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December 29, 2020 |8 min read |Veterinarian Reviewed

Roundworms vs. Tapeworms in Cats

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According to VCA Hospital, roundworms are one of the most common intestinal parasites in cats and they mainly infect kittens. In fact, almost all cats will become infected with roundworms at some point in their lives, and this is usually when they’re kittens. 

These round-bodied worms swim freely within the intestine and can cause abdominal discomfort, depressed appetite, dull coats, vomiting, diarrhea, and poor growth. They are not particularly harmful to an adult cat, but when not treated correctly, can cause serious problems for kittens. But in small numbers, there may be no clinical signs that a cat or kitten has roundworm. 

The most common way that kittens get roundworm is through milk-born infections. This means that the roundworm larvae are present in a mother cat’s mammary glands and are then passed down to her kittens through nursing. 

Another way that both cats and kittens can become infected with roundworm is by swallowing eggs that contain the larvae, which can come from the feces of infected cats or the tissues of an accidental host, such as an earthworm, cockroach, rodent, or bird. 

Treatment for Roundworms in Cats

Luckily, when identified early, treating a roundworm infection is pretty straightforward to help bring your healthy cat back to their normal self. 

In the case of kittens, kittens should be dewormed at 2-3 weeks of age and at every visit for booster vaccinations. If you notice that your kitten has roundworm, you will likely use an anthelmintic, or deworming medication to kill the immature form of the worms and the migrating worm eggs. At least 203 treatments are needed to fully eradicate the roundworm. 


In addition to treating kittens proactively and quickly if you notice an infection, breeding female cats should also be dewormed prior to pregnancy and again later in their pregnancy. 

Adult cats also remain at risk for roundworm infections and the best treatment is prevention. We talk about some prevention tips later in this article, but one of the best and easiest things you can do is to give your cat a parasite medication, such as a flea or heartworm medication, that also treats roundworm. If your cat goes outside, you should have their stools examined several times a year. 

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Tapeworms in Cats

We’ve talked before about tapeworms in cats, but here we can compare these tapeworms to the above roundworms to help you understand the difference between roundworms vs tapeworms in cats. 

Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that attach themselves to the intestinal wall and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and poor appetite. In this way, tapeworms are similar to roundworms. But one difference is how cats can become infected because there is one more step involved in tapeworm infection. 

Tapeworms actually develop in flea larvae and when the flea matures, it can be ingested by a cat. We all know that cats are fastidious groomers, so it’s no surprise that if they are infected with fleas, they are likely to ingest some of them. After this, the tapeworm is able to anchor itself to the cat’s intestine, where it matures in the intestinal tract. 

Treatment for Tapeworms in Cats

Like roundworms, tapeworms can be treated with de-worming products, especially when they are caught early. De-worming products can be prescribed by your vet and come as oral medications or injections. They work to dissolve the tapeworms and can work in as quickly as 24 hours. You can then return to your vet in a few weeks for a stool sample to ensure that all the tapeworms are gone. If not, your vet may recommend a second dose to treat the remaining tapeworms. 

Other Worms in Cats

In addition to tapeworms and roundworms, there are a few more intestinal parasites you should be aware of in your young or adult cat. 

The first are hookworms. Hookworms also attach to the lining of the intestinal wall and feed on the blood of the host. Hookworms can live as long as the cat themselves! Cats can become infected with hookworms either by ingesting them or when a hookworm larva penetrates the skin. The symptoms of hookworm infection are similar to tapeworms and roundworms, but can also cause blood loss. Luckily, they are easily diagnosed and treated with de-worming medication. 

The last worm to know is heartworms, which are the most serious for cats. Cats are an atypical host for heartworm, meaning that an infection is rare and the worms don’t usually survive to the adult stage, but a heartworm infection is potentially fatal. In addition, there are usually no symptoms and therefore heartworm goes undiagnosed. Heartworms become fatal to cats when they case a condition called heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Again, the best prevention for heartworm in cats is a compound parasite medication that treats both fleas and heartworm. 

Protecting Your Cat

The best thing you can do is protect your cat from an intestinal parasite and help decrease the chances of them getting infected in the first place. One of the easiest things you can do is to regularly give your cat flea, tick, and worm prevention medicine. Although most of these medications are marketed as flea meds, most of them actually protect against other conditions. For example, Revolution (selamectin) helps protect against fleas, heartworm, hookworms, roundworms, and ear mites. 

Another way to protect your cat is to always have them examined regularly. Cats should at least get an annual exam, and older cats should get a veterinarian exam twice a year. During this exam, your vet can take stool samples to test for worms and you can also request a heartworm test. 

If your cat is experiencing other health issues such as a UTI, read on! We have your guide to a speedy and safe cat urinary tract infection recovery.

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Tapeworms and roundworms are some of the more common intestinal parasites that can plague cats. Roundworms are especially known for infecting kittens, which is a common occurrence and can be treated quickly and effectively. Both of these infections present themselves with similar symptoms, including gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss. In addition, both worms can be treated with prescription de-worming treatments from your vet. There are also other worms, including hookworms and heartworms, that cat parents should know about. 

From monitor your kitty’s litter box usage to their appetite and energy levels, we all want to keep tabs on our fur babies and make sure they are living their best, healthiest life. Health monitoring litter is one way you can make sure your baby is healthy and happy. 







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Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.


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Sara Ochoa

Sara Ochoa, DVM graduated from St. George's University Veterinary School in 2015. Since then, she has been at a small and exotic animal practice in Texas. In her free time, she loves making quilts and spending time with her husband Greg and their 4 fur kids. Two dogs, Ruby a schnoodle, and Bug a Japanese Chin, one cat named OJ and a leopard tortoise named Monkey.

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