Side Effects of Cat Scratch: Understanding the Risks and Precautions

Many individuals enjoy the companionship and happiness that cats provide to their lives. Even the friendliest and best-behaved cats occasionally nip at their owners or other people. Even while cat scratches are frequently not harmful, it’s crucial to be aware of any possible adverse effects. In order to protect your safety and well-being, we will go over the side effects of cat scratches in this post. So let’s get started!

What Is Cat Scratch?

When a cat’s claws come into touch with skin, cat scratches happen. Cats scratch for a variety of purposes, such as play, natural impulses for hunting, or to demarcate territory. Even while most scratches are unintentional, they might happen occasionally, especially if the cat feels threatened or afraid.

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A study done by CDC on cat scratch disease (CSD) in the US from 2005 to 2013. They found it’s most common in children aged 5–9 and in the South. While outpatient cases decreased, inpatient admissions remained steady. Women had more cases, and a spike was seen in January. Flea control and education for cat owners are key to reducing CSD risk, especially for kids.

Bacteria That Causes Cat Scratch Fever

Bartonella henselae is the main culprit behind cat scratch disease (CSD), also referred to as cat scratch fever. This bacterium is often present in the saliva of sick cats, especially young kittens, and it is spread to people through a cat’s scratch or bite. Bartonella henselae transmission between cats can also occur via fleas.

  • The bacterium can enter a person’s skin and cause an infection if a cat having Bartonella henselae scratches or bites them.
  • When the germs reach neighboring lymph nodes, they multiply and start an immunological reaction. This immunological reaction causes the characteristic lymph node swelling that characterizes cat scratch fever.
  • Although Bartonella henselae is the main bacterium linked to cat scratch fever, other species in the Bartonella genus can also result in diseases that are similar. These include, among others, Bartonella clarridgeiae and Bartonella koehlerae.

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Side Effects of Cat Scratch

Skin Irritation and Inflammation

Skin discomfort and inflammation are two of the most typical aftereffects of cat scratching. Small scratches or abrasions on the skin from a cat’s claws can result in pain, swelling, and redness. To avoid infection, it’s critical to clean the damaged area very away.


Cat scratches can grow into infections if they are not properly treated. The exposed wounds in cat claws might allow pathogens to enter the body. Increased discomfort, warmth, redness, pus, and swollen lymph nodes are signs of infection. If there are indications of infection, it is imperative to seek medical assistance.

Allergic Reactions

Cat scratches can cause allergic responses in certain people. Itching, hives, or even more serious symptoms like difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis may appear as a result. It is crucial to speak with a healthcare provider if you have known sensitivities or have such responses.


When the bacteria Clostridium tetani enters the body through a wound, tetanus, a bacterial infection, may result. Even while cat scratches may not directly cause tetanus, it is nevertheless crucial to check your tetanus vaccination status, particularly if the scratch is deep or unclean.

Cat Scratch Disease Long Term Effects

Some potential long-term consequences of cat scratch disease include the following:

Lymph Node Enlargement

The most frequent long-term impact of CSD is the swelling of lymph nodes close to the area where the cat bit or scratched. Lymphadenopathy is the medical term for this swelling, which can last for several weeks or months before gradually going away. Rarely, if the lymph nodes remain or cause substantial discomfort, surgery may be necessary to empty them.

Chronic Fatigue

Even after the infection’s acute phase has passed, some people with CSD may continue to feel weak or exhausted. Post-infectious fatigue syndrome is the name of this illness, which can linger for months. This symptom can be controlled with rest, a healthy diet, and gradual reengagement in everyday activities.

Neurological Consequences

Although uncommon, CSD may result in neurological consequences such as encephalitis (brain inflammation), seizures, or other abnormalities of the central nervous system. People with weakened immune systems or underlying medical disorders are more prone to have these consequences. If any neurological symptoms appear, it is critical to seek immediate medical assistance.

Eye Infections

Rarely, CSD can result in ocular problems including conjunctivitis (pink eye) or uveitis (inflammation of the uvea, the central layer of the eye), which are infections of the eyes. To avoid long-term visual issues, these diseases may need specialized treatment by an ophthalmologist.

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Systemic Infections

Although they are exceedingly rare, people with compromised immune systems might experience disseminated infections, in which the bacteria invade the entire body. This may necessitate extensive medical care and cause major problems affecting numerous organs.

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What Is Bacterial Infection From Cat Scratch?

When bacteria enter the body through a scratch or wound that a cat’s claws have left behind, an infection known as a “bacterial infection from a cat scratch” results. Even if they appear healthy, cats can carry bacteria on their claws that can enter the skin when they scratch. Bartonella henselae is the most typical bacterium linked to cat scratch infections.

  • A cat scratch can cause a break in the skin, allowing bacteria to enter deeper layers and cause an illness.
  • Pus may form around the injured region and there may be redness, swelling, warmth, pain, and other signs of a bacterial infection caused by a cat scratch.
  • Sometimes, the lymph nodes close by can also swell and hurt.

How Do I Know If A Cat Scratch Is Infected?

For prompt intervention and appropriate treatment, it is crucial to know if a cat scratch is infected or not. The following symptoms could point to an infected cat scratch:

Increased Redness: While some redness is normal after a fresh scratch if the area around the wound develops more redness over time or becomes more acute over time, it may be infected.

Swelling: If the swelling surrounding the scratched area persists, gets worse, or doesn’t go away after a few days, it might be an infection.

Pain or Tenderness: A scratch that gets worse, is tender to the touch, or throbs could be an infection.

Heat: If an infection is present, the affected area may feel warmer to the touch than the nearby skin.

Pus or Discharge: Any discharge from the wound, including pus, a yellowish or greenish fluid, or any other discharge, points to an infection. Pus is a sign of the immune system’s reaction to bacterial invasion.

Fever: If you get one along with the cat scratch, it may indicate that the illness has moved beyond the small area where it first appeared.

Swollen Lymph Nodes: Infected cat scratches can result in swelling, tenderness, or pain of adjacent lymph nodes.


Can all cat scratches cause infections?

Even though the majority of cat scratches do not result in infections, it is crucial to clean and take care of them correctly to reduce the risk.

Are there any long-term consequences of cat scratches?

Cat scratches typically heal completely and without any lasting effects. However, if problems develop, get medical help.

Can I get tetanus from a cat scratch?

Although cat scratches may not directly cause tetanus, it is nevertheless crucial to make sure you are up to date on your tetanus immunisation, especially for severe or filthy wounds.

Can I develop an allergy to cats after being scratched?

Cat scratches can cause an allergic reaction, especially if you already have a history of allergies. Consult a medical expert for advice and an accurate diagnosis.

How can I prevent my cat from scratching me?

Cat scratches can be reduced with regular nail cutting, appropriate scratching surfaces, gentle handling, and protective measures.


Despite being typically benign, cat scratches can have negative effects that need to be addressed. You can secure your safety and have a positive relationship with your feline friend by being aware of the potential adverse effects and taking the necessary precautions. Remember to treat scratches right away, get medical help if required, and take good care of your cat.

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