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3 Major Types of Intestinal Worms in Cats

Jul 2, 2008
Your cat may have worms, but there is no need to panic. Worms in cats are very common, especially in kittens. Typically, your vet will test your cat annually via a stool sample.

Worms are intestinal parasites either directly or indirectly feeding off of your cat. Worms use cats in order to reproduce and complete their lifecycle. There are a number of cat parasites out there, with a few major classes of worms.

Roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms, are the main types of worms found in cats. During annual check ups, your vet should do a fecal exam for diagnosis.

Typically, cats that share litter boxes will all be afflicted. A fecal sample from one cat, therefore, is usually sufficient to determine if an infestation exists in the home. By the same token, it is recommended that treatment be given to all cats sharing litter boxes if one of them is infected.

Below is a description on each of the major types of worms found in cats.

Roundworms - Roundworms (Toxocara Cati) have a spaghetti-like look to them, and you usually won't see them unless your cat vomits. Roundworm is common in kittens, who can become infected via their mothers, who may be asymptomatic. The mother cat may have the encysted form of the worm which lies dormant. Don't be surprised if your vet wants to worm your kitten 2-3 times, even if the test results are negative.

Mature cats often develop a natural immunity against roundworm. Adult cats, therefore, do not usually exhibit symptoms due to this parasite.

Hookworms - Hookworms hook themselves to the inside wall of your cat's intestines and hang on. Since they're tissue feeders, hookworms can cause blood loss, resulting in anemia. In addition, you may observe weight loss, intestinal illness, and poor hair coat. Most of the roundworm treatments used today will kill hookworms as well. Two or more treatments are required to eradicate this worm.

Tapeworms - Tapeworms consist of segments containing eggs. The segments drop off the worm, and along with the eggs are passed in the stool. They then dry out and begin to look like grains of rice and are fairly easy to spot. You'll sometimes see them in heavily traveled areas or around the cat's anus. Cats with these worms have been known to experience anal irritation and exhibit excessive licking.

Fleas carry tapeworms into your cat's life. The fleas ingest tapeworm eggs and the cats ingest the fleas, thereby becoming infected. The tapeworm then lives in the intestinal tract of the cat and the cycle starts again with the eggs.

Usually these worms do not cause any visible symptoms of illness in your cat. You cannot properly address the tapeworm issue without also addressing the flea problem, or you risk the possibility that your cat will get them again.

Your cat may have intestinal worms, but show no signs of illness. Cat parasites, like any illness, put undue stress on your cat. Keeping your cat's immune system up to speed is therefore vital. That includes not only regular vet visits, but also exercise, high quality cat food, and the room to play.
About the Author
Kurt Schmitt, an experienced cat owner, publishes the website for cat lovers keeping you informed about cat parasites and other feline health issues.
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