The mere mention of worms can send chills up your spine or make you feel sick but for animal owners, the reality of a worm infestation is genuine. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent, manage and even get rid of cat worms. Prevention is the key.
Keep reading to learn more about the different types of worms a cat can get and different options on how to deal with them.
Are Worms Common in Cats?
“Gastrointestinal (G.I.) parasitism is a common problem in cats, with prevalence rates as high as 45% in some populations.”- Vet.Cornell.Edu
Did you know? Most parasitic infections in humans, cats, and dogs will go undiagnosed for a long time because pet owners generally don’t see any symptoms.
How Do You Know If Your Cat Has Worms?
Sometimes, your cat will get very sick, and sometimes they can seem almost normal! So what should you be looking out for exactly?
I asked myself the same question! As a cat parent, it’s essential to keep an eye out for anything that can cause our cats harm.
What Does a Parasite Do to Your Cat?
Parasites live primarily in the cat’s intestines.
Although they will thrive and multiply in almost any organ living off the nutrients of the intermediate host animal (your cat.)
In short, parasitic worms will steal your cat’s nutrients and blood. There are different ways the intestinal parasites will do this.
Some parasites will latch on in the intestinal tract, where they can take nutrients and blood through the intestinal wall.
Parasites will choose other places in your cat’s intestine, while other parasites tend to travel. Certain worms will even take up living in the cat’s heart or lungs.
These are among the most dangerous variations that can cause long-term issues or even death.
Symptoms of Cat Worms
As we talked about before, sometimes, there are no symptoms for cat worms but many times there are. Know what to look for!
Some of these symptoms of worms include:
- Lack of energy
- Bloody stool
- Pale mucous membranes
- Lack of appetite
- A pot-bellied appearance
- Weight loss ranging from mild to severe
- Excessive cleaning/ licking
- Dull coat
- White things in your cat’s feces that look like grains of rice. These can also be present in the litter box, fur, or even on the ground. Other times, depending on the worm infestation, tapeworm segments can be in their stool.
Types of Worms That Infect Cats
- Common tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms are the main categorizations of worms that can infect your cat.
- Toxocara cati (Roundworm.)
- Dipylidium caninum (Hookworms.)
- Toxascaris leonina (Heartworm disease-causing parasites.)
- Tapeworms (Cestodes)
Complications From Severe Cases of Worms
The type of parasite will depend on the location of the infestation. Still, there can be severe health consequences for your cat if you don’t address its worm problem quickly.
Here is a brief description of what each parasite does.
Roundworms (Toxascaris leonina or Toxocara cati)
They are the most common intestinal parasite in cats. They affect nearly 25-75% of the entire cat population! Kittens are much more susceptible to roundworm infestations.
The Cornell Vet program states, “Adult roundworms are three to five inches long, cream-colored, and live in the cat’s intestine, where they don’t attach to the intestinal walls and survive by eating food ingested by the host. Adult female worms produce fertile eggs that are passed in the infected cat’s feces. The eggs require several days to several weeks to develop into the infective larval stage.”
Cats can become infected with “Toxocara cati” when they eat infected rodents. Kittens can become infected through their mother’s milk.
Cats can become infected with “Toxascaris leonina” by eggs present in the environment or also when eating rodents.
This specific roundworm cannot pass through the placenta or the mother’s milk. Any cat under two months of age generally does not carry Toxascaris leonina.
If left untreated, roundworms can, in severe cases, lead to life-threatening anemia or stomach rupture.
Your vet will examine the stool using a microscope to determine the presence of hookworms.
An important thing to consider is that reinfection is expected, so make screening and preventative measures a part of your continued routine when caring for your animals.
Toxocara is capable of being transmitted to humans. Therefore, you need to see a doctor if you feel that you have been exposed or if your cats have Toxocara.
Hookworms (Ancylostoma and Uncinaria)
- Less than half an inch long
They live attached to the lining of the wall of the small intestines. They are usually not visible due to their size. They are also fully capable of living as long as your cat is alive.
Hookworms are less prevalent but more common in North America and the United States.
Adult cats and kittens above 8 weeks of age are infected when the larvae penetrate their skin or are ingested.
Hookworms will begin their infestation by traveling to the lungs and then continuing to the intestines, where they become adult worms.
Affected cats and kittens can die without proper treatment due to anemia and intestinal blockages.
In addition, hookworm larvae, also known as Ancylostoma, can enter human skin, usually when in contact with contaminated soil.
- Long flat bodies
- Resembles tape or ribbons
- Small heads that connect to segments that are filled with eggs
Adult tapeworms live attached to the mucous in the lining of the gastrointestinal system. Their heads are deeply embedded with their egg sacks trailing behind.
These segments break off and are passed into the cat’s stool. These segments resemble grains of rice when fresh or are almost sesame seed-like when dried.
Microscopic exams performed by a vet are not always confirmative to reveal tapeworms. Tapeworms rarely cause additional diseases in healthy cats.
Tapeworms are primarily caused due to flea ingestion. Some tapeworms can infect humans and cause infections, but good hygiene practices eradicate any human risk.
- Uncommon in the United States
- Resides primarily in the large intestine and does not cause severe disease
If the infection is severe, the worst thing that will happen may just be extreme diarrhea. Remember, this can be dangerous for your cat. Seek professional advice immediately.
Stomach Worms- “Ollanulus tricuspis” and “Physaloptera species.”
Ollanulus seldom occur in the U.S. and are much more common in multiple-cat families or free-roaming cats.
Generally, cats become infected when eating the infected vomit of another cat.
Symptoms include chronic vomiting and lack of appetite. Infections are usually hard to diagnose, but treatment does exist.
Physaloptera is even rarer than Ollanulus. Usually, your cat will need to eat rats or rodents that have eaten bugs with the parasite in order to become affected.
Diagnosis is based on microscopic determining. Neither of these parasites is capable of causing disease in humans.
How to Treat Parasites in Cats
You will generally need a prescription from your vet to effectively treat gastrointestinal parasites. You must follow the directions thoroughly and carefully to prevent reinfection.
Reinfection is common, but you can keep parasites under control. Parasitic control will begin with medication and good hygiene, and sanitization.
You should clean litter boxes daily and even wash them with disinfectant (bleach is a great choice.)
Don’t have too many animals in one household, stay away from raw meat diets, and make sure to put in place measures to prevent and deal with flea, tick, and rodent infestations.
Putting all these things into practice, you and your cat will have a much healthier and happier home and life.
Natural Ways to Get Rid of Cat Worms
Natural deworming methods have been used for centuries in treating animal worms and other parasitic infestations.
Make sure that whatever you are going to give your cat is approved by your vet BEFORE you give it to them.
Other Natural Options to Get Rid of Worms Include:
- Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth (sprinkle it on their food and fur for worm and flea treatment)
- Oral doses of garlic
- Raw Pumpkin Seeds
When to Take Your Cat to the Vet
If you think your cat may have a parasitic infection, it is best to get them to the vet as soon as possible to prevent any series issues.
Your vet will probably do an examination and blood test and take a stool or fecal sample (or you may be asked to provide one.)
They will then look everything over and make a diagnosis for your cat and prescribe treatment.
Your veterinarian will more than likely also ask questions about your cat’s lifestyle. Whether they are mainly indoor only or outdoor cats and if there are other animals in the household.
They will also ask what their feeding routine consists of and if you have rodents or other pests close to your house.
A prescription treatment for fleas may be recommended.
Related Cat Worm Questions
How did my indoor cat get worms?
You may think that they can’t get worms just because your cat is an indoor-only cat.
Unfortunately, this is far from the truth, and I have experienced this firsthand with our indoor-only cat.
Cats can become infected with worms by contact with an infected flea, eggs, or even other feces.
In addition, worm infestations can happen simply by walking in and out of your door, which I’m sure occurs daily.
Fleas are well-known carriers of tapeworm eggs, so if a flea jumps onto your cat and accidentally eats it while grooming, it is almost a guarantee they will contract tapeworms.
Dogs can quickly bring worms inside after playing outside, and your cat can be susceptible to them even if they don’t go out.
Did you know that most worm eggs can lie dormant for months? Therefore, there is no way to avoid contact with worm eggs entirely.
Still, you can take preventative measures to protect your animals and your family. The best way to prevent common intestinal parasites is by routinely worming your animals.
There are many over-the-counter and natural ways to do this.
Can my cat give me worms?
If your cat has worms, you must ensure they receive treatment and maintain excellent hygiene practices.
Adult worms can be passed quickly, and since the eggs can lie dormant for so long, it can be easy to pick them up.
So if your cat has worms, you and anyone living in the house should be checked for worms.
How do older cats handle worms?
Remember, older cats are more fragile in many ways. Ensuring your aged kitty stays healthy in every way, shape, and form is vital to leading a long, happy, healthy life.
Older cats will be less likely to handle worms than their younger counterparts. Cats can naturally eliminate worms, but this ability will decline with age.
Be sure to promptly bring your older cat to the vet for treatment to reduce severe infections.
What can I do to clean my house after worms?
The best thing you can do to prevent and cure worms besides medications and treatments is to ensure your home stays clean and sanitized.
Clean litter boxes daily and sanitize them at least once a week. If you currently have a worm infestation make sure you sanitize litter boxes daily.
You can also add baking soda to litter boxes to help with cleanliness. Make sure you change your cat’s water daily and sanitize their food bowls.
Keep up with regular deworming and steam mop your floors weekly as well. Wipe down all surfaces with sanitization wipes or sprays, and clean your cat’s bedding frequently.
Does Your Cat Have Worms?
Worms are a real health risk for your cat. Luckily, there are many excellent ways to prevent and treat worms quickly with either naturopathic or traditional medicinal techniques.
If you suspect your cat has worms, please bring them to a vet as soon as possible.
Knowing what kind of worms are in your area and how they can be transmitted is the first step in solving the problem with worms.
Good hygiene will also prevent transfer. We wish you the best of luck in preventing and treating worms!