Finding out that your cat has worms can be an unpleasant experience for cat parents, and it should also be alarming considering that these parasites can cause health issues for your cat. But, how do cats get worms in the first place?
Although most cats can acquire a variety of intestinal worms throughout the course of their lives, roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms are the most prevalent. Many health problems, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and malnutrition, can be brought on by these parasites.
However, there are a number of safe and effective treatments for cat worms, as well as a number of preventative steps you may take to lower the likelihood of a subsequent reinfestation.
How Do Cats Contract Worms?
Cats can get worms in several ways, and as pet parents, we could not emphasize enough how important it is to be mindful of these. Below are the most common ways how cats get worms:
Through Direct Contact with Contaminated Feces
The most typical way for cats to get worms is through contact with contaminated soil, excrement, or parasite eggs. Cats and other pets affected by roundworms pass microscopic eggs in their feces. These eggs can seep into the surrounding environment, like the soil in your garden or yard, where they can survive for long periods of time.
Knowing how cats behave, it is possible for them to wander through an area containing eggs or contaminated excrement. And because cats are frequently such meticulous groomers, they will consume the eggs or fecal particles when they clean their hair and feet.
Indoor cats are just as susceptible to worms as outdoor cats, especially if they share a litter box that has been soiled by infected feces.
Moreover, if a person or another pet unintentionally brings roundworm eggs inside, cats can also get sick while inside the house.
In addition, if your cat occurs to walk or lay down in an infected area, hookworms may penetrate his skin.
Also Read: Top 5 Best Cat Dewormers
From Scavenging or Hunting
Small animals such as rabbits, rodents, birds, and even insects consume parasite eggs. However, these eggs, once eaten, do not mature into adult worms; rather, they remain dormant, which is why these animals are referred to as secondary or intermediate hosts.
The problem is, once a cat eats all or even a portion of these animals while scavenging or hunting, the dormant parasite awakens and develops into an adult worm in the cat's stomach and intestines.
So, due to the fact that worms can dwell in the muscle tissues of their prey, cats that routinely hunt small rodents and live outdoors are also more likely to get worms.
Cats that are dealing with a flea infestation, are also at risk of getting gastrointestinal parasites. In reality, the most typical way for a cat to contract tapeworms is by ingesting infected fleas carrying the worm's larval phase while grooming itself or other cats.
Because they are such adept groomers, cats are particularly susceptible to tapeworms. Fleas harboring tapeworm eggs and larvae will frequently end up in a cat's gut since they will frequently consume any fleas they come into contact with while grooming. Due to the cat's ability to groom or consume all of the fleas, you might not even be aware that they are present.
From the Mom’s Milk
Regrettably, it's easy for kittens to contract worms before they leave the comfort of home since untreated mothers can give their kittens roundworm larvae through their milk. This can be particularly problematic for kittens since they are so small and defenseless, and an infestation can result in vomiting, diarrhea, poor weight gain, and a dull coat.
4 Common Types of Worms in Cats
Hookworms are gastrointestinal parasites that spread to your cat's digestive system through contact with or consumption of larvae (baby hookworms) in a contaminated environment. The parasite clings to the intestinal lining of your cat's intestine and feeds on its blood.
These parasites of hookworm infection will grow inside your pet, producing eggs that are released through your cat's feces. The eggs develop into larvae, or juvenile hookworms, which reside in the soil. While in the larval stage, hookworms can infect your cat by touch (penetration through the skin), eating infected dirt or soil, or licking fur (cleaning).
Your cat loses blood and becomes anemic when hookworms feed on its blood. These parasites can pose a major hazard to young, underweight kittens who might not be able to survive the blood loss without a transfusion and extensive hospitalization and care. Hookworms in adult cats can result in diarrhea and weight loss in addition to bleeding.
Roundworms are intestinal parasites that can spread to your cat's digestive system through contact with or ingestion of worm larvae from (baby roundworms) in a polluted environment, eating an infected animal like a mouse, or drinking their mother's milk as a kitten. Roundworm is the most common type of worm that is diagnosed and treated in cats.
The parasite clings to the intestinal lining and feeds on your cat's blood. These parasites will develop into eggs that are transmitted through your cat's stool and proliferate inside the digestive and intestinal tract itself. Roundworm larvae, or young roundworms, are produced after the eggs hatch and reside in the soil. The digestion of contaminated dirt or soil can then result in reinfection.
The symptoms of roundworm infection may not always be noticeable in pets. Some cats—particularly young kittens,—might develop vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, poor hair, and a pot-bellied appearance.
The intestines of your cat may be infected with long, flat intestinal parasites called tapeworms. Proglottids, the several segments that make up tapeworms, each have their own reproductive systems.
Cats contract the disease by consuming an intermediate host (another mammal that is infected with the tapeworm parasite).
There are various types of tapeworms. Dipylidium caninum can be found in an infected flea, whereas Taenia and Echinococcus species require large animals (such as deer or sheep) or tiny rodents (such as mice, rats, or squirrels) as their intermediate hosts.
Cats' digestive walls are home to the microscopic, single-celled parasites known as coccidia. Although adult cats can have coccidia infection, kittens are more vulnerable to it. Cats might get sick from eating infectious rodents or infected rodents' feces.
These small parasites, which reside in the intestinal walls of infected animals and are released in their waste, can subsequently infect other animals without their knowledge, including your cherished family pet.
Cats with these parasites may not exhibit any symptoms at all. Kittens' weakened immune systems make them most vulnerable to major consequences. Diarrhea is the most typical clinical symptom of an infestation. Extreme episodes of diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration or even death can occur as a result of a severe infestation.
Also read: Home Remedies for Tapeworm in Cats
Symptoms of Worms in Cats
Although your cat may display a number of indications or symptoms if it has worms, the most usual ones are typically vomiting and diarrhea. Additional indications that your cat may have intestinal worms include:
- Weight loss and body weakness
- Distended belly
- Presence of spaghetti-like worms in your cat’s stool or vomit
- Skin lesions
- Dull coat and poor body condition
- Tarry feces
- Pale lips and gums
Despite the fact that adult cats with intestinal parasites typically don't die from them, severe cases can. Call your veterinarian if you believe your cat may have intestinal worm infection.
When Are Cats at Risk For Intestinal Worms?
Whatever time of the year, your cat is susceptible to getting intestinal worms. Many of the eggs that are released into the environment are extremely tough and can endure extreme environmental conditions, frequently for as long as several years.
Hence, cat owners need to be on the lookout for worms all year long, especially if your cat enjoys going outside to hunt or play. Be extra cautious during the warmer months when animals are more active, perhaps releasing worm eggs out into the environment and raising the possibility of encounters with your cat.
Can Cats Get Worms From Dogs?
Infected eggs can be found in dog feces, and cats can catch them because not all roundworms and hookworms are species-specific. Both dogs and cats can contract the ancylostoma braziliense hookworm and toxascaris leonina roundworm.
If cats live in an infested house or yard, they may also contract tapeworms from the fleas that infest dogs. It is possible for a tapeworm infection to arise if a flea from a dog jumps onto a cat's skin (or vice versa) and is eaten
Can Humans Get Worms From Cats?
Certainly, worm diseases from cats can infect humans when they come into contact with contaminated feces or dirt.
Below are the common modes of transmission:
- Going barefoot through polluted ground
- Kids playing in sandboxes that contain cat waste
- Gardening in the dirt without gloves
Good cleaning habits are crucial to preventing transmission from cat to owner because accidental ingestion of contaminated dirt or feces can occur in humans as well.
How to Prevent Worms in Cats?
Worm infestations in cats and transmission to kids and adults can be avoided by observing appropriate hygiene habits and year-round usage of heartworm, intestinal worm, and parasite prevention.
For indoor cats, daily litter box cleaning, as well as regular litter replacement, and litter box scouring are essential for reducing exposure to contaminated excrement.
For outdoor cats, frequently removing waste from the lawn, sandbox, and flowerbeds will reduce the chance of the parasite life cycle spreading.
How to Treat Worms in Cats?
Many “home” remedies, such as garlic, apple cider vinegar, pumpkin seeds, carrots, and turmeric, claim that they are useful in curing and preventing feline worms. However, it's never advised to try treating your cat's worms with over-the-counter remedies or home treatments.
While it could seem like a quicker and more affordable option than visiting a veterinarian, there is NO guarantee that these items are safe or successful in treating any kind of medical ailment, and they might even be dangerous to your cat. Hence, it’s still best to consult your vet.
Numerous deworming treatments are made to eliminate every form of intestinal worm typically seen in cats, allowing you and your pet to concentrate on what's most important: having fun and cuddling together.
Deworming medications can protect your cat from health problems and pain; your veterinarian can assist you in determining how frequently worming treatments should be given to your pet. Spot-on wormers and tablets are just two of the various worming remedies that are available.
Hookworm, roundworm, whipworm, and tapeworm infections can be treated with broad-spectrum prescription drugs like Panacur (fenbendazole) and Drontal Plus (pyrantel, praziquantel, fenbendazole), but they must be properly delivered to your cat in accordance with your veterinarian's instructions.
To eliminate any larvae that could have emerged after the initial dose was administered, your cat may need additional doses.
In addition, Praziquantel is offered as a one-time injectable treatment for tapeworm infections. This treatment paralyzes and detaches the worm's sucker from the cat's intestinal tract and wall, allowing the worms to pass through the stool.
Due to the possibility of tapeworm infections reoccurring if fleas are present in your home environment, your veterinarian may also advise starting your cat on a monthly topical or oral flea prophylaxis.
What Happens When Infected Cats Are Not Treated?
Untreated worm infestations can be hazardous or even lethal for your cat.
Depending on the course that the larvae take as they migrate through the body's organs and tissues, they may cause serious skin infections, blindness, convulsions, or pneumonia as they make their way to the gut.
Permanent loss of blood and essential nutrients that the intestines are supposed to absorb can lead to progressive anemia, weight loss, dehydration, and even death.
Cats can get worms, and as mentioned earlier, they may have worms already, yet they would not exhibit any signs that may warrant a trip to the vet. Hence, it is recommended that you have your cat screened for these parasites once a year. This involves bringing in a sample of your cat's excrement so your vet can conduct a fecal float test to check for parasite eggs.
Keeping your cat on year-round prophylactic treatments is the greatest method to avoid intestinal worms. Flea preventatives play a significant part in protecting cats from tapeworms, and several heartworm preventatives can also shield your cat from acquiring roundworms and hookworms. Your cat’s vet can guide you in selecting the best solutions for your pet.
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