From cognitive to emotional development, having a pet around around is good for your growing kid. But if your house has been in the throes of a classic dog vs. cat debate, a new study published by the Centers For Disease Control confirms that Ted Nugent was right about one thing: Cat-scratch fever is very real. Better known as cat-scratch disease, it’s a bacterial infection that kids can get after being scratched or even just licked by a cat carrying the bacteria. It’s mostly mild and treatable, but also much more common than people realize and can be fatal in extreme instances. In your case, the only thing it’s killing is your spouse’s argument to bring a feline into the family, while making a great case for a dog.
The research, published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, examined health insurance claims made between 2005 and 2013. In over 12,000 claims that resulted in a diagnosis of cat-scratch disease, 500 required hospitalization. The number of people contracting the disease has decreased, and yet the number of people who have become seriously ill from it has increased from 3.5 percent in 2005-2007 to 4.2 percent in 2011-2013. The study also concluded that cuddling kittens increases your (and your kid’s) chances of getting it, in case you thought the only risk was becoming a wall calendar model.
Initial symptoms include fever, headache, poor appetite, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion, which may make most parents question if they’ve been bit by a cat already. When such symptoms go unchecked it can cause some very real problems, like brain swelling, heart complications, and death by cat kisses. But the CDC notes that these extreme cases occur mostly in people with compromised immune systems. Sure, your kid’s system isn’t the strongest (yet), but other research shows that bacteria exposure could boost it. And your new family dog will bring that in spades.