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Worming your cat

Worms can present a health hazard to cats. While the presence of worms may be alarming, they’re a common parasite that can be easily treated either at home or by your vet. Worms can also be easy to spot in cats, so if you’re paying attention, your moggy shouldn’t suffer for too long.

Read on to find out more about the signs of worms in cats, their causes and treatment. 


Types of worms found in cats

Your feline friend can be affected by several worm species, some of the most common ones include: 

  • Tapeworm – An intestinal parasite that absorbs nutrients directly from your cat's intestines. Tapeworms are distinguished by their flat ribbon shape though segments of the parasite can break off and appear like seeds or small grains of rice in your cat’s poo. Tapeworms can be hard to spot and only mature once inside an animal.
  • Roundworm – Probably the most common worm that can live in your cat, roundworms take nutrients from your cat’s food for themselves. They can be anything from three to five inches long and resemble noodles or spaghetti. If your cat’s infected, you may be able to see them in their vomit or poo. 
  • Hookworm – Unlike the tapeworm or roundworm, the hookworm uses its teeth to attach itself to the lining of a cat’s intestines and feed on blood. Hookworms can cause the most damage of any parasitic worm, potentially causing internal bleeding. Often you won’t be able to see hookworms with the naked eye and will have to rely on other symptoms detailed below.
  • Whipworms – Transferred orally, whipworms affect the intestines of your cat and can be very serious. Able to survive five years in an environment, they can live in a host like a cat for up to 16 months. They’re best detected by the symptoms they cause. 

Other less common worms include: 

  • Stomach worms
  • Heartworms
  • Lungworms
  • Bladder worms
  • Liver flukes

Symptoms of worms in cats

The symptoms your cat displays may change depending on the worm and the time it’s spent inside your pet. Alternatively, the parasite may be asymptomatic, and you might not see any symptoms. 

Some common signs of worms might include:

  • Generally poor condition and a dull coat
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhoea (potentially with blood)
  • Unusual or tar-like poo (you may see worms in your pet’s poo)
  • Vomiting (you may see worms in your pet’s vomit)
  • Skin lesions
  • Bloated stomach or abdomen

As things progress, you may see worsened symptoms such as:

  • Weakness
  • Anaemia, which shows itself as pale lips or gums
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Shock
  • Death, in severe cases

Speak to your vet if you notice any of these symptoms as they could be signs of an infection.

How do cats get worms?

There are many ways for cats to get worms, but some are more common. Often the eggs of a worm will be ingested and then mature once inside the cat. The eggs can be found in infected poo, another infected animal or bird, soil or water. Sometimes the cat can transport the eggs on their fur, or through infected fleas, and swallow them as they groom themselves. 

Pregnant cats are also capable of passing on worms to their kittens while in the womb. Similarly, some parasites can pass through the mother’s milk, which can lead to infections.

How to treat worms in cats

If you suspect your cat has worms, you should arrange a visit to the vet as soon as possible. If your vet finds your cat has worms, they should be able to advise you on the best treatment options.

Today, deworming treatments come in liquid, paste and granule forms. You can also find treatments that are palatable and don’t have to be mixed into your cat’s food. The great selection of choice means you’re able to pick the method that works best for you and your cat. Your treatment should come with instructions for you to follow.

If your cat has worms be sure to regularly clean out their litter tray to reduce the chances of reinfection. You should also wash their bedding to kill any worm eggs that may be on them. 

How often should you worm a cat?

Like most things, prevention is better than the cure. Regular cat and kitten deworming can prevent them from getting infected, and your vet may have relevant advice for you. 
If you have an adult cat, they should be treated every three months or more. You should take care to use a product that’s effective against roundworms and tapeworms. As some fleas can carry worms or worm eggs, you must protect against fleas too.

When to worm a kitten

Kittens can catch worms the same way cats can, though they can also be passed through the mother either via milk or in utero. Worms in kittens can be more serious, as the growing cats need nutrients for development.

Roundworms can be common in kittens so it’s important to begin treatment early on. When your kittens are between the ages of two and eight weeks, you should treat them once every two weeks. Following that, treat them monthly until they reach the age of six months old. 

From there, you can treat your kittens as you would an adult cat, once every three months or more. If your kittens have fleas, you should also treat them for tapeworm. 

Can other pets catch worms from cats?

Other pets can catch worms in kittens and cats, and similarly cats can catch worms from other pets. Transmission is typically through ingesting poo or sharing fleas. If you find out one pet has worms, you should check any other pets in your household and treat them as necessary. 

Frequently asked questions 

How do I know if my cat has worms?

There can be a range of symptoms if your cat has worms, though these can vary wildly. Worms can also be asymptomatic and it may be hard to tell. Your best bet is to look for any changes in your pet’s health, well-being, or behaviour. You may be able to see worms in your cat’s poo or vomit. If you suspect your cat has worms take them to the vet, where your cat can be checked thoroughly.

Can humans get worms from cats?

Yes, humans can get worms from cats, though good hygiene can reduce your chances severely. Often worms are transported via soil or poo. Things like gardening without gloves can be a risk if the soil is infected. Likewise, if children play in sandpits that have been used as a toilet by an infected cat, they can be put at risk.

Will worms in cats go away on their own?

Unfortunately, worms won’t go away on their own. Once inside your cat, they’ll continue to grow and breed inside your pet. As the side effects of some worms can be so severe they can result in death, the best thing to do if your cat has worms is to seek medical advice and follow the treatment. 

Cat insurance from Sainsbury’s Bank can help you to prepare for the unexpected, and make sure your furry friend is covered for any unexpected vet treatments. Take a look at our pet insurance range, provided by Pinnacle Insurance plc, to find cover that suits you and your four-legged friend.