Melbourne woman killed by her pet cat
A Melbourne grandmother has died after being scratched by her cat and suffering complications, prompting her devastated family and doctors to warn of the danger.
Although she rallied and woke to spend "beautiful" time with her family, the 80-year-old again became critically ill and died a day after being taken off life support.
Melbourne infectious disease specialists say they are seeing at least one person a week in hospital due to the bacteria in cat saliva, warning it can cause devastating complications such as heart failure and even blindness.
Although the woman's distraught family do not want her identity revealed, they want to warn others of the danger posed by cats, particularly for those with weakened immune systems.
"Mum would sleep with the cat and obviously through the night it has licked the wound and it was the saliva going into her bloodstream that has caused the damage," her daughter told the Herald Sun.
"I was in shock for a good couple of weeks. I've tried not to hate the cat … but then I was sitting with it trying to be nice and it lashed out at me as well for no reason."
After the woman's family found her unresponsive in bed with the cat curled up nearby, she was rushed to Box Hill Hospital where her heart later had to be restarted before she was placed in intensive care.
It was found that she had bacterial meningitis from her cat's saliva, known as pasteurella multocida, which is resistant to standard antibiotics.
Austin Health's director of infectious diseases, Lindsay Grayson said cats carried several lethal bacteria such as pasteurella, which can cause meningitis, as well as bartonella, which causes the so-called "cat scratch disease".
He said people should not let cats lick open wounds, especially those with weak immune systems, who he said should avoid cats altogether.
"It is a big deal and it is emerging more and more now as an unrecognised cause of heart valve infection, which is obviously fatal if untreated," Prof Grayson said.
"Infections related to cat bites and scratches like this person, we'd get at least one a week where somebody comes into the hospital. It is very important that if a cat is biting or scratching you, you mention it to your GP. It immediately triggers a greater concern and a different medical approach to just a routine scratch."
Due to her age and use of blood-thinning drugs for another condition, the grandmother had suffered previous issues due to cat scratches, including cellulitis.