Epidemiologists recommend that feline fans avoid snuggling their pets if they plan on living
In a blow to people who want to do nothing more than to take an adorable fluffy kitten into their arms and snuggle it, scientists say it could kill you. According to a new study published by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, embracing the young felines increases the risk of cat-scratch disease, a relatively mild complaint that can become fatal if it is contracted with serious complications.
Published in the ominous sounding journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, the potentially lethal disease spreads when a cat licks a person’s open wound caused by a playful bite or spiteful scratch that has broken the skin. Symptoms include fever, headache, poor appetite, swollen glands, and tiredness, which if left unchecked can lead to brain swelling, heart complications, and death.
The researchers examined health insurance claims made between 2005 and 2013 and noticed a trend involving more than 12,000 instances of policyholders diagnosed with cat-scratch disease, 500 of which ended up spending time in hospital. While the data revealed that a smaller number of people had contracted the disease overall compared to previous investigations, there was an increase in the level of people who became seriously ill from their cats’ affections.
The study also revealed that there was an annual spike in diagnoses of the disease in January.
“One hypothesis to explain the January peak is that cats are adopted from shelters more often during the holiday season, for sentimental reasons or as gifts,” the study claims. Its authors also believe that people spending more time indoors during cold weather and families gathering in close quarters for the holidays might also contribute to the increase.
Responsible cat owners can keep themselves safe by making sure they manage their companion’s fleas, if they keep their cat indoors as much as possible, and if you always wash your hands after holding on to your pet, the CDC advises.