How do cats get worms?
Many cats will be at risk of getting worms in their lifetime, making them a common problem for cat owners to deal with. Many cats like to hunt and the birds and rodents they catch provide a route of infection for worms, which then continue their lifecycle in the intestines of your pet. Cats that come into contact with faeces or water infected with roundworm eggs may also contract worms. Another common route of infection is when your cat ingests a flea – for example when grooming – that is infested with tapeworm eggs. Cats can pick up intestinal worm infections in all sorts of ways, but what exactly do intestinal worms in cats do? Read on to find out more.
What are the symptoms/signs of worms in cats?
You may not see many, if any, signs that your cat has worms. In a cat with intestinal worm symptoms, you may see the following
- Rice-like white segments around the cat’s bottom
- Worms appearing in faeces
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite but failing to thrive
- Lack of energy
- Dull coat
- Diarrhoea with or without blood
- Vomiting with or without worms
- Pot-bellied appearance
Types of worms in cats
The two most common types of intestinal worm found in UK cats are roundworms and tapeworms. The ‘grains of rice’ segments that may be seen around a cat’s bottom are actually segments of tapeworm shed from your pet’s intestinal worms. Roundworms do not have these segments and are the most common form of worm found in cats^.
Kittens can be particularly affected by roundworms. They can ingest roundworm during pregnancy and from their mother’s milk, so worming from an early age is as essential.
What do cat worms look like?
Cat tapeworm is a flat, white worm made up of many segments. These segments contain the worm eggs and when they detach from the worm inside a cat the white ‘rice-like’ segments can be seen in faeces or around the cat’s bottom. Tapeworms average around 20cm in length although they can be longer. Roundworms are just that – thin round worms that can be up to 15cm in length that live freely in a cat’s intestines, rather than attaching to the lining of the intestine as tapeworms do.
What harm can worms do to your cat?
Worm infestation is serious in cats and can cause many health issues, especially if the problem is left untreated. Worms live in a cat’s intestines where they use up your pet’s valuable energy and nutrients, effectively taking these away from your cat. Your cat won’t be getting sufficient nutrition, which is why they are likely to become skinny but still very hungry.
Kittens are especially susceptible to roundworm infection and this can cause intestinal blockage, bloating, and death in severe cases. Affected cats may become thin, although they often have a large appetite, pot-bellied, lethargic and with a dull dry coat. Tapeworms can cause cysts on a cat’s liver or lungs in severe cases.
Are cat worms contagious?
Although cases are rare, humans can catch worms from their cats and dogs. Children are the most susceptible to the effects of these worms as well as people with a compromised immune system. Both roundworms and tapeworms can infect humans and on rare occasions cause serious health problems. Regular worming based on your cat’s lifestyle (Click here to find out how often you should worm) is the best way to minimise any risks to your family and pet.
Treatment of worms in cats
Keeping on top of a regular worming treatment schedule for your pet is the best way to ensure you, your family and your cat are kept safely worm-free. Treating your cat for worms can be easier than you think. Dronspot comes in a spot-on formula that when applied to the back of the neck will kill all common intestinal worms found in UK cats. It's a great alternative to tablets and is available in a range of sizes depending on your cat’s weight. According to veterinary experts, the majority of UK cats should be wormed monthly†.
†ESCCAP Guideline Worm Control in Dogs and Cats, Feb 2020
*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)