Doctors Rudely Warn Public Not to Snuggle Kittens

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Photo: Jessica Peterson/Getty Images

Today in way harsh news, federal health officials are warning that nuzzling adorable kittens could be bad for you.

Cat-scratch fever is caused by a bacteria found in fleas. People get the disease from kitty scratches and bites, yes, but the bacteria can build up in cats’ fur and make its way into your body via your nose, eyes, or mouth, if, say, you bury your face in their fluff or touch your face after playing. Kittens are apparently more likely than adult cats to carry the bacteria, so snuggling and kissing them is, sadly, ill-advised.

Doctors with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted the first large-scale study of cat-scratch fever in more than 15 years, and the results, published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, suggest that while fewer people are contracting the disease, its serious complications could be more common than previously thought.

Symptoms usually include fever, tiredness, and swollen lymph nodes, but in some cases, the infection can spread to the heart or lead to swelling in the brain — both of which can be fatal if not treated properly. (This is more likely in kids younger than 5 and in people with weakened immune systems.) The CDC study found that 12,000 people get sick from cat-scratch fever every year, 500 of whom need to be hospitalized.

The study author suggests keeping cats indoors and using flea-control methods, while the CDC helpfully advises washing your hands after merely touching a cat. Will get right on that one.