteria that causes CSD from flea bites. Many cats carry the bacteria that causes CSD at some point in their lives, but most infected cats don’t get sick. Kittens are more likely to spread the bacteria to people, and although CSD isn’t very common, most cases of CSD happen in kids under 15 years old.

How people get CSD

Kitten plays with toy mouse
  • You can get CSD when an infected cat scratches or bites hard enough to break the surface of the skin, or from exposure to cat fleas.
  • CSD can cause redness, swelling, and small round bumps at the site of the scratch or bite. You may also have a low-grade fever. Later, lymph nodes near the infected area can become swollen, tender, or painful.
  • Rarely, CSD can cause serious infections of the brain, retina, heart, liver, or spleen.

How to prevent CSD

Relaxing at home
  • If you or a household member have a weakened immune system, adopt a cat over 1 year old instead of a kitten.
  • Promptly wash any cat scratches or bites with soap and water.
  • Use a vet-approved flea product and check your cat for fleas.
  • Keep cats indoors.
  • Don’t play rough with your cat.
  • Don’t pet or touch stray or feral cats.

Learn more about CSD