We all love snuggling our furry kitten friends, but aside from the fact that cats don't love you back with the same amount of enthusiasm, there is another reason why you shouldn't snuggle your cat: it can make you sick. Cuddling with your kitty could give you a disease called cat-scratch fever, which is a bacterial infection caused by fleas. It's not a deadly disease, but its complications aren't pretty, either. My roommate's cat is chilling with me in my room as we speak, and I am now giving her the side-eye, in case any of you are wondering.
Cat-scratch fever, also called cat-scratch disease or CSD, is caused when an infected cat licks a person's open wounds. Yuck. If you've been infected, you may notice the infected area looks swollen and red with raised round legions, and it might feel painful and even warm to the touch. There may also be pus coming out of the wound. You may also have a fever or headache and feel loss of appetite or exhaustion. Finally, someone infected with cat-scratch disease may experience swollen, tender, or painful lymph nodes. Yeah, I told you it was not a cute look. Count me out, thanks.
Serious (but rare) complications can affect the brain, eyes, heart, and other internal organs. While that all sounds scary, the good news is that cat-scratch disease can be treated with antibiotics. Phew. If your cat scratches you, be sure to wash the wound right away with soap and water, and do not let your cat's tongue near that wound.
While CSD is not a new disease, it's making headlines now because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently released the first large-scale study of cat-scratch disease in over 15 years. It found a few interesting things. One, that incidence of CSD was highest among people who lived in southern states, 5- to 9-year-old children, and women. So to all my Atlanta cat lady friends (and you know who you are), be careful! Researchers estimated that about 500 people are hospitalized for cat-scratch disease every year, while 12,000 people are treated for CSD with outpatient services. NYMag explains that essentially, the study found that "while fewer people are contracting the disease, its serious complications could be more common than previously thought."
Researchers found preventative measures like flea control to be very helpful, so make sure your cat is up-to-date on his or her flea meds. Other than that, wash your hands after playing with your cat and be extra careful if you have an open cut. Snuggle safely, y'all.
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