Controlling worms and other parasites is a key part of good cat care. Worming your cat on a regular basis is necessary to help keep it healthy. Worming your cat is important to help keep your family, and even your community healthy too.
Read on to learn all about worms that affect our feline friends, and how to keep them under control. There are a number of great products available to keep your cat worm free, in a range of formulations to suit your cat's needs.
The benefits of worming your cat
Protecting your cat from worms is an important part of responsible pet ownership. The main benefits of worming your cat are keeping your cat healthy, and keeping your family healthy.
Reasons why cats need to be regularly wormed
Worming treatments generally kill any worms present at the time of treatment. But cats will often become reinfested between treatments. There are many ways your cat can pick up worms, so you need to worm them frequently enough that you can continue to kill any worms present before they are at a stage of their life cycle when they can cause harm.
How do cat get worms?
There are a number of ways cats can pick up worms including:
- Across the placenta, from their mother, before they are born
- From their mother's milk as young kittens
- By inadvertently eating contaminated soil
- By eating an infected prey species such as a mouse, rat, or lizard
- By the larva directly entering the cat through the skin.
Type of worms
A number of different species of worms can infect cats, the following are the most common ones in Australia.
Roundworm is commonly acquired by kittens from drinking their mother's milk, or before birth, across the placenta. Cats can also directly ingest eggs from contaminated soil, or they may become infected by eating an infected prey species such as a rodent. Roundworms are very common, and can cause severe illness, particularly in kittens. Signs of roundworm infection can include vomiting, lethargy, diarrhoea and poor growth. Roundworms can also cause serious disease in people, with children most at risk.
Cats commonly acquire tapeworm from swallowing an infected flea, which makes flea control an important part of tapeworm control. Some species of tapeworms can also be caught by ingesting an infected rodent. You may spot tapeworm segments that look like grains of rice on your cat's bottom. Tapeworms can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and weight loss. Tapeworm can also give your cat an itchy and irritated bottom, so they may scoot on the ground.
Hookworms can be transmitted to cats by their mother across the placenta or in their milk. Cats can also catch hookworm from contaminated food, or the larva can even directly enter the skin. Hookworms attach to the intestine and suck blood, so can cause severe anaemia, as well as weight loss and diarrhoea. The diarrhoea may have blood in it. Hookworm affected kittens can have stunted growth.
Heartworm is spread via the bite of infected mosquitoes which transmit larvae in their bite. Dogs are the natural host of heartworm, and many cats will clear an infection without issues. While cats are uncommonly affected by heartworm it can cause severe respiratory disease and even death. The risk is highest in warm humid environments.
Signs your cat has worms
Some clinical signs that can occur due to your cat having worms include:
- Weight loss
- Ill thrift (failure to grow and thrive, general poorliness)
- Dull coat
- Irritated bottom
Cats can have worms and be completely asymptomatic, so it is important to still treat them regularly, even if they seem well.
How often should I worm my cat?
- Because kittens are particularly susceptible to worms they need worming more frequently than adult cats.
- It is generally recommended to worm kittens every two weeks from two weeks old to twelve weeks old, then monthly to six months old.
- Adult cats should then be given an intestinal wormer at least every three months.
- If you're using a product that combines deworming and flea prevention, such as Advocate, or Revolution plus, you may choose to continue using these products monthly. These do not cover adult tapeworm, so you should periodically also use Profender or a worming tablet, especially if your cat is a hunter, to ensure your cat remains tapeworm free.
What kind of cat wormer should I use?
It is important you know the weight of your cat, to make sure you give them the correct dose of wormer.
Worming products for cats come in several main forms:
- Spot on products applied to the back of the neck, such as Profender, Advocate, and Revolution Plus. Giving some cats a tablet can be tricky, and spot on products can be much easier to use. Applying Advocate or Revolution Plus monthly can be easy to remember too, as you can treat your cat on the same day each month. Revolution Plus has the added benefit that it will protect your cat against paralysis ticks, which is critical if you live in a tick area. Profender is the only spot on which will treat mature tapeworms.
- Worming tablets such as Milbemax and Drontal. These cover all the intestinal worms, while Milbemax also protects against heartworm, if given monthly. Both come in conveniently small sized tablets.
- Worming pastes such as Aristopet Allworm paste. Pastes can be particularly useful for dosing small kittens. Also pastes can sometimes be mixed with food. It is important the cat eats the whole dose, if you are mixing the paste with food.
If you're unsure about your chosen parasite control strategy, be sure to discuss it with a vet.
How to give a cat a worming tablet
If you have the opportunity to give tablets to your cat when they are a kitten, this can get them used to the process, and make them easier to tablet when they are older.
To give your cat a tablet, hold them securely and use one hand over the top of their muzzle. Putting pressure on the cats top lips will encourage them to open their mouth. Use your other hand to place the tablet as far back in their mouth as you can. Allow their mouth to close, and rub them under the chin until they swallow. It can help to have one person hold the cat and another gives the tablet, or to wrap the cat in a towel.
Cats are prone to having a problem called oesophageal stricture, from not swallowing tablets properly. So you should follow up by giving them a tablet with either something tasty they will eat, or by squirting a few millilitres of water into their mouth to encourage them to swallow.
Some cats are easier to tablet with a pill popper. If in doubt you can ask your vet for a demonstration.
Sometimes you can hide medication in a small portion of tasty food, but in general this is more effective for dogs than for their more fastidious feline counterparts.
It may also be helpful to watch this video from International Cat Care.
If you find it really difficult to give your cat a tablet and it creates stress for you and them, you can always choose a spot on deworming product instead.
Cat worming FAQs
Is it necessary to worm an indoor cat?
Indoor cats can still become infested with worms in a variety of ways. Fleas can be brought in by visitors or on clothes and cats may become infested with tapeworm, roundworm eggs may be brought in on shoes, or within pest prey species such as mice. Heartworm infections can occur via a mosquito bite. So it makes sense to keep up parasite treatments even if your pet lives exclusively inside.
How long does cat worming treatment take to work?
Worming treatments usually start to work within a few hours and you may see worms or worm segments in your cats poo in the day or two after treatment.
How much does worming a cat cost?
Worming costs for cats vary, but treatments are generally relatively inexpensive. Buying in bulk or choosing auto delivery can save you time and money and ensure you're never left without a treatment when you need one. The cost and inconvenience of treating a cat sick from parasites will always be more than the cost of prevention.
Can cat worms infect humans?
Yes, because some of the worms that infest cats can also cause disease in people, it is particularly important to keep your cat regularly wormed, in order to also protect your family. Children are particularly at risk for becoming infested with the worms which affect our cats and dogs. Roundworms, hookworm and tapeworm can all pose a disease risk for people, so regular parasite control for your cat will help keep everyone safe. Make sure you scoop the litter tray frequently, cover sandpits in the garden, and encourage good handwashing in both adults and children.
- Worming your cat, accessed 27/08/21
- How to give your cat a tablet, accessed 28/08/21
- Do you really need to worry about worming an indoor cat? accessed 28/08/21
- Worms In Cats And How To Treat Them, accessed 29/08/21
- Roundworm Infection in Cats, accessed 29/08/21