How do cats get worms?

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Intestinal worms are a common problem for cats – but where do they come from?

Cat grooming

There are several types of intestinal worms that can be found in cats, but the most common are roundworms and tapeworms. These parasites are picked up in a variety of different ways and can cause a range of health issues. But how do cats get worms in the first place?

Eating worm eggs released in poo

Cats infested with roundworms will pass microscopic eggs in their faeces. These eggs can leach out into the surrounding environment, for example the soil in your garden, where they can survive for long periods of time. If your cat accidentally eats these eggs, then a new roundworm infection can develop. 


The most common way for a cat to get tapeworms is by ingesting infected fleas carrying the larval form of the worm. It is estimated that a cat will ingest around fifty percent of any fleas present on her during grooming, so any that are carrying tapeworm larvae will often end up in her gut.


Rodents, birds and other small animals can be infected with the larval stages of both round and tapeworms. If cats ingest all or part of these animals, for example through hunting, they can become infected too.   

Mother’s Milk

Unfortunately, it’s very easy for kittens to get worms before they even leave the comfort of their home, as cats can pass roundworm larvae to their kittens via their milk. Because kittens are so small and vulnerable this can be particularly dangerous, and symptoms can include diarrhoea, vomiting, poor weight gain and poor coat condition.

Luckily, treating your pet for worms is very straightforward, and maintaining a regular treatment schedule will help to keep your cat happy and healthy.

Did you know…

One of the most horrifying worms in some parts of the world (thankfully not the UK!) is the guinea worm, which people can contract by drinking contaminated water that contains water fleas infected with guinea worm larvae. Once swallowed, the larvae burrow their way to the skin and become adult worms over the course of the next year or so. The worm causes a burning sensation under the skin, causing the host to dunk the burning body part into water. Once in contact with water, the worm (which can be up to 80cms long) releases thousands of new larvae. Who wants to go swimming?

Speak to your vet to find out more on effective worming treatments.

Want to know more?

Symptoms of worms in cats and kittens

How often you should worm your cat

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