If you suspect your cat might have worms, it’s important not to become too anxious - worms in cats are a more common affliction than you might think!
Read on to find out about worms in cats, symptoms and treatments, as well as preventative measures you can take to avoid worms in the first place.
Types of worms in cats
Cats can become infected with several types of worms. These include:
- Roundworms – one of the commonest types in cats, roundworms can grow up to 12cm and survive by feeding on the food your cat eats.
- Hookworm – so-called because of their hook-like mouth that attaches to the gut wall. These worms feed on your cat’s blood which can lead to anaemia in your pet.
- Tapeworm – these worms mature inside a cat’s large intestine. Small pieces of tapeworm that contain eggs are passed out in the cat’s faeces.
How cats get worms
Cats can pick up worms from eating infected rodents, ingesting infected fleas, being bitten by worm larvae, or by stepping in infected faeces prior to grooming themselves.
Kittens can also get worms through nursing from an infected mother. This makes it doubly important to treat adult cats as well as kittens for worms.
Symptoms of worms in cats
A healthy cat will be sprightly, alert, and have clear eyes and a glossy, clean coat. They will also have a normal appetite and healthy skin.
Cats infected with worms may suffer loss of appetite, coat condition and weight, as well as diarrhoea or vomiting. In some cases, a cat with worms may suffer weight loss despite having a good appetite.
An itchy rear-end – indicated by your cat dragging its bottom along the ground – can be a sign of worms. Other symptoms include anaemia, listlessness and a bloated stomach.
Diagnosis of worms in cats
Worms are usually white in colour and may show up in your cat’s faeces. Pieces of tapeworm can also look like small grains of rice.
The vet can provide a more certain diagnoses by checking cat faeces under a microscope, or through laboratory tests.
Worm treatments for cats
Treating a cat for worms usually involves medications aimed at the specific type of worm, or tablets or pastes that target all types.
It’s important to get the deworming treatment that suits your cat’s age and weight, and to administer it according to the directions.
If you’re unsure about treatments, your vet will be able to advise you, and to do follow-ups of your cat’s health to determine how well the medications are working.
Prevention of worms in cats
You should do what you can to prevent worms in your cat in the first place. This includes:
- Flea prevention – through oral treatments and / or a flea collar.
- Keeping your cat away from rodents, such as by keeping it indoors or contained.
- Frequently emptying and cleaning your cat’s litter box. To protect yourself from infection, wear gloves while cleaning out the tray.
- Regular worming prevention treatments. This should start in the kitten stages. Kittens should be dewormed every two weeks for the first three months, then every month for the next three months after that. Adult cats should be dewormed every three months.
A new cat or kitten is an exciting addition to your family that comes with a lot of responsibility. Vaccinations, flea treatments and regular vet check-ups as well as deworming can all contribute to keeping your cat healthy and happy for years to come.