Cat scratch disease is also known as cat scratch fever. This disease strikes people who are infected by the Bartonella henselae bacteria. In almost all cases, cat scratch disease occurs when the person was scratched or bitten by his cat. The cat itself does not catch cat scratch disease. It is just a carrier. Now, before you panic and send your cat to the pound, the National Center for Infectious Diseases (CDC) estimates that 40% of all cats carry this disease at some time in their lives. Considering how many cat owners exist in the world, clearly, this disease is not very infectious or dangerous.
But how do you know whether you were infected by cat scratch disease? The first thing you want to look at is the place your cat bit or scratched you. Is the wound infected? (Note: If you cannot find the wound, then you do not have cat scratch disease.) Then you want to check your lymph nodes. Are the nodes around your head, neck and upper limbs swollen? Do you also have fever, headache, fatigue, and a poor appetite? These are the typical cat scratch fever symptoms.
What can you do? The first step is always preventative. If you own a cat, or play with cats, you will definitely get bitten or scratched. What you should do every time you get scratched is simply to clean the wound with soap and running water. Then clean it with an antiseptic like peroxide and apply an antibiotic cream (neosporin works pretty well). Just applying these basic hygiene practises will prevent most cases of infection from cat bites or scratches, not just cat scratch disease.
What if you have already been infected - your wound is swollen and reddish, your lymph nodes are swollen and you have a fever? Then just go to your doctor. He will probably give you an antibiotic, and maybe drain the wound if necessary. You should also send your cats to the vet. Let him make sure they are not still carrying the bacteria. Otherwise they may infect you again, or infect other people.
In the long run, you need to train your cats not to bite or scratch too hard. Your cats need to learn how to show affection without drawing blood from you. And you need to learn not to provoke or over-excite your cats.
Provided that you are not the one who provoked the cat scratch, you can spray kitty with water every time it bites or scratches you. This means you will need to carry around a spray bottle with you at home. Spray kitty consistently when it bites you, and it will learn to stop biting you. Remember to spray when it bites - not 30 seconds later, or 1 minute later, or 5 minutes later. It will only learn if your response is immediate. Too many people spray only after the cat scratched or bit, then they complain that the technique does not work.
If your cat tends to bite or scratch you during playtime, then you need a different approach. Play with your cat normally. When he bites or scratches you, stop playing and ignore him. Too many people just continue playing - unfortunately, this teaches kitty that biting or scratching is good.
As you can see, cat scratch disease is not a big deal. As long as you practice basic hygiene, and train your cat not to bite or scratch too much, everything should be alright.
Are you still worried about cat scratch disease? Click here to learn more ways to stop cat scratching.