Grandmother Falls Into Coma and Dies After Lick From Pet Cat

An 80-year-old grandmother has died after contracting an infection from her pet cat, according to reports.

Her family said the cat, known as Minty, may have licked scratches on the arm of the unidentified woman from Melbourne, Australia.

Subsequently, her family found her unresponsive in bed and she was taken to Box Hill Hospital, where she spent nine days in coma, the Herald Sun reported.

There, medical staff diagnosed her with bacterial meningitis caused by the bacteria pasteurella multocida.

The woman woke from her coma after nine days, and was able to spend one day conscious with her loved ones before she died due to complications from the infection.

"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," the woman's 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."

Bacterial meningitis is rare but can be very serious if not treated. It is particularly dangerous for vulnerable groups such as young children, elderly people and people with weak immune systems. The disease can be caused by several different types of bacteria.

Aside from pasteurella, cats can carry another type of bacteria called bartonella henselae, which can cause "cat-scratch disease," according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) Around 40 percent of cats will carry the bacteria at some stage in their lives.

pet cat
Stock image: A pet cat playing with its owner. iStock

Infections usually occur after scratches from domestic or feral cats, especially kittens. Most scratches don't result in the development of disease in humans and serious complications are rare.

However, the disease can cause symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, fatigue and poor appetite. For people with weak immune systems, the disease can be more serious.

According to the CDC, the best way to avoid cat-scratch disease is avoid rough play with cats that may lead to scratches or bites. If you have been scratched or bitten by a cat, promptly wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. If the wound becomes infected or you develop any symptoms, contact a doctor. Cats often become infected with the bacteria via flea bites, so if you have a feline, try to keep it free of fleas.