The CDC found about 35 percent of pet cats carry the bacteria linked to cat-scratch fever

By Kelli Bender
Updated December 18, 2019 10:15 PM

First chickens — now cats!

The Centers for Disease Control’s campaign against unsafe snuggling continues. While we’re sure the CDC loves love, it also wants to prevent you from picking up an infectious disease.

An illness it’s currently concerned about is cat-scratch fever, a very real disease spread by infected cats.

According to CBS News, the number of pet cats harboring the cat-scratch fever bacteria known as Bartonella hensela is about 35 percent, but most do not pass it on to their owners. Regardless, the CDC still wants cat lovers to know the risks that come with catching the disease, and how to protect against it.

The CDC released a report this month estimating that each year about 12,000 Americans are diagnosed with cat-scratch fever, which is transmitted by a cat bite or scratch, and out of those infected roughly 500 require hospitalization. The numbers were highest in children ages 5 to 9, who live in southern states.

A human with cat-scratch fever can experience headache, fever and swollen lymph nodes, all the way to more serious brain and heart complications.

To avoid picking up the disease, the CDC advises all cat owners to handle their pets carefully, never teach them to bite or scratch and avoid aggressive play. It’s also helpful to get in the practice of washing your hands after handling your cat. Since fleas are connected to the spread of the disease, it’s also smart to treat your feline with flea medication, even if you keep him indoors.

If your cat does bite or scratch you, the best thing to do is to clean the wound and monitor the healing process. If the injury becomes red and swollen, contact your doctor. Cat-scratch fever can be treated with antibiotics.

Don’t panic, the CDC isn’t telling you to stop cuddling your sweet fur baby — it just wants you to stay away from the sharp parts.