My cat scratched me Should I be worried? Risks, Treatment, Prevention

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It is not uncommon to scratch occasionally when playing with your cat. However, it is important to take care of your wound and monitor it carefully for any complications.

Not all cat scratches are dangerous, but certain circumstances can increase your risk of developing certain diseases and other health risks.

Read on to learn more about some of the possible dangers associated with cat scratches and the need to see a doctor.

Even during seemingly harmless games with your feline companion, the occasional cat scratching is inevitable. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, kittens under a year old are even more prone to scratching.

Regardless of age, cat scratches can mean more than pain and temporary red or discolored marks. These sores can sometimes sting, bleed, and even become infected.

Wild and domestic cats can also transmit certain viruses and bacteria when they scratch human skin. Some of the possible health complications include:

First of all, you should always wash the cat’s claws with soap and lukewarm water. Follow this rule for all scratches, even if it is your own cat. Pat the skin area dry with a clean towel.

If your scrape is bleeding, apply light pressure with a clean gauze pad. You may also choose to apply a small amount of over-the-counter antibiotic ointment before covering with a sterile bandage.

Watch the scratch carefully in the next few steps for symptoms of infection, such as:

  • increased swelling
  • pus or drainage
  • red or discolored streaks emitted by the original scratch
  • flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, and chills

Call a doctor if you have any of the above symptoms. You should also seek treatment if you have recently been scratched, bitten, or had an open wound licked by a cat that is not your own.

Treat eye scratches

Sometimes a cat can accidentally scratch its face, including the eye area. If this happens, you should immediately flush the affected eye with clean water or saline solution. Be careful not to rub your eyes in case something gets stuck, such as particles from your cat’s claws.

Then you need to call your doctor so they can carefully examine your eye for any damage. They may also prescribe medication if your eye scratch becomes infected.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology says eye scratches tend to heal quickly. However, if left untreated, they can cause:

Cat scratch fever refers to a bacterial infection caused by Bartonella henselae. Felines can carry the bacteria in their saliva. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 40 percent cats will be carriers of this bacteria at some point, but most will not show any symptoms.

Cats can initially catch this bacteria from fleas. Cats can pass the bacteria on to each other during cat fights. Then the bacteria can then be transmitted to humans via the affected cat by scratching, biting or licking an open wound.

Symptoms of cat scratch fever

If you have cat scratch fever, the CDC says you may notice the following symptoms within 3-14 days of the initial incident:

  • scratches or bites that become increasingly red or discolored and more swollen
  • fever, pain, and other flu-like symptoms
  • Rashes
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • excessive fatigue and weakness

Treatment of cat scratch fever

Cat scratch fever can be treated with antibiotics as well as home wound care to help eliminate your symptoms and prevent possible complications.

It is important to know that some of the symptoms of cat scratch fever are similar to those caused by other infections. This includes tetanus, which is caused by Clostridium tetani bacterium.

It is important to call a doctor if you have any all symptoms of an infection so that you can be treated properly. Your risk of developing cat scratch fever may also be higher if you’ve been around a flea infested cat.

The CDC says complications from cat scratch fever are more likely if you’re under 14 or have a weakened immune system. Although rare, such possibilities include:

  • cerebral lesion – brain-damage
  • other damage to internal organs
  • bacillary angiomatosis, a progressive skin disease that causes red or discolored, raised lesions that have scaly outer rings
  • red, itchy eyes with flu-like symptoms

Rabies is a serious viral infection that develops after a bite from an infected animal. Although not common in domestic cats in the United States, cases of rage are reported in felines more than other domestic animals.

An infected cat can exhibit sudden changes in behavior, including unusual aggression. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, loss of muscle control, and paralysis.

Rabid cats are more likely to pass the virus to humans through their saliva when biting. However, there is always a lesser possibility that an infected cat could transmit the virus through scratching. The first symptoms in humans mimic those of the flu, and these can develop up to weeks or months later, depending on the patient. CDC.

If you think you have had interactions with a rabid cat, you should seek emergency treatment, even if the deadly disease has not caused any symptoms. Prompt care with anti-rabies antibodies and vaccination can help prevent life-threatening complications.

You can help minimize the health risks from cat scratches by:

  • wash and treat accidental injuries during all types of interactions
  • avoiding violent play, especially with kittens who are more prone to scratching
  • keep your face away from your cat during playtime to avoid eye injuries
  • covering any open sores you have, so your cat cannot lick them
  • create an indoor environment only for your cat
  • caring for feral cats or other felines that are not your own
  • keeping your cat up to date with their vaccines, such as rabies vaccines
  • stay up to date on your own vaccines, including tetanus booster shots
  • making sure your cat is properly treated for fleas, as recommended by your vet

The occasional scratch can seem like a natural part of being a cat lover, but you should always take care to wash off any accidental wounds you may have after playing with your furry babies. Since some cases can turn into infections, it is important to be aware of any suspicious symptoms and to contact a doctor immediately.

While it can be difficult to completely avoid cat scratches when you have a playful feline in your home, there are steps you can take to help prevent complications. These include proper cleaning, avoiding wild animals and following recommended vaccines.


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