Cat Scratch Disease

You don't have to spend long on social media to know that cats and kittens seem to dominate the internet. They seem to dominate our homes too - apparently one in three households in the USA have a pet cat. Research shows that being able to look after a pet makes us happier and also teaches our children compassion and gentleness. So it's understandable that there are a lot of cat lovers out there and if you are one and are reading this, don't panic - cat scratch disease is pretty rare. But it's worth knowing about, as it's also preventable.

So what is it?

It's an infection caused by a germ that gets into your body from an infected cat - or more likely kitten - when it scratches or bites you. It's usually fairly mild and eventually goes away without any treatment, although it can take several months.

Who gets it?

You are most likely to get cat scratch disease if you are a child aged between 5 and 9 years, but anyone of any age can get it and older women seem particularly prone. It's found wherever there are cats and cat fleas - so all over the world. It seems to be a bit more common where it's warmer, perhaps because cat fleas can't survive as long when it's cold.

What should I do if I think I've caught it?

If you or someone you know has developed some spots or lumps within a week or two of being scratched by a kitten or a cat, you should see a doctor. Don't forget to tell them about the cat scratch.

Will I get better?

The short answer is yes. Only a very few people with cat scratch disease have long-term effects from it or develop a serious, life-threatening complication. Most people are back to normal within a few months or so.

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Dr Jacqueline Payne
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Colin Tidy
Document ID:
29453 (v1)
Last Checked:
19 June 2017
Next Review:
25 June 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.