Cat Scratch Fever: It’s Not Just A Song

Ted Nugent is well known for his hit song Cat Scratch Fever, amongst other things. After the song came on the radio recently, I wondered how accurate the lyrics actually were, and thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of Ted’s lyrics to see how they measure up to the ACTUAL symptoms and treatment of the disease. Let’s see if Nugent did his homework.

“Well, I don’t know where they come from but they sure do come”

Where do these cats with Cat Scratch Disease (CSD) come from? CSD is caused by a bacterium called Bartonella henselae. Roughly 40% of cats carry this bacterium at some point in their lives, although most cats show no symptoms or signs of infection.

“I hope they comin’ for me”

No, you don’t.

“And I don’t know how they do it but they sure do it good

I hope they’re doin’ it for free”

Do you suspect you have Cat Scratch Fever? (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

He’s got something sort of right here. Most cats will spread the disease for absolutely free! Cats are infected with the bacterium from flea bites and flea dirt (droppings) getting in their wounds. If a cat is infected and you have an open wound that they lick, or if a kitten that is infected playfully scratches you, you could become contaminated.

“They give me cat scratch fever… cat scratch fever”

How would Mr. Nugent know that he had been given Cat Scratch Fever? Symptoms of CSD in people include the infected area becoming swollen and red with raised lesions. Sometimes the infection can also ooze pus. Lymph nodes may swell (under your armpits) or become tender. And, as the title of the song suggests, you may have a fever.

No wonder Mr. Nugent felt so hot!

“Well, the first time that I got it I was just ten years old

I got it from some kitty next door”

The first time? How many times did he get this disease? He must have really love playing with kittens because kittens younger than one year old are more likely to have the bacterium, and spread the disease through play.

“An’ I went to see the doctor and he gave me the cure”

What did the doctor give 10-year-old Ted Nugent? Treatment of CSD normally begins with symptomatic treatment of pain with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

“I got a bad scratch fever

The cat scratch fever” bad are we talking here?

“It’s nothin’ dangerous

I feel no pain

I’ve got the choo-choo train

You know you got it when you, you’re going insane

It makes a grown man cry, cry, oh won’t you make my bed”

Cat Scratch Fever ain’t no joke! (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

It sounds like Nugent’s song is based on an extremely severe case of CSD. CSD is typically more of a mild irritant, but it can have serious complications. Although rare, CSD can affect the brain, eyes, heart, and other internal organs. These complications are more likely to occur in children under the age of five or those with weak immune systems.

“Well, I make the pussy purr with the stroke of my hand”

COMMON SENSE NOTE: Don’t hang out with or pet strays, especially if you have other animals in your house. Cats that do show symptoms may have labored breathing or have inflammation of the heart. If you suspect your cat has been exposed, take them to your vet to stay on the safe side.

“I give them cat scratch fever”

Woah, woah, woah Mr. Nugent! CSD is not spread from person to person, you can only get Cat Scratch Fever from a cat. This leads to the logical conclusion that Ted Nugent is clearly passing along something other than CSD. He may need to see another doctor and get a second opinion on this problem of his.

Do you have any experience with Cat Scratch Fever? Please share your experience in the comments below.