Can cats get worms?
Can cats get worms? We all know the answer to this one, cats can get worms and at some time in their life they are very likely going to have it.
In this article we look into the types of worms cats can get, how to spot when your cat does, how to get rid of the damn things and finally, can us humans catch them too. (I know, a horrible thought but an important question all the same.)
What are Cat worms?
Worms are a type of intestinal parasite that cats can get, and live in the stomach and intestines. Sometimes your cat may not show any outward signs of infection, which unfortunately means that the issue can go undetected for a very long time.
There are actually several strains of worms in cats, Roundworms, (also known as Ascarids) being the most common.
Roundworms in Cats
Resembling spaghetti, if your cat has worms it is most likely he has roundworm. The strain of worm is said to infect a large percentage of kittens, and up to 75% of all adult cats at one time or another.
They can grow pretty large too. Rather hideously, adult worms can be up to 3 or 4 inches long. The eggs are protected by a hard shell, and being so resilient can live for months or even years in soil. The eggs become infective within 3 or 4 weeks of passing from an infected animals stool.
There are a number of ways a cat can get roundworms. Kittens may catch it from their mother’s infected milk. Adult cats on the other hand often catch them from ingesting an infected rodent of from the feces of another infected cat.
Cats can also get roundworm simply by contact with the soil containing the eggs. They lick themselves clean and the egg is ingested where it is released in the cat’s digestive tract.
Roundworm Larvae on the other hand can be carried to the lungs by the bloodstream. Once there, they become mobile and crawl up along the trachea where they are then swallowed.
This process will often cause coughing and gagging in your poor cat. They lead down to the intestine where they develop into adults. Unfortunately, medications do not eliminate encysted larvae.
Hookworms in cats
Hookworms are much smaller than roundworms. These reside in the small intestine and never really grow above 1 inch in length.
Because hookworms feed on your cat’s blood they can cause life-threatening anemia. (Kittens are especially susceptible).
The eggs are passed via the stool and then hatch into larvae. Skin contact and/or ingestion are the main ways a cat will be come infected.
Tapeworms in Cats
Tapeworms are long and flat, and are the longest type of parasite your cat can potentially get. An adult tapeworm can be as much as 28 inches in length. A most horrible thought.
Tapeworms can be a massive drain on your cat’s nervous system, with an infestation causing vomiting and weight loss.
A Cat may catch tapeworm by ingesting an intermediate host, like an infected flea or rodent. One of the signs of tapeworm are pieces of the parasite that appear around the fur on the cats hind end. These will resemble small grains of rice.
Lungworms in Cats
Unlike intestinal parasites, lungworms reside in the lungs of a cat. Most cats will not show any signs of having lungworms, but some can develop a cough. Snails and slugs are popular intermediate hosts of this type of parasite, but cats are usually infected after eating a bird or rodent who has ingested an intermediate host.
The Symptoms of Worms in cats?
The symptoms generally differ depending on the type of parasite your cat has and the location of infection. Signs to watch out for include:
- Trouble breathing Bloody stool
- Worms visible in stool or segments of worm seen near anus
- Bloating or round, potbellied appearance to abdomen
- Weight loss
How to Find Worms in Cats
1. Spot the Symptoms
First you should be aware of the above symptom of worms in cats and spot them when they occur. Look out for lethargy or reduced appetite. More obvious sign are the bloody stool or diarrhea and vomiting. If you spot any of these, alarm bells should ring.
2. Examine Your Cat’s Stool
If you suspect that your cat may have worms, the first thing to do is inspect their stool. Use gloves obviously, and move the stool around looking for small rice-shaped pieces. Worms can also look like small sesame seeds. Tapeworms may even still be moving.
3. Check your Cat’s Anus.
In the case of tapeworm, remnants of the rice-like parasite may be attached to the skin and hair around the anus. Again, ensure to use gloves while carrying out this inspection.
4. Examine your cat’s bedding.
You should take a close look at your cat’s bedding, or wherever else they spend a lot of time sleeping. Again, tapeworms are the most likely type of worm to be found here. They can end up crawling from your cat’s anus onto the area where they lay. They have a long shelf life, so could be seen moving. Otherwise, they will have dried up and be in the fibers of the bedding area.
My cat has worms – what should I do?
If you believe your cat has worms, you should take them to the veterinarian as soon as you can. It is important to get a professional opinion and they will be able to confirm the presence of worms, or otherwise.
How are worms treated?
It is important that you don’t try to treat your cat yourself. As we have explained, there are various strains of worm that a cat may have. There is no point in treating for type of cat worm, if your pet has another type.
Furthermore, some over-the-counter deworming medicines and treatments can be harmful to your cat if applied incorrectly. Once your vet has diagnosed the type of worm your cat has, he or she will be able to recommend the next steps. At the end of the day, this is what they are paid to do.
Are there ways of preventing a cat from getting worms?
There are certainly best practices that you can bare in mind when trying to minimize your cat’s exposure to worms. However, it is still one of those conditions that is impossible to completely prevent. Steps you can follow include:
- Have your cat remain cat indoors to avoid exposure to infected cats, rodents, fleas and feces.
- Keep your cat’s environment flea free.
- Bare in mind good hygiene and wear gloves when changing cat litter or handling feces. Keep the litter tray as free from stool as possible.
- Consult your veterinarian on the nest course of internal parasite prevention program for your cat.