Finding out that your cat has worms should always set alarms ringing. Often these parasites can be simply annoying but they can also be life-threatening. It’s also possible for you to contract a worm infection yourself from a cat.
Avoid opening another can of worms by taking the proper precautions. Find out why deworming your cat regularly with a preventative medicine is key as we unpack all its benefits.
How Do Cats Get Worms?
Much will depend on the type of worm your cat picks up.
Tapeworms are the most common kind of worm in pets. They’re flat, long and segmented. A cat will typically get them by ingesting fleas they’ll have groomed from their coat.
When the flea gets digested, the larval tapeworm can develop into an adult worm. You may see worm segments close to your cat’s rear end or on bedding. These resemble grains of white rice or sesame seeds.
Roundworms and Hookworms
A cat can get roundworms by ingesting their larvae or eggs from the tissue of an infected rodent. Since cats are natural hunters, they’re at risk if you allow them outdoors. They can also pass the worms on to their kittens through their milk.
Cats can become infected with the toxoplasma parasite too after eating raw meat, small rodents, or other prey.
When cats go outside, they can pick up hookworms from grooming their feet after walking through an infected area. They can also get hookworms from accidentally ingesting the feces of an infected dog or cat.
Cats sometimes thoroughly enjoy grooming their friends and relatives as well as themselves. It’s possible for them to groom fecal matter off other pets that have roundworms or by licking their paws after a visit to a litterbox with infected feces.
When Should I Deworm My Cat?
Your kitten will need a special worming treatment, formulated for their age and weight. They should get their first treatment when they’re 2-3 weeks old and after that, you should deworm them every 2 weeks until they’re 3 months old.
They’ll then need a treatment every month, until they’re around 6 months old. For fully-grown adult cats, a worming treatment every 3 months will typically be sufficient. It may be necessary to increase the frequency depending on whether they’re particularly prone to hunting. You should always consult your vet about deworming cats as they grow older.
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It’s unlikely you’ll notice major changes in your cat after giving them its deworming treatment. That’s unless they’ve had lots of worms. In this case, you might notice some dead worms in their feces.
What Kind of Dewormer Should I Use on My Cat?
There are some over-the-counter deworming options available. However, the best course of action is to consult your vet for the best kind of prescribed all-rounder.
Ideally, you want a deworming treatment to stop as many types of parasite as possible in their tracks.
How you deworm your cat will depend on the recommended product. Dewormers can come in chewable, tablet or liquid forms. You can deliver many of these treatments yourself at home. For cats there are also worming products that are applied in liquid form to the skin at the back of the neck. These can be very useful if your cat doesn’t like tablets!
What Are the Symptoms of Worms in Cats?
The benefits of deworming your cat include reducing the likelihood of your cat suffering from some of the really unpleasant symptoms caused by cat parasites.
When tapeworms grow, segments of their body break up and can then get into your cat’s intestines. You may then see dry, white-ish sections of the tapeworm in your cat’s feces. You might also see them sticking to the hair under your cat’s tail.
If a tapeworm gets into a cat’s stomach, the cat may then vomit it up. It can appear as a large and moving segment. Infected cats may sometimes lick or bite their anus or drag their backsides across the floor.
A tapeworm infection may often display no symptoms and does not tend to lead to significant weight loss in cats.
Roundworms can cause lots of serious issues. These include:
- Coughing and pneumonia (when larvae get into the lungs)
- Vomiting, sometimes containing adult worms
- An enlarged abdomen, weight loss and in serious cases, an intestinal obstruction
Having hookworms can lead to problematic complications in cats like:
- Skin lesions when larvae penetrate the skin
- Coughing if larvae get into the lungs
- Diarrhea containing blood or dark, tarry stools
- A poor appetite, weight loss and anemia
Why Is Cat Deworming So Important?
Because worms are parasites, they feed off what they can find in an animal. That can lead to cats becoming deprived of the nutrients they need. In turn, that can cause weight loss or an unhealthy appearance.
Kittens, and cats with compromised immune systems, are particularly vulnerable to health problems from worms. They can suffer from anemia or get severely dehydrated due to vomiting and diarrhea.
Some kittens may get so many worms that they are unable to pass them through their gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to an intestinal blockage that can be fatal. Worms can also have a negative impact on a kitten’s growth and development.
Worms in cats have the potential to cause pain. The migration of larvae through the stomach, lungs, eye or liver is likely to lead to discomfort because the affected tissue will get inflamed.
When Should I Take My Cat to See a Vet?
If you suspect your cat has worms, make an appointment to see the vet even if you have been using a dewormer. It may help to bring a stool sample that you can show your vet.
It’s possible that your cat may have contracted another kind of worm that evades your dewormer treatment. Your vet will be able to advise you on a course of medication that will clear the parasitic infestation.
Some Best Practices
You can help prevent worm infestations in cats and their potential transmission to children and adults through good hygiene practices and the year-round use of deworming products.
Remember that outdoor animals can pass worms on to indoor cats. Always keep your cat’s litter box clean and change the litter regularly to mitigate exposure to contaminated feces. Remove animal feces regularly from the outdoor areas of your home.
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