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Cat scratch fever.

Species: Cat
Breed: Tabby cat mackerel
Age: 1-2 years
We have had our cat Zeus for over a year. He is up to date on his vaccines and is an indoor pet. Recently, my nephew brought in a kitten and she stayed in our house for about a month. I am not sure about this kitten's vaccines. She was skittish and not very friendly. She bit our cat several times while they interacted. She also scratched and bit my 8 year old son several times. My son is in the hospital and was diagnosed with cat scratch fever. The kitten is now out of the house and we have had our cat Zeus bathed and dipped. My question is.. How do we find out if our cat Zeus was infected with the bacteria Bartonella Henselae? If so, can we treat him? Can my son be reinfected with this bacteria and get this diseasevagain. Is it necessary to get rid of our beloved Zes? Thanks


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, I am sorry to hear about your son. I had something similar happen to me years ago when I was a student and had a bad cat bite. I healed just fine but was on antibiotics for a while.

You're right...cat scratch fever is caused by a bacteria called Bartonella.

Unfortunately there is no accurate way to test a cat to see if they are likely to spread Bartonella. You can test a cat for Bartonella but up to 20% of cats will naturally have the bacteria. Just having the bacteria doesn't mean that they are likely to spread it. Also, a lot of the tests that can be used to test for Bartonella can have false positives and false negatives. They are very unreliable.

One good thing to know is that most cats that get Bartonella do not tend to be lifelong carriers. So, if Zeus did get the bacteria (via a bite from the new kitten) then there is a good chance that he will eventually clear the bacteria and not be a threat to anyone. Unfortunately though, as mentioned above there is no way for us to know what could happen.

Another way that Bartonella can be spread is by fleas. Be certain that neither of the cats have fleas as flea bites can spread the bacteria.

I wish there was a way that you could know for certain that Zeus will not be a carrier. There are some vets that say, "Well, let's test him and if he is negative then you can feel better." But, what if it's a false negative? What if it's positive? Does that mean you get rid of him? Either way the tests are not helpful.

The odds are in your favor that Zeus will be ok and that you don't need to worry about this again, but no one can say for sure. To go back to my experience, I can tell you that when I was originally infected by a cat bite that was about 20 years ago. I have had *many* bites since then and have not had a serious infection from any of them.

I hope that helps and I pray that your son recovers quickly!

Dr. Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.