A woman woke up with a black eye and swollen face after being scratched by her pet cat.
Heidi Plamping, from Canada, had been trying to calm down her cat, Storm, who had been freaked by a large dog.
As three-year-old Storm clambered on to her head for refuge, her claws caught Ms Plamping’s skin, drawing blood.
When the 42-year-old’s eyes and hands started to swell three days later, she thought dust mites were to blame.
But her face worsened over the next few days, to the point where it was covered in a rash. She was given pills by her doctor and sent home.
However, they did not work and she needed to go to the hospital every day for four days to receive a drip of antibiotics to fight her swelling.
Doctors warned her cat scratches can be very serious – cats carry and can transfer bacteria, which, in very rare cases, can lead to life-threatening complications such as sepsis.
Ms Plamping, a digital marketing consultant who lives in Cochrane, Alberta, had travelled to British Columbia at the start of May with Storm to stay and work with friends for the summer.
When they arrived on May 2, Ms Plamping let Storm out on her lead as she had done countless times before when they’ve visited the unidentified friend.
However, since their last visit, Ms Plamping’s friend had got two Great Danes who were very friendly and excited to meet Storm.
The large dogs scared her and she started to get tangled in her lead as she panicked to get away.
Ms Plamping said: ‘Their dogs are very friendly, but my cat hasn’t met a dog before so when one of them showed up she freaked out.’
Ms Plamping rushed to Storm’s rescue and started to untangle her beloved cat as she climbed up her face to the safety of her head.
Ms Plamping said: ‘Eventually I picked her up so I could bring her inside. She was so scared she climbed my face to my head while I screamed murder and put her inside.’
As a result, Ms Plamping had seven scratches on her face and three more on her hand and arm.
When she woke up the next day with a black eye, Ms Plamping thought nothing more of her injuries.
But by May 5, Ms Plamping had a swollen hand and eyes. Due to having sensitive skin, she thought that she could possibly be having a reaction to any dust that could have been present in her new surroundings.
She said: ‘I haven’t had a bad skin reaction in a long time but since high school I have had sensitive skin.
‘I have had rashes off and on all my life from dust, detergent, perfumes and dyes.’
The next day her symptoms were worse, and she went to a doctor where she was given pills and told to come back the next day if her condition deteriorated.
On May 7, Ms Plamping’s face was significantly more swollen and covered in rashes so she went back to the doctor who was shocked.
Ms Plamping said: ‘This time they were a bit freaked out by my face and informed me how bad cat scratches and bites can get. It can lead to sepsis and even death.’
Cats carry bacteria, one of which, called Bartonella henselae, can cause infection in a human when it is transmitted through a deep cut or bite.
About three to 14 days after the skin is broken, a mild infection can occur at the site of the injury, and then progress to become swollen, red and painful.
Known as ‘cat-scratch disease’, it can become fatal if not treated quickly. The CDC and NHS are quick to assure people that the dangerous cases are generally rare.
But other experts warn that cat bites and scratches can be ‘devastating in terms of infection and permanent disability’, if left untreated.
Official figures suggest around 12,000 Americans get cat scratch disease each year. It is unsure how many Britons develop the infection.
Ms Plamping was put on an IV and had to return every day for four days to get a new dose of antibiotics administered.
She said: ‘They said it is common for cat scratches or bites to cause infection. When they had to order antibiotics that had to go into me through an IV, I knew it was serious but was just thankful that we were heading in the right direction to make me better.
‘The next day, the swelling was going down but a rash was spreading on my arm.
‘The doctor outlined my arm where the rash was and told me to go to the emergency room if it spread any further that night. Thankfully it didn’t and once the hand swelling went down they finally gave me prednisone [a medication to calm the immune system] to help with the swelling and rash in my face.’
The medication made Ms Plamping nauseous and sleepy, and she said: ‘I started getting upset when my face was so tight and itchy.
‘I knew it would get better, but I was growing impatient. So, it wasn’t exactly the first week in British Columbia that I had pictured for myself.’
Following her ordeal, animal lover Ms Plamping said that Storm looked at her funny for a few days whilst the swelling went down.
But the two forgave each other instantly and Ms Plamping said she wouldn’t hesitate to rescue Storm again if the situation arose.
Ms Plamping has had Storm ever since she was four months old and said that this incident hasn’t changed their relationship, but Storm is now more wary of going outside.
‘Storm is very hesitant to leave the cabin. Back home in Alberta she freely goes outside. Here she is nervous about the dog,’ said Ms Plamping.
‘If I had to protect her again and pick her up, I would. I don’t have kids. She is my baby. My fur baby.
‘I wasn’t aware that cat scratches were so infectious. If you get a cat scratch or bite, go to your doctor right away.’