Follow Us
Girl with gray cat snuggling on couch

Flea control also benefits humans

Q: When my daughter developed a fever and swollen lymph nodes, our pediatrician diagnosed her with cat scratch disease. Our kitten, Milo, seems healthy. Should he see a veterinarian for treatment?

A: Milo should see his veterinarian for vaccinations, neutering and parasite control–including flea treatment. Even if he is an indoor cat.

Fleas can carry Bartonella bacteria, which cause no difficulty for most cats but do produce cat scratch disease in humans. The bacteria are excreted in flea feces, also called flea dirt, tiny black specks you may find if you run a fine-toothed flea comb through Milo’s fur.

As Milo scratched himself, the infected flea dirt became embedded in his claws. When he scratched your daughter, he inoculated her with the Bartonella bacteria that caused her cat scratch disease. 

Cat scratch disease doesn’t actually require a cat to scratch. The disease is transmitted when Bartonella-infected flea dirt gets into a cut on the skin or some other bodily opening, including the eyes. Signs of cat scratch disease in humans can include fever, lack of appetite, headache and lethargy, and at the site of the scratch can become tender and swollen.

Research shows that antibiotics administered to infected cats that appear normal won’t clear the bacteria or block transmission to humans. However, you can prevent cat scratch disease if you:

  • Kill fleas and use a flea preventive throughout the year.
  • Trim claws regularly. Avoid declawing, as research shows it does not reduce the risk of cat scratch disease in humans.
  • Minimize scratches and bites by petting cats gently and playing with toys that keep you away from claws, such as a laser pointer or a fishing pole toy with a feather at the end of the string.
  • Wash any cat scratch or bite thoroughly, and seek medical attention.
  • Immunocompromised people should adopt only healthy adult cats that are free of fleas.

Editor’s Note: Keeping your pet flea-free during the winter doesn’t have to be a challenge if you follow these tips.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com

More From Figo Blog
Getting To Know The Great Dane | Figo Pet Insurance

Looking for a faithful and loving dog with an...

Pet Professionals: Interview With Larry Kay Of Positively Woof | Figo Pet Insurance

Author, dog trick trainer, movie maker,...

Arthritis In Dogs: Signs, Symptoms, And Treatment Options | Figo Pet Insurance

We all strive to be responsible dog owners who...

Pet Food Trends | Figo Pet Insurance

If you thought that pet food is just about...

Pug and terrier on road trip looking out of a car window

Summer is vacation season, and many of us will...

Introducing dogs for successful dog-to-dog interaction

Many of us want our dogs to be friendly with...

Man and dog hiking in the mountains

Dog ownership should be a joy for both you and...

Dog waiting to be adopted in animal shelter

Pets are awesome! Ever feel like you want to...

HELP