Think your cat may have worms? As a first time pawrent, you may be shocked to discover that worms and other creepy crawlies, such as ticks, fleas and mites aren’t uncommon in cats and kittens. Thankfully, these infestations can be managed and treated easy enough.
Want to know how? Carry on reading to find out which types of worms can infect your feline, what symptoms to look out for and how best to get rid of them.
Types of Worms That Infect Cats
Although eight different types of worms infect cats, roundworm and tapeworm are the most common. Let’s take a look at each one in a bit more detail.
The best way to describe roundworms is that they look like spaghetti but with a pointy end. They are usually between 3 and 6″ long and can be passed from mummy cat to her kittens. Unlike other intestinal worms, roundworms don’t attach to the wall. Instead, they move around freely in the intestines.
Tapeworms can reach between 11 and 20″ long and can survive up to two years in a host. Using their hook-like mouthparts, tapeworms latch onto a cat’s intestinal walls and bowels. Once it reaches adulthood, proglottids or egg sacs break off. These rice-like sacs can be seen in your pet’s poop and around its bottom.
Although less common in cats, hookworms are tiny intestinal parasites that measure around half an inch. But don’t be fooled by how small they are. Hookworms feed off their host animal’s blood and can cause weight loss, diarrhoea, and in severe cases, anaemia and even death.
Another little known fact about hookworms is that they have a long life-span, and can live as long as your cat. Fortunately, hookworm infestations aren’t all that common in the UK, and they can be diagnosed and treated quickly.
How Do Cats Get Worms?
Unfortunately, cats, even indoor ones, are at risk of getting worms. The leading causes include:
- Kittens swallowing larvae from their mother’s milk
- Eating animals that are infected, such as birds and rodents.
- Via fleas when grooming themselves.
- Coming into contact with another cat’s poop
- From slugs and snails
While outdoor cats are at a higher risk of becoming infected, an indoor cat can also pick up worms.
How Does An Indoor Cat Get Worms?
Even if your kitty has never put its foot out the front door, there is still a good chance it will get worms. How you ask? Well, let’s take a quick look.
Worms can be transferred from dogs to cats.
If you have a multi-pet household, your indoor cat can pick up worms from infected dogs and outdoor cats. Sharing a litter box, grooming each other and sharing food bowls are just a few of the ways worms can be transferred from one pet to another.
Worms are spread via common household pests.
Just because your cat lives indoors, it doesn’t mean it loses its hunting instinct. Common household pests such as rats, mice, lizards and even flies carry worm eggs. When your cat ingests the eggs, it can become infected.
Contaminated family members can spread worms.
Intestinal parasites can be passed onto your cat by family members via their clothes and shoes. Running and playing on the lawn or in sand pits are just two ways worms can be brought into the house unknowingly.
How Can You Tell If Your Cat Has Worms?
It’s relatively easy to tell if your cat has worms. Depending on how bad the infestation is, you may notice changes in your cat’s behaviour and appearance. In some cases, there will be physical evidence of worms in your pet’s stools.
If you suspect your cat is infected, look out for the following symptoms:
- A distended or swollen belly
- Weight loss
- Coarse looking fur
- Sore or irritated bottom
- Actual worms around your cat’s bottom, in its stools and bedding.
Signs of a lungworm infection include:
- Shortness of breath
What Should I Do If My Cat Has Worms?
If you suspect your cat has worms, you must speak to your vet immediately. While not life-threatening in its early stages, it can lead to anaemia and eventually death if left untreated.
Your vet will recommend the most effective course of action depending on the type of worm infestation. Treatments include:
- Spot-on treatments
Many of the treatments can be administered at home, however, if you aren’t confident you can do this, your vet will help. The most important thing for you to do is to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.
How Can I Prevent My Cat From Getting Worms?
It’s highly unlikely that your cat won’t get worms in its lifetime. But there are several things you can do to prevent severe (and ongoing) infestations.
- Speak to your vet about a preventative treatment for ticks and fleas
- Deworm your cats regularly
- Clean out litter boxes daily and use an animal-friendly disinfectant regularly
- Pick up your pet’s poop
- Wash your hands after handling your pets, their bedding, litter and poop
- Thoroughly clean food and water bowls
Frequently Asked Questions About Cat Worms
Our FAQ section provides everything you need to about cat worms at a glance.
Is it common for cats to get worms?
Yes, it is very common for cats to get worms. Whether it’s from their mother’s milk, eating worm-infested prey such as rodents, birds, lizards and even slugs and snails or ingesting flea eggs, your cat will likely be infected at some point in its life.
Can my indoor cat get worms?
Yes, even an indoor cat that has never stepped outside can become infected. Cross-contamination, sharing food and water bowls with another pet and grooming can cause a worm infestation. We suggest using tick and flea treatments and deworming tablets regularly.
How can I tell if my cat has worms?
There are several ways you can tell if your cat has worms. The most common signs include:
- A swollen or pot-belly
- unhealthy looking coat
- Weight loss
- A sore bottom
- Excessive hunger
- Shortness of breath
- Worms around the bottom and in stools
Can I get worms from my cat?
We’re afraid so! Roundworm can be transferred from cats to humans, cats to other cats and cats to dogs. We suggest using tick and flea treatments on all your pets, as well as regularly deworming them. To stop the transfer between animals and humans, you should always wash your hands after handling your pets, their litter boxes, bedding and poop.
Is it difficult to worm my cat?
No, it’s not difficult. You can use tablets, pastes, spot-on treatments or powders, which can be administered directly onto the skin, or in your cat’s food. Of course, if you aren’t confident doing it yourself, you can ask your vet to assist. Always follow your vet’s advice and make sure to read the instructions on the packaging.
Remember, when it comes to worms, prevention is always better than the cure. Speak to your vet about the different treatments to keep fleas and ticks away, as well as deworming medicines.
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