Have you heard of the term “cat scratch fever”, and think it sounds pretty nasty? Is it something us cat owners should be worried about or is it a hype word blowing something small and unlikely out of proportion?

So called cat scratch fever is a term for when someone gets infected with the bacteria Bartonella henselae as a result of being scratched or bitten by a cat.

It brings about an enlargement of the lymph node, and this is a tell tale sign that doctors look for during diagnosis. It can take up to one week and as long as three weeks for swollen lymph nodes to show up after being scratched.

If you’ve ever been scratched (and who hasn’t at some point?) you’ll likely notice a reddening and itching of the area, but in most cases the wound won’t become infected. People with a healthy immune system can normally fight off small, shallow cat scratches.

The bacteria responsible for cat scratch fever, Bartonella henselae, is a very common bacteria. Cats are well known for having a multitude of bacteria in their mouth (which is why, if a cat’s mouth comes into contact with a bird or other small animal and makes just a small wound or scratch, it is at high risk of slow and eventual death by bacterial infection alone).

It’s not only a cat scratch that can cause this bacteria to make its way into your body, but also a cat bite. Those with a lowered or compromised immune system are more likely to not be able to fight off this bacteria naturally and must seek medical attention.