Cuddling with your cat has the potential to kill you

DENVER — Cuddling with your kitty might be a nice way to unwind, just beware of the claws.

Cat-scratch disease might need to be taken more seriously than originally thought, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bacterial infection, which is passed between cats by fleas, is spread to humans through scratches, bites or allowing a cat to lick an open wound or scrape, according to the report.

Health insurance claims from 2005 to 2013 indicate that while the disease is extremely rare, the progression of reactions is becoming more severe.

Side effects can range from a headache, fever and swollen lymph nodes to rarer incidents where the heart or brain are affected, according to the CDC. 

Cat lovers can avoid contracting cat-scratch disease by washing their hands after playing with their cat, keeping cats indoors and treating for fleas.

Cats that are less than a year old are more likely to have the bacteria Bartonella henselae which causes the disease, according to CDC.

Young children, those with a compromised immune system and the elderly are most likely to be affected.

Each year about 12,000 people are diagnosed with cat-scratch disease and 500 require hospitalization, according to the report.