Treatment for worms in cats

Infestations of worms can cause a variety of symptoms in cats. They can go undetected but may lead to a serious health problem if left untreated.

26th October 2016

Whether you have an indoor cat or an outdoor cat, it’s important to know how to prevent worms, spot symptoms of worms, and treat worms.

Worm infestation in cats can be caused by contact with infected droppings, by female cats passing parasites to their kittens, or by fleas. Also, many of the mammals your cat catches outside could pass worms to your feline friend.

What are worms?

When we think of worms, the first image that springs to mind is the humble earthworm. However, unlike the eco-friendly earthworm, the worms we’re talking about are parasites that like to use your cat as a host.

There are several types of worms. For some worms, once their eggs have been ingested (or swallowed) by your cat, they’ll start sapping your cat’s energy and using up nutrients to survive. Other types of worms prefer finding their way through your feline friend’s fur.

Although symptoms can range from mild to severe, suffering from a worm infestation can be dangerous for your cat. Please contact your vet for advice if you think your moggy might have worms.

What do worms look like?

Roundworms are the intestinal (gut) parasites seen most often in cats. They look similar to spaghetti (sorry to ruin your dinner!) and are around three to six inches long.

Hookworms are much smaller in length than roundworms, and usually live in the small intestine.

Tapeworms live in the small intestine too, but they are long and flat – some are as long as 30 inches! As well as being white/cream in colour, tapeworm have a ribbon-like appearance.

A picture of worms in cats

Lungworm is a parasite but isn’t an intestinal worm. If your cat has a lungworm infestation, they’ll probably develop a cough and refuse to eat their food.

Where do outdoor cats get worms from?

Thanks to the amount of time they spend outside, it isn’t surprising that outdoor cats can get worms. Activities that put outdoor cats at greater risk of getting worms include:

  • Toileting in a shared sandpit, soil, or similar.
  • Catching prey like birds, rabbits, rats, and mice.
  • Drinking contaminated water.

Where do indoor cats get worms from?

While some might find it surprising, indoor cats can get worms through:

  • Eating a flea that’s carrying tapeworm.
  • Feeding from their mother, whose milk is infected with roundworm.

All cats, who live indoors or venture outdoors, are at risk of getting worms by grooming themselves and ingesting eggs attached to their fur.

What are the common symptoms of worms in cats?

Symptoms of worms do differ, depending on the type of worm infestation. However, some of the most common symptoms of worms in cats include:

  • Vomiting.
  • Constipation.
  • Bloated belly.
  • Coughing.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Weight loss.
  • Biting, licking, and/or scratching their bottom.

If left untreated, worms can potentially be fatal – particularly for kittens.

Some of the long-term effects of worm infestation in cats:

  • Anaemia.
  • Blockage of the intestines.
  • Gut irritation.

Speak to your vet straight away if you think your cat might have worms.

Do worms cause fleas in cats?

While fleas can carry worms to your cat, worms won’t usually cause fleas.

How do you prevent and treat worms in cats?

Worming your feline friend is the best way to protect them from worm infestations.

There are different types of wormers for cats, including:

  • Spot-on treatments.
  • Tablets.
  • Injections.

Although you can find ‘over the counter’ worm treatments, it’s better to buy worming medication for your cat directly from a vet or through a vet-approved online pharmacy.

Always ask your vet’s advice about finding the right wormer before worming your cat or kitten. Worms can become resistant to worming treatments over time, though your vet can let you know which wormer will work best.

Other ways to prevent your feline friend from getting worms:

  • Use a vet-approved flea treatment.
  • Clean their food and water bowls daily.
  • Clean their litter tray every day.
  • Regularly wash their bedding at a high temperature.
  • Ensure all pets who live in your home follow a vet-approved worming routine.


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