Cuddling With Kittens Brings Joy, Also Maybe Death

The only point of owning a cat -- besides the joy of owning an animal that tears up carpets and knocks shit off your counters for no reason -- is to have a soft, cute, fluffy creature to cuddle with. When a kitty instinctively jumps in your lap and nuzzles up to your face, purring in pure ecstasy, it makes the whole crazy-cat-person stereotype (and the fact that they legitimately might make you go insane) worth it. 

But like your newly upholstered furniture, the joy of kitten snuggles has been completely destroyed: a new study says that cat-scratch disease (also known as the less aggressive cat-scratch fever) has gotten worse over the years. Even though the number of cases has gone down, complications are more severe, including swelling of the brain and heart infections, both of which can be deadly if not treated. Deadly! And while those cases constitute only a small number -- typical symptoms include fatigue, fever, and swelling of the lymph nodes -- they're more serious than researchers thought. 

"The scope and impact of the disease is a little bit larger than we thought," Dr. Christina Nelson, lead author on the study, told NPR. It's caused by fleas; their poop contains the bacteria Bartonella henselae, which builds up in cats' fur, ready to be transferred onto your face during a snuggle session. (It can also be transmitted through cat scratches and bites, but your cat would never be such an asshole, would he?)

The worst part? Kittens are the biggest carriers, since they haven't built up an immunity to the disease yet and are more likely to transfer it. That means the best way to protect yourself is probably to ignore kittens altogether. But since that's completely cruel and preposterous, the next line of defense is making sure your furry friend is flea-free. Outdoor cats are at greater risk for transmitting the disease than indoor ones, so be extra careful with breeds that roam the wilderness. 

At least being a cat owner is now considered dangerous and badass, rather than lame and pathetic. Especially since your cat likely wants to kill you, and doesn't care how it's done. 

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Christina Stiehl is a Health and fitness staff writer for Thrillist. She always knew cats were up to no good. Follow her dog-loving self on Twitter @ChristinaStiehl.