Experimental and natural infection with Bartonella henselae in domestic cats

Comp Immunol Microbiol Infect Dis. 1997 Jan;20(1):41-51. doi: 10.1016/s0147-9571(96)00025-2.


Domestic cats were experimentally infected with culture propagated Bartonella henselae by intradermal (i.d.) and intravenous (i.v.) routes. Cats were more efficiently infected by the i.d. (8/8 cats) than by the i.v. (2/16) route. Bacteremia was detected 1-3 weeks following inoculation and lasted for most cats for 1-8 months. However, one naturally infected cat was observed for 24 months and was found to be cyclically bacteremic, with bacterial levels varying one hundred fold or more from one period to another. No clinical or hematologic abnormalities were observed in any of the infected cats, even at the peak of bacteremia. Two cats that had become abacteremic were resistant to reinfection when inoculated with B. henselae a second time. Horizontal transmission through intimate contact between bacteremic and susceptible cats did not occur, and antibody positive bacteremic queens did not transmit the infection to their kittens in utero, peri-partum or post-partum. Only four of the 18 kittens acquired detectable levels of maternal antibody following nursing, which disappeared by 6 weeks of age. These studies indicate that B. henselae exists in an almost perfect host-parasite relationship with its feline host, but that most cats can ultimately rid themselves of the infection. The susceptibility of cats to intradermal infection and the lack of direct cat-cat transmission are compatible with possible arthropod vectors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / analysis
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Arthropod Vectors / microbiology
  • Bacteremia / diagnosis
  • Bacteremia / immunology
  • Bacteremia / microbiology
  • Bartonella henselae*
  • Cat-Scratch Disease / immunology
  • Cat-Scratch Disease / transmission*
  • Cat-Scratch Disease / veterinary*
  • Cats
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Immunity, Maternally-Acquired
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Vaccination


  • Antibodies, Bacterial