An Ohio woman who suddenly lost vision in one of her eyes has learned that her own cat is to blame, reports WTOL. Doctors at the University of Toledo diagnosed cat scratch disease as the culprit. "Anything that is exposed to the cat's mouth, including if you have a little scratch that the cat licks—that's how you can get it," says Dr. Kris Brickman. A cat also can pass it along through its fur, or if it bites or scratches hard enough to break the skin. It's extremely rare for the bacterial infection to cause blindness, though people with weak immune systems are more prone to serious complications, explains a CDC fact sheet. More typically, those affected come down with a headache or fever.
“I woke up one day and I couldn't see out of my left eye,” Janese Walters tells the Toledo TV station. “I looked in the mirror and I thought I had pink eye or something.” Brickman says the eyes are vulnerable because of the way the infection affects blood vessels. The best safeguard is to wash thoroughly after playing with your cat—especially if it's a kitten—and to immediately clean any bites or scratches. A good flea treatment also helps, because that's how cats become infected in the first place, notes WPXI. Despite the ordeal, Walters is keeping her cats. (A happier cat story: Some abandoned kittens found an unlikely new "mom.")