Have you ever found worms in your cat's litter box? Even if that’s not the case, that doesn't mean that your kitty cat has never been infected by these small intestinal parasites.
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Don't feel alone if they disgust you! I remember finding roundworms in the stool of a dog that I housed with a foster family. My heart stopped, even though, as an animal health technician, I often see it.
A cat can have worms even if you don't see them in its stools.
Besides, unfortunately for us, worm infestations are very common in cats (just like in dogs). It is reported that 45% of cats have had worms at some point in their lives.
Now read about the different types of worms that exist and how your cat can catch them.
READ ALSO: Cat Coughing Up Hairballs?
What types of worms can a cat catch (and what causes them)?
Yes, there is more than one type of worm that can infest your pussy cat! Roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms are parasites that can all be present in your cat.
Most worms are spread through the ingestion of eggs from infected stools. You will say, of course, that your cat does not eat stools. But as your cat is constantly grooming itself, all it takes is for your cat to walk on infected ground to ingest these eggs a little later.
Here are the 4 main families of worms that are harmful to our feline friends. What do cat worms look like?
Roundworms in cats
These worms are the most frequently encountered by our feline friends. A mother can infect her kittens either during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Cats can also catch these worms directly through the ingestion of eggs, but also indirectly through the ingestion of infected rodent tissue.
These worms look like small spaghetti, between 3 and 5 inches in length. They can be easily seen in the stool during a major parasitosis. They feed on what your cat ingests and therefore steal its essential nutrients.
Symptoms of roundworms in cats often include diarrhea with mucus, and a swollen abdomen.
See below for how to get rid of your cat's roundworms.
Tapeworms in cats
Tapeworms are also common in cats.
Also known as flatworm, it can grow in your cat's gut.
This worm breaks into small segments. They look like grains of rice or sesame seeds in your cat's stool.
This type of worm is transmitted through an intermediate host, often a rodent. Our hunting friends are therefore very at risk of contracting this kind of worm.
A cat affected by fleas is just at risk because, by grooming itself, it ingests these infected parasites. Therefore, a cat that has fleas should also be wormed.
Symptoms of tapeworms are often subtle. Cats can even sometimes be asymptomatic.
Hookworms in cats
As their name suggests, these worms have small hooks that allow them to cling to the wall of the intestines and then feed on blood. Cats affected by this type of worm can therefore develop anemia.
These parasites are transmitted through the fecal-oral route. In addition, as disturbing as it may seem, their larvae can migrate through the skin.
They are rather difficult to notice in cat stools, since they are only half an inch in size.
Symptoms of hookworms in cats includes diarrhea, blood in the stool, weight loss and weakness.
Read on to find out how to get rid of your cat's hookworms.
There are also whipworms, but they are more common in dogs. They measure between 45mm and 75mm. It is indeed rather rare that our cats have problems with these worms, although it’s not impossible.
Is it possible for my cat to catch worms if it stays inside?
It is, as you probably think, much less likely that your cat will catch worms if it stays inside your home. This is why we advise you to keep cats inside your home to them safe (and at the same time, save the neighborhood birds).
That said, you may wonder “How did my indoor cat get worms?”
It only takes a little mouse that sneaks into your house, the visiting dog that brings in fleas, or your tomcat that runs away between your paws, for it to become at-risk.
What are the symptoms of worms in cats?
No matter what type of worms your cat has, the symptoms are generally quite similar.
How to tell if your cat has worms?
Cats with worms typically have a coarse coat, will experience diarrhea, have little or no appetite and may even vomit. In short, during a major parasitosis, they will not be doing very well.
Here is a more complete list of signs that a cat might exhibit in cases of a worm infestation:
- Mild to severe diarrhea
- Blood in stool
- Loss of appetite
- Poor appearance of the coat
- Weight loss
- Elimination of worms in the stool
- Feces covered with mucus
- Appearance of what looks like rice grains around the anus
- Evidence of worms at the opening of the anus
- Swollen abdomen
These signs are generally present during a significant parasitosis. Most animals show little or no symptoms during a minor to moderate infestation.
Read on to find out how to protect your cat from these parasites.
Do you know how to treat your cat's worms?
Now do you want to know how to get rid of your cat's worms? Different strategies are available to you.
We recommend that you first visit a vet so that they can make a diagnosis and, after analyzing your kitty’s stools, determine what type of worms are multiplying in your cat's digestive system.
Depending on the amount of worms that your cat is dealing with, the vet will recommend the best dewormer, adapted to the cat’s needs.
Dewormers prescribed by the veterinarian
Dewormers (or wormers) are given either in tablet or liquid form and are very effective and safe.
It’s normal to see worms in your cat's stool for a short period after giving the product, as the body purges and eliminates them in the stool.
The larvae of certain types of worms can, however, become embedded in the body's tissues, making it impossible to get rid of them immediately. They can remain dormant for some time and multiply later.
This is why the treatment of worms usually requires several doses, to avoid recurrences.
Over-the-counter dewormer treatments
Most over-the-counter products are just as effective, but for the most part, they fight a more limited spectrum of intestinal worms.
Natural product for worms in cats
HomeoAnimal suggests an entirely natural product in the fight of worms.
It is the PARASITES AND WORMS product which promotes the expulsion and destruction of these parasites. It also soothes pain in the digestive system.
Like most of our products, it will also work by strengthening the immune system and helping your cat to help itself.
This natural dewormer should only be administered if worms or parasites are present. It is not to be used for prevention.
Can I prevent my cat from catching worms?
Other than keeping your feline indoors, the best way to prevent a worm infestation is by using dewormers.
Your vet will probably suggest antiparasitic treatments either annually, or more frequently, depending on your pet's lifestyle, as a preventive measure.
This protocol is also very important for young animals, as they often have worms.
Flea control is also an effective and important strategy, as is good litter hygiene!
Can cats die from worms?
This is indeed possible, especially if you have a kitten at home. They are more vulnerable to worm infestations because their immune systems are not yet fully developed.
A cat that has diarrhea for too long may suffer from severe dehydration. In addition, you now know that certain worms can cause anemia, a condition that can lead to death if left untreated.
In short, all the symptoms mentioned above must be addressed quickly to avoid a gloomy prognosis.
Can I catch worms from my cat?
Several worms mentioned above are indeed contagious to humans. However, our immune system is often strong enough to purge them naturally.
That said, children and people who are immunocompromised are at higher risk of contracting it.
I suggest that you wash your hands after cleaning your cat's litter box and clean it regularly to prevent contamination.
For pregnant women, it is important to wear gloves, or even let your spouse do the litter! Remember, your cat can have worms even if you don't see them!
Also cover your child's sandbox and wear gloves when gardening, as some stray cats may use them to do their business.
To conclude, many cats have had worms in their lifetime. It’s important to be alert to the various symptoms mentioned above, in order to prevent parasitosis in your kitty cat.
Although very disturbing, there are different remedies for these different types of intestinal worms. It’s important to act quickly to avoid contaminating yourself.
For me, the fear of catching worms is more than enough motivation to worm my animals!