Though it’s unpleasant to think about, studies have estimated that around 1 in 4 UK cats⁺ has intestinal worms. As these unwelcome parasites can have serious consequences for both feline and human health, it’s time to ask ourselves the important question - ‘Just how often should I worm my cat?’.
Key Benefits of worming your CAT
Understanding how often you should worm your cat has the benefit of helping protect their health as well as your family’s.
Intestinal worms live inside your cat’s gut, feeding and stealing precious nutrients. And although most cats don’t show any obvious signs of a worm infection, they can cause problems including weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhoea if left untreated. Young kittens tend to be more susceptible and worms may cause poor growth and development, anaemia (low red blood cell count), and even death in severe cases.
Keeping your cat worm-free isn’t just for their benefit. It’s also important because roundworm and tapeworm, commonly found in cats, can also infect humans and may cause rare but serious illnesses, including blindness in children.
How often should I worm my cat?
Many owners are unsure as to how often they should be worming their cat, as the recommended worming frequency varies depending on their cat’s home environment and lifestyle risk factors. Cats that are free to spend time outdoors, hunting (the majority of UK cats) and live with young children, the elderly, or immunocompromised family members should be wormed every month*.
Cats that don’t meet these criteria but spend any amount of time outdoors should be wormed at least once every three months (four times a year). Indoor cats also require regular worming treatment but the frequency should be discussed with your vet. Kittens should be wormed every two weeks from 3 weeks of age until 12 weeks of age, then monthly until 6 months of age.
Unlike flea and tick treatments, worming treatments for cats don’t provide any long-lasting protection against intestinal worms. Any worms that are present within the gut will be killed at the time of treatment. But after the wormer has passed through the body (usually no more than a few days), there is no residual effect and reinfection may occur. This is why the frequency for worming your cat should be regular and based on their risk of infection.
How do cats get worms?
Infected cats and other wildlife will pass roundworm eggs in their faeces, which then contaminates surfaces like grass, soil, sand, and flowerbeds. Cats that spend time outdoors can easily become infected by swallowing these eggs when exploring, or by eating infected prey animals when hunting. Tapeworm can also be spread by fleas, which your cat may swallow when grooming.
What are the benefits of worming my cat every month?
The correct frequency for worming your cat should be based on lifestyle factors that increase their risk of becoming infected with intestinal worms.
A recent survey showed that the majority of UK cats (68%)^ fell into the highest risk group for which monthly worming is recommended. Cats in this risk group spent time roaming and hunting outdoors and had close contact with vulnerable family members such as children or the elderly. The same survey revealed that unfortunately many cats are not currently treated as often as they should putting them and other pets and people potentially at risk of infection.
What type of cat wormer should I use?
There are two major types of wormer available for cats – spot-on treatments and tablets. But before purchasing a wormer, it’s best to discuss your options with your retailer or vet first, to make sure the product is both effective and appropriate for your cat.
These are liquid worming products that are applied externally to the skin at the back of your cat’s neck. Many cat owners prefer using spot-on products, as giving tablets to cats can be difficult. Dronspot spot-on kills all common intestinal worms found in cats.
These may be given directly into your cat’s mouth or can be hidden in food or treats (though many cats are too clever to fall for this!).
The correct dosage for any format of wormers should be based on your cat’s current bodyweight to make sure they don’t receive an under-dose, which may be ineffective, or an overdose that could make them sick. Hence it’s important to know the weight of your cat. To weigh your cat at home first weigh yourself on your bathroom scales, then stand on them again holding your cat and subtract the difference.
Is it necessary to worm an indoor cat?
To put it simply – yes! Indoor cats are not immune to worms. Fleas can spread tapeworm and may enter the house on other pets or visitors. Soil contaminated with worm eggs can also be easily tracked inside on muddy boots or clothing! The recommended frequency for worming your indoor cat is best discussed with your vet, as this will vary depending on lifestyle factors including if the household has multiple pets.
*ESCAAP Guidelines May 2021.
⁺JSAP, Volume 57, Issue 8, pages 393-395.
^Pennelegion, C., Drake, J., Wiseman, S. et al. Survey of UK pet owners quantifying internal parasite infection risk and deworming recommendation implications. Parasites Vectors 13, 218 (2020).