Cat Scratch Disease & Pregnancy

A cat scratch isn't necessarily dangerous to a pregnant woman.
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There are plenty of warnings for pregnant women to follow, and even a few about taking care of cats. While there are several illnesses that your sweet kitty can pass around, cat scratch disease isn't one that warrants serious concern during pregnancy. It's safe to still interact with your cat, although a few precautions might be in order.

What Is It?

Cat scratch disease, or cat scratch fever, is an infection caused by bacteria called Bartonella henselae. The bacteria live in your cat's mouth, and get on to his claws when he grooms himself. People become infected with the bacteria after being scratched by a cat. Young cats and kittens are more likely to spread the infection than adult cats, according to the organization Pets Are Wonderful Support.


Most healthy people will have flu-like symptoms that last only a few days. A fever, lack of energy and swollen lymph nodes are the most common symptoms. Cat scratch disease can sometimes turn into a condition called bacillary angiomatosis in people with immune system deficiencies. Bacillary angiomatosis can cause skin lesions and organ damage.


Unlike many other conditions, there are no specific warnings from the Centers for Disease Control about cat scratch disease and pregnancy. A study conducted by Israeli doctors and published in the March 2012 issue of "Obstetrics & Gynecology" did not find that cat scratch fever causes problems in unborn babies; however, it also noted that not enough cases were included in the study to provide definite answers. Any illness in a mother does have the potential to affect the fetus, and women who suspect they have cat scratch disease or any other illness should contact their doctor.

Treatment and Prevention

Most people who get cat scratch fever don't need medical treatment since the infection resolves quickly on its own. Infections that become more serious are often treated with antibiotics. If you're pregnant, discuss possible treatments with your doctor to decide whether the benefits outweigh any risk. Pregnant women can reduce their risk of cat scratch fever by avoiding any rough play with a cat, avoiding contact with outdoor cats, keeping their cat's nails trimmed and washing and disinfecting any scratches or bites immediately.

Cat Scratch Disease vs Toxoplasmosis

Cat scratch disease is a very different infection from toxoplasmosis. While cat scratch disease has not been proven dangerous to a fetus, toxoplasmosis can cause serious birth defects or a miscarriage. Rather than being transmitted through scratches, toxoplasmosis is spread from cats to humans through their feces. This is why pregnant women are often advised to avoid contact with the litter box during pregnancy.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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