Can cats get sick from “Cat Scratch Disease” or just people get sick?

Our question this week was:

Hi Dr Debra. I have a son that got Cat Scratch Disease (also known as Bartonellosis). I was told cats can’t get sick from it. Is this true?

Barney A. – Dallas Texas


Hi – thanks for your email. As you probably know, Cat-scratch Disease (CSD), also known as Rochalimaea henselae or Bartonella henselae, is an infection in humans that most often occurs after prolonged contact with a young cat. When diagnosed in cats this disease is called feline bartonellosis.

It is caused by a bacteria called Bartonella henselae. Bartonella is not known to cause serious disease in most cats. Most cats will have no clinical signs of illness. However, some cats can exhibit signs of lethargy, fever, lack of appetite, lymph node enlargement, vomiting, red eyes and reproductive problems (for breeding animals). Cats that are symptomatic are treated with antibiotics.

An article that might be helpful to you is Bartonellosis in Cats (Cat-scratch Disease). This article will give you some information about the human disease and the cat disease.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra