Before I talk about cat bites signs of infection I would like to put cat bites into perspective. A cat that is adequately socialised (raised to behave reasonably in relation to other animals and people) and is decently treated will not bite you aggressively. A cat might bite gently as a form of “kiss”. In the wild a tigress will “kiss” the male by biting him gently and then rubbing against him during mating (Sunquists).
My cat occasionally bites me gently as a friendly gesture. She might also bite and lick me in succession. These are all signs of friendship and not to be confused with unprovoked aggressive behaviour.
Sometimes people do get bitten hard by a cat and that will almost always, I believe, be the fault of the person. It may be the result of a playful child being unaware of how to handle and treat a cat or usually a kitten – a recipe for possible problems.
It is believed that the cat carries an organism called Rochalimaea henselae or less often a bacteria called Afipa felis. The organism lives in the mouth of an infected cat and causes no symptoms of illness to the cat. The organism is transferred to the cats claws and paws during grooming. Accordingly, the organisms can be transferred to people from a bite or a scratch. It has never happened to me and I am sure that it is very rare. It is called Cat Scratch Disease.
The cat is only able to transmit the disease to people during a window of 2 –3 weeks. Let’s say it will be unusual if you have been infected by Rochalimaea henselae.
The cat bites signs of infection (symptoms) are:
|Event – cat bite signs of infection||Timetable – % of cases – occurrence|
|Raised red sore at the site of the bite or scratch||3 – 10 days after the bite or scratch. There may be redness up the limb|
|Tender lymph nodes in the armpit (or neck and groin)||This may last for 2 – 5 months|
|Low level of fatigue, headache etc.||Less than 5% have this symptom|
|Other organs involved such as spleen, joints, eyes for example||Rare|
|Life threatening||Very rare and applying to people with suppressed immune systems|
Important note: Cat scratch disease is rare and it is positively not a reason to declaw a cat. There are almost no reasons to declaw. Please see Declawing Cats.
Preventative common sense measures can be taken with children (teach how to handle a cat) and with people with defective immune systems. Young cats are more likely to scratch and bite it seems due to youthful vigour and lack of conditioning/socialisation.
- Cat Scratch Fever (another post with slightly different information)
- Cat Scratch Fever Symptoms (new window). This is more medically orientated.
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