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September 14, 2022 |0 min read

Signs Your Cat May Have Worms: Types, Prevention & Treatment

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

How do cats get worms? Keep reading to learn about the causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment.

The other day I noticed my cat, Cyndi Laupurr, was acting a little funnier than usual. I peeked inside her litter box after she got acquainted with her new batch of PrettyLitter, and something was off. Among her feces and litter were tiny little specks that looked like rice grains. Something was definitely wrong. It was a subtle change, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to figure it out by myself. So I did what any concerned cat parent would do and took her to the vet. Oh boy, am I glad I did. Cyndi’s vet gave her a thorough examination and discovered that she had come down with a case of worms. It wasn’t  just any kind of worms; they were tapeworms. Luckily, her vet prescribed her a fast-acting, strong, oral dewormer known as Drontal Plus and said she would feel better in no time.

Cats of all ages and sizes are susceptible to parasites such as worms. There are also many kinds of worms that can greatly affect your cat. Worms are intestinal parasites that wreak havoc on an infected cat’s insides. A lot of the time, cats will act as if everything is normal, while other times, there are slight changes in their behavior and bodily fluids. For example, a tapeworm infection like the one that Cyndi dealt with may present symptoms around the anus or in their feces, whereas heartworm isn’t as easy to detect.

Here are the symptoms of each worm infection found in cats:

#1: Roundworms

These worms are round in shape just as their name suggests. They are long and somewhat resemble spaghetti. Even though roundworm eggs are passed through cat feces, their eggs are so tiny that they are invisible to the naked eye.

A roundworm infection can cause:
  • Diarrhea 
  • A loss of color and shine in your cat’s fur
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy and little to no energy
  • Illness
  • A bloated/swollen belly (usually found in kittens with roundworms)

#2: Tapeworms

These worms are long, thin, and ribbon-like. Much unlike the previously-mentioned roundworms, these cream-colored tapeworms are a lot easier to see to the naked eye. These worms reside in your cat’s intestine and affect its digestive health by feeding off essential nutrients. If you were wondering if fleas can make a cat sick, worms are passed from infected fleas.  Worm eggs are typically passed through your cat’s bowel movements and can be found in your cat’s poop. They generally affect older cats. A lot of times, cats don’t show symptoms of tapeworms so it’s best to keep an eye out for possible, subtle signs.

  • Tapeworm eggs and segments of tapeworms typically look like grains of rice in your cat’s poop or in the fur around their bottoms.
  • Your cat will have a sudden increased appetite despite not gaining much weight.
  • They spend a lot of extra time cleaning and washing their bottoms.

#3: Hookworms

This intestinal parasite is  not as common as the previous worms, but hookworms can still be dangerous to your cat if found in their system. They lie in a cat’s small intestine and will wreak havoc on their body. They cause feline anemia by feeding off their blood. These intestinal worms can be fatal in more severe cases– especially in a kitten. Immunity can be built up if a cat’s been previously exposed to hookworm. Symptoms may be hard to identify.

  • Possible signs of hookworms include:
    • Diarrhea
    • Severe abdominal pain
    • Blood in your cat’s poop
    • Skin lesions
    • Dark poop that resembles tar
    • Pale gums/lips
    • Coughing

    #4: Lungworms

    This worm infestation can be found in a cat’s lungs and can cause severe breathing damage to our furry friends. They are, however, less common than the previously mentioned worms and are rarely ever fatal. These worms come from slugs and snails and can be passed on to a cat via other critters like mice or birds that may have swallowed a slug. If you believe your cat may have lungworms, look out for signs of:

    • Trouble breathing
    • Wheezing
    • Coughing
    • If symptoms get severe enough: pneumonia

    There are so many other versions of these little creatures, such as cat heartworms, whipworms, bladder worms, and stomach worms. Each will come with its own kind of symptoms, but the overall thing to keep in mind when dealing with worms is that a lot of these symptoms are similar. So even if you initially can’t tell what kind of parasite is affecting your cat, at least you’ll be able to spot possible signs of worm infestation in your cat. Vomiting, weight loss, dehydration, dark-colored poop, coughing, hair loss, and increased appetite are all very common signs that your cat may have some kind of parasitic worm.

    We advise you to take your cat to a specialist such as a vet to to determine if your worm suspicions are accurate. From there, they’ll diagnose your cat with the type of parasitic worm and proper worming treatment. Regular cat deworming and keeping good hygienic practices go a long way in preventing worm infestations. Untreated worms can be fatal to your cat and detrimental to your own health as it is possible to pass them from cats to humans. Whether you have an indoor cat or an outdoor cat, cleaning out their litter box is a must to prevent  these parasitic problems from permeating and persisting any further.

    Worried that your cat may have FLUTD? Or were you wondering if cats can get a UTI from stress? Check out our blog at PrettyLitter to stay up to date with all your cat questions!



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    Sources:
    1. https://www.smalldoorvet.com/learning-center/medical/worms-in-cats
    2. https://www.insider.com/guides/pets/worms-in-cats
    3. https://petcube.com/blog/worms-in-cats/
    4. https://www.purina.co.uk/articles/cats/health/parasites/worms-in-cats
    5. https://www.petmd.com/cat/parasites/worms-cats-everything-you-need-know
    6. https://uk.mypetandi.com/parasites/worms/symptoms-worms-cats-and-kittens-be-aware/
    7. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/gastrointestinal-parasites-cats


    Written by

    Sharilyn Vera

    Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!

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