Cat Worms

Most kitties will be affected by cat worms at some point in their lives. Fortunately, worms rarely cause serious problems in cats, but it's important to know how to spot them, treat them and prevent them.

Also, it's important to know the circumstances where they could potentially be dangerous.

So, without further introduction, let's get started...(warning, this is a bit gross in places!)

Cat Worms - Common Questions And Answers

picture of grey kitten with blue eyes

1) Which types of worms affect cats?

The two main types of worms that are cat parasites are roundworms and tapeworms. There are also two other kinds of worms that are found in cats - hookworms and whipworms - but these are much rarer, so we'll concentrate on the main two.

2) Where do roundworms and tapeworms live on my cat?

They attach themselves to the cat's intestine wall, where they eat the cat's food and lay eggs which are passed out of the cat's body in the feces. The eggs are then passed on to other cats in different ways (more on this below).

3) What do roundworms and tapeworms look like?

As the names suggest, roundworms are cylindrical in shape (like a piece of string) and tapeworms are flat, like a piece of tape. Roundworms can grow up to 15cm (6") and tapeworms up to 60cm (24").

4) Will I be able to see the worms if my cat has them?

picture of siamese cat with blue eyes lying on ground

Bits of tapeworm can sometimes be seen in the cat's feces, in his fur near his butt or on his bedding. They look like off-white tiny pieces of rice.

Roundworms look like spaghetti (are you feeling ill yet..?) but they're rarely passed out in the feces. Usually it's only the eggs that are passed, and these can only be seen with a microscope.

Quite often it's not possible to physically see any direct evidence of roundworms and tapeworms.

5) What signs does a cat show when he's got worms?

There may well not be any noticeable signs of a mild infestation in a healthy adult cat. A heavier infestation, however, or even a mild one in a kitten or run-down adult cat may show some or all of the following signs:

In really severe cases, the intestine can be so full of worms it can become blocked. This is rare in an adult cat but may happen in a kitten. Kittens are also more likely to die as a result of anemia, so it's really important they're treated quickly.

6) How are worms passed on from cat to cat?

Roundworms attached to the cat's intestine lay thousands of eggs which are then passed in the feces. These eggs can survive in the outside environment for months. They get into a cat if they're eaten directly, or if they're eaten by a mouse, for example, which your cat then eats. Cats that hunt are more at risk of infestation by roundworms for this reason.

picture of brown tabby cat face with big eyes

The eggs can also survive on a cat, and are sometimes passed from a mother cat to her kittens in milk. For this reason, it's really important to worm kittens.

Tapeworms attached to the cat's intestine literally shed segments of their bodies that are packed with eggs. These segments are passed through the cat's feces and often become attached to cat fleas. The affected fleas then find a cat to live on and the cat eats them while he's grooming.

For both types of worms, once the cat has eaten the egg, it hatches in the intestine, attaches itself to the intestine wall and grows into a mature worm.

Worm infestation is more likely to happen in cats that go outside, but indoor cats can be affected too, so they should also be treated.

7) How do I prevent cat worms?

Vets have very effective treatments for prevention of cat worms. They can either be given orally, or as a spot-on treatment. I'd strongly advise you to buy your worming treatment from your vet rather than a pet store or supermarket; that way you know for sure you'll be getting a good quality product, and you can get qualified advice on the frequency that your cat should be wormed. Vets normally recommend that hunting cats are wormed more frequently, for example.

8) Can cat worms affect humans?

Fortunately, infestation of humans by cat roundworms and tapeworms is highly unlikely. They can only survive for a very short time in people.

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