Worms are a common parasite, which cause health problems for our cats and, in some cases, can be passed to humans too.
Read on to find out how to get rid of worms in cats and how to prevent them causing health problems in the future with our worming cats 101.
What are the symptoms of worms in cats?
Kittens tend to be more likely to show symptoms than adult cats, but most cats don’t show any symptoms in the early stages of a worm infestation.
By the time your cat is showing signs, their health may already be affected. That’s why it’s so important to regularly treat your cat to prevent worms causing a problem in the future, and so you can be sure they are free of infection.
Symptoms of worms include:
- Weight loss
- Poor coat condition / dull fur
Learn more by reading: Symptoms of worms in cats you need to be aware of.
How do you treat the different types of worms in cats?
There are many different types of intestinal parasites that can affect cats and which need to be considered for an effective worming routine, but the most common in the UK are roundworms and tapeworms.
These are often picked up by your cat from intermediate hosts, such as through eating infected rodents and birds, or ingesting an infected flea. But they can also be passed on by sharing an infected cat’s litter box, or to kittens via their mother’s milk.
- Roundworms: Growing up to four inches long, these worms swim freely in the gut stealing food from your cat. All cats can get them at some point in their lives if not sufficiently protected. Regular worming is the best way to avoid an infestation and while most wormers are effective against this parasite, it’s always best to double-check the label.
- Tapeworms: Tapeworm eggs are sometimes passed in your cat’s stool and can appear like grains of rice. They normally live in the small intestines where they attach and feed off your cat’s precious nutrients. Some wormers will target tapeworms, alongside roundworms, but you should always check the label.
- Hookworms: These tend to be rare in UK, but can be serious as they feed on your cat’s blood and can lead to anaemia in some cases.Some wormers will target hookworms, but you should always check the label or speak to your vet who can recommend the right product.
Besides intestinal worms, cats can pick up parasites that live in other sites in the body. These worms include:
- Lungworm: Unlike the species that affects dogs, lungworm in cats is rarely fatal but it can cause breathing problems and lung damage. Regular intestinal wormers do not always kill this parasite, so speak to your vet about a specific product to target lungworm.
- Heartworm: These parasites normally live in the heart and nearby large blood vessels of infected cats. Heartworms are usually transmitted to cats by infected mosquitos, so while they are typically more common on the continent and in America there may be an increasing risk in the UK in the future as the climate warms. There is no easy way to remove heartworms, so treatment focuses on limiting damage to the respiratory system usually with anti-inflammatory medication. A monthly heartworm preventative treatment is strongly recommended by most vets for pets living in, or travelling to, at risk areas.
Remember, some cat wormers target a specific type of worm, whereas others may target two or more types of parasites. Choose your wormer carefully and seek the advice of your vet or parasite expert in your local Pets at Home. They will be able to tell you which worms are most prevalent where you live and recommend appropriate treatment for your cat.
What treatment formats are available for worming your cat?
Luckily, there are lots of options when it comes to worm treatment for cats, so if one format doesn’t go down well with your particular cat, you can try an alternative.
• Spot-on: Applied to the back of your cats' neck, spot-on wormers offer a convenient soloution to those who struggle to worm their cat.
• Tablets: The most common format for worming treatments. Pet owners often give these direct or hide them in their cat’s food.
• Pastes and liquids: Although some pet owners find this format a little more challenging to use, sometimes they can be used to mix into your pet’s food
How often should you worm your cat?
- Adult cats: Most cats should be wormed at least every three months, but some cats should be wormed more frequently. For example, if your cat is an outdoor cat (and especially if they’re a hunter) they may pick up worms by eating rodents and birds, so should be wormed once a month. Your vet or parasite expert in your local Pets at Home will be able to advise the right worming schedule for your cat.
- Kittens: Roundworms are very common in kittens and they often become infected when they suckle milk from their mother. That is why kittens can have a roundworm infection, even if they’ve never set foot outside the house.
For this reason, it’s vital that kittens begin treatment from an early age . They should be treated for roundworm every two weeks from three weeks old until two weeks after weaning. Then monthly until they are six months old, and then every one to three months thereafter.
Don’t forget about fleas. They often carry tapeworm larvae, which can be passed on to your cat or kitten. You should use a preventative flea treatment every month.
Can humans be infected by worms in cats?
Even if your cat is showing no symptoms, roundworm eggs passed out in their faeces can infect you and your family and cause disease. In rare cases, it can lead to blindness, especially in children, so make sure children wash their hands thoroughly if they are ever playing in a garden that cats can access.
When gardening, wear gloves in case you are handling contaminated soil and clean up any cat faeces quickly, wearing gloves when handling the litter box and washing your hands right after.
Keeping up with regular worming is important, not just to help protect the health of pets, but to reduce the risk to people too.
For more information on effective worming treatments, speak to your vet.