Intestinal tapeworms and roundworms are very common in kittens and adult cats. Unless they have a very heavy worm infestation most infected cats show no ill effects,but heavy worm burdens can cause irritation around the anus, enlarged abdomen, weight loss and vomiting and diarrhoea (sometimes containing worms). Some worms can also infect people so regular deworming is vital for feline and human health.
What are worms and how can my cat catch them?
Roundworms(Toxocara cati andToxascaris leonina) are the most common intestinal parasites in kittens and cats. They are long, white and look like spaghetti. Eggs from these worms are passed in the faeces andcan live for months or years in the soil. Cats can become infected in threemain ways:
- • Ingestion of eggs directly from contaminated soil e.g. by licking them off their feet
- • Consumption of arodentwho has previously eaten worm eggs from the environment
- • Ingestion by kittens of worm larvae in their mother’s milk(Toxocara cati only).The vast majority ofnewborn kittensare infected with roundworms by this route.
Tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum and Taenia taeniaeformis)are long, flat and composed of many segments which contain eggs. The segments are regularly shed in faeces and resemble grains of rice which can sometimes be seen crawling around acat’s anusor on her bed.To complete their lifecycle, tapeworms require an intermediate host to eat their eggs from the environment. Cats then become infected by consuming the intermediate host. Intermediate hosts include fleas and rodents. For this reason, if your cat is diagnosed with fleas she will probably need treatment fortapeworms and vice versa. In addition, if she hunts and eats rodents she will also require tapeworm treatment.
How to deworm a cat or kitten
Kittens: Because roundworms are so common in kittens it is vital to begin treatment from an early age. It is commonly recommended to treat kittens for roundworms every 2 weeks from 2 until 8 weeks of age, then monthly until 6 months of age and every 1- 3 months thereafter. Kittens only require tapeworm treatment if they also have fleas.
Adult cats should be treated every 1 to 3 months with a product which is effective against both roundworms and tapeworms.
There are many different products on the market to help with deworming your cat - the most effective and safest are available from your veterinary surgeon who will advise on the best one for your kitten or cat. Treating your cats for worms is simple as worming preparations are now available as liquids, pastes, granules and palatable worming tablets as well as liquid “spot on” formulations so you can choose the easiest one for your cat.
Worms and human health
Feline roundworms can pose a significant threat to human health. Contact with cat faeces or contaminated soil can result in human ingestion and infection. Children should not be allowed to play where cats pass faeces and children’s sand pits should be covered over when they are not in use to avoid cats defecating in them. It is also advised that gardeners wear gloves to avoid contamination and litter boxes are cleaned out every day.
Deworming your cats is simple and following a regular worming programme will not only help keep your cat healthy but also helps prevent human infections too!