How Do Cats Get Worms?

This guide was written by Joe Francis
Updated: December 10, 2019

Worms can be a problem for many pet owners and cats are most often prone to tapeworm and roundworm. They often get these from ingesting fleas or from eating infected raw meat. Worms can be cured and you can also help prevent them as well.

How cats get worms

There is no one way a cat can pick up worms but these are the most common:

  • Swallowing a flea. Fleas are a common cause of tapeworms. These can either be resident on the cat itself or they can find them on other animals.
  • Other pets. If you have other pets and they have worms, your cat can pick them up as well.
  • Infected animals: Cats love catching mice and birds and these could also pass on worms.
  • Eating raw meat. If cats eat raw meat they can get worms if the animal it came from was infected. If you give your cat fresh meat, make sure it is always fresh and properly cooked.
  • Outdoors: Cats forage and they’ve also been known to eat grass. If there are faeces from other animals around, then they could get worms from those.
  • Slugs can snails. These can pass on lungworm, which is very nasty and becoming more frequent in this country.

Identifying worms

The most common types of worm are roundworm and tapeworm.

  • Roundworm: These are often easier to see. They are long and thin and often visible. They can grow to up to 10cm long, though this length is pretty uncommon. They are white and can be seen in faeces, and sometimes around the cat’s anus.
  • Tapeworm: Tapeworm are smaller and look like small white grains. These can be visible around the cat’s anus, faeces or in their bedding.

If your cat is infected, they will also display physical symptoms.

  • Weight loss even if they are eating normally.
  • Distended stomach.
  • Their fur can lose its sheen and appear coarse and rough.
  • The discomfort can cause your cat to drag its bottom across the floor, so if you see them doing this, check for worms.
  • If your cat is wheezing or coughing then visit your vet. This can be a symptom of lungworm which can be fatal if left untreated.

Treating worms

Most pet shops sell worm treatments but it’s always worth consulting a vet. The treatment will depend on the type of worm they have and the age of your cat.

Worms are easily treated and treatment can be in the form of:

  • Tablets
  • Powders
  • Pastes
  • Spot-on treatments

If you cat is suffering from diahorrea because of worms, then keep them on a simple diet such as plain rice or chicken.

Preventing worms

Rather than wait until your cat shows signs of having worms, try to prevent them if possible.

  • Make sure you treat them for fleas as these are a common carrier. If you prevent them getting fleas, you can prevent them getting worms.
  • Worm them regularly, even if they show no symptoms. Your vet will advise the best course of treatment but as a guide:
    • Kittens: Treat them monthly from 6 weeks old, then from 6 months old, treat them every 3 months.
    • Adult cats: Worm them every 2 to 6 months.

Basic hygiene can also help prevent worms.

  • Don’t leave food lying around too long if it is not eaten. Always throw it away and put fresh food down.
  • Water bowls and food bowls should be cleaned and disinfected regularly, but make sure you only use animal friendly disinfectant.
  • Make sure your house is regularly cleaned so your cats have a healthy environment.

Worms may not be the most pleasant condition that a cat can get, but they are usually easily treated and do not cause permanent damage. If you think your cat may have worms, don’t leave it too long to treat them and always get advice on the best treatment to give them. Prevention is always better than cure, so getting into the habit of regular worming and make sure you never miss a treatment.

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