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How to Tell if a Cat Has Worms – Everything You Need to Know!

Genevieve Dugal

By Genevieve Dugal

sick grey cat

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Vet)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Intestinal worms are common parasites in cats. However, they should not be taken lightly, as their presence in your feline’s body can be hazardous for his health. In the slightest doubt, it is recommended to consult your veterinarian and to use a dewormer. But how do you know if your cat has worms? You will find all the answers to your questions in our article.

What Do Worms Look Like in Cats?

There are two well known types of worms in cats: roundworms and tapeworms.  Other types of intestinal worms such as hookworms and whipworms can also sometimes be problematic.

Roundworms

Roundworms are the most frequently encountered in kittens. This is because the young are infested during breastfeeding via their mother’s milk or when they lick and swallow the eggs on the ground. Adult cats can get them from eating prey such as rodents.

Harmful to the health of kittens, they can cause intestinal inflammation, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, bloating, asthenia and can affect the neurological system. They can even cause growth retardation. In addition, it is important to know that as the larval stages travel through the kitten’s body tissues, they can cause damage.

Adult cats are unlikely to show clinical signs of infestation and the eggs are too small to be seen by the naked eye.  Thus regular deworming or fecal examination is needed at the vet.

sick cat cuddled in blanket
Image Credit: Germanova Antonina, Shutterstock

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are transmitted by a cat swallowing a flea while grooming or by eating raw or undercooked meat or fish.

This type of worm can grow up to 30 inches in a cat’s body and can infect kittens and adults. These worms look like grain-shaped segments of rice that each contain eggs and can cause anal irritation.

Their presence can cause diarrhea, weight loss, and a drop in energy, as these worms feed on the nutrients your animal has ingested before these are assimilated. Thus, the worms become stronger to the detriment of your kitty.  Again often the infections don’t cause clinical signs and lack of signs does not mean your cat is free from worms.

What Are the Symptoms of a Cat Infected with Worms?

siamese cat napping in a loaf position
Image Credit: anarosadebastiani, Pixabay

To know if your cat is infected with worms is not straight forward as oftentimes they will have worms and no obvious outward symptoms.  However be on the watch out for the following signs:

Signs of Worms
  • Presence of worms around the anus – Lift your cat’s tail. If you notice the presence of small worms around his anus or caught in his hair, you can be sure that your cat is infected. On the other hand, only certain species of tapeworms are usually visible in that area. Consequently, this observation alone is not enough.
  • Presence of worms in the feces – Observe your cat’s feces. If you notice any small white dots or waving shapes, your feline has worms. Moreover, some species of worms cannot be seen in poop, but they make it black and shiny or even stained with blood.
  • Lethargy – If your cat seems tired, doesn’t want to play anymore, isolates himself, or sleeps more often, he may be infested with worms. Above all, do not leave your cat without care if he is very fatigued, as this can hide a more serious illness.
  • Bloated stomach – A cat with worms may have a swollen belly that is firm to the touch. In addition, he may suffer from intestinal bloating.
  • A dull, coarse coat – If your cat’s usually beautiful, shiny, and soft coat suddenly becomes dull and coarse, he could be suffering from a worm infestation.
  • Diarrhea and vomiting – Some cats may experience constipation, but in many cases, the worms cause diarrhea and vomiting due to the irritation of the digestive tract. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see some of them in the vomit and stool of an infected cat.
  • Loss of appetite – If your pet loses his appetite, he may have worms. On the other hand, see the vet quickly if this condition lasts more than 48 hours, as this is not normal. Many other illnesses can also cause loss of appetite.
  • Pale gums – Heavy worm burdens can cause anemia and the infected cat may be weakened, pale, or even have whitish gums.

Side note: If you notice any of these symptoms, discuss with your vet as soon as possible. The presence of worms is not to be taken lightly and early management will provide relief to your pet much more quickly and easily, without the need for cumbersome and expensive treatment.

In addition, these symptoms can hide a whole other pathology, some of which can be serious. So be vigilant and think about the well-being of your little cat by asking your veterinarian for advice quickly.

How to Get Rid of Worms in Cats

First, you should see your vet so he can analyze your kitten’s stool and determine what type of worm is infecting your pet. Then, she will be able to recommend the best dewormer for your cat’s needs.

  • Dewormers – These are very effective and safe treatments are given either as tablets or liquid. You may see worms in your cat’s stool after it has received the treatment; this indicates that the dewormer is working and that the worms are being purged out of the cat’s digestive system. To avoid the reappearance of the worms, it is necessary to repeat the treatment, according to the indications of your veterinarian.
  • Over-the-counter treatments – Most over-the-counter products are just as effective, but for the most part, they fight a more limited spectrum of intestinal worms. So, again, ask your professional for advice if you are unsure of which treatment to choose.

How to Prevent Worms in Cats

vet giving a pill to a sick cat
Image By: Irina 1 Nikolaenko, Shutterstock

Some cats are more prone to worms than others due to lifestyle, and this will be considered by your vet when recommending a worming regimen. The best prevention is to give your cat a dewormer. In fact, the way to prevent and treat worms is the same, that is, the use of a dewormer adapted to the weight and age of your pet.

In addition, for deworming to be effective, it is essential to treat your pet regularly. Kittens should be treated monthly until they are six months old and adult cats every three to six months. However, don’t just rely on whether your cat goes outside or not. Indeed, a cat that goes out little or not at all can still get worms.

Other Things You Can Do

Worms are a danger for your cat, but also for his environment, including for you! Here are the right things to do to prevent them from contaminating your environment and relieving your kitty:

  • Watch your children when they play in the sand as cats may have defecated and deposited worms.
  • Always wash your hands after cleaning up the vomit and picking up your cat’s stool.
  • Do not feed your cat raw or undercooked meat.
  • Regularly deworm your cat.

Final Thoughts

Most cats will have worms in their lifetime. And although worms are disgusting little creatures, there are solutions to combat the different types of intestinal worms. On the other hand, it is crucial to act quickly to prevent your kitty’s symptoms from worsening. Be on the lookout for the symptoms and signs listed in our article and, above all, frequently deworm your pet for the health of your whole family!


Featured Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock

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