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Worms in cats: protecting your cat from worms

A good worming routine is all part of being a responsible cat owner – and it’s vital to protect your cat or kitten from the dangers of these pesky parasites.

We take a look at the types of worms your cat can catch, the symptoms of worms in cats, and the best way to protect your pet from cat worms.

It’s not uncommon for cats with worms to show no signs or symptoms, so it’s possible for even the most healthy-looking cat or kitten to have worms without you even knowing. By contrast, worms can cause a long list of symptoms. No wonder they can be hard to identify! 

Cats that spend much of their time outdoors, hunting birds and rodents are particularly at risk of developing worms.  As kittens can be infected while still in their mother’s womb, indoor cats can also be at risk.  

With the risk of complications from worms being high, a regular worming routine is vital for your cat or kitten. As always, your vet should be the first port of call when it comes to diagnosis and treatment.

“Even the healthiest-looking cat or kitten can have worms without you even knowing.”

Common types of worms in cats

Roundworms and tapeworms are the most commonly found varieties in cats in the UK. Your cat may also be at risk of: 

  • lungworms
  • hookworms
  • heartworms 
  • whipworms

Roundworms (toxocara cati and toxascaris leonina) are the most common variety in the UK. They look like cooked spaghetti, and can grow up to several inches long.  Although cats of all ages can become infected, kittens and young cats are especially at risk.  If you have a kitten, be sure to ask your vet for worming advice.

Roundworms prevention is especially important as they can cause serious illness, such as blindness, in humans.

Tapeworms are made up of small segments and are usually seen as grains of rice under the tail, although they can be more ribbon-like. Like roundworms, tapeworms are common in the UK with cats tending to be infected by fleas or eating wildlife. Regular flea treatment can help prevent tapeworm in cats, as their eggs can be carried by fleas.

Lungworms are becoming more common in the UK, and can cause coughing or difficulty breathing in your cat.

Hookworms look a lot like roundworms with teeth that allow them to hook on to your cat’s intestines – hence the name. They survive by sucking your cat’s blood, and can put your cat at risk of anaemia.

Heartworms affect your cat’s heart, and are passed on by infected mosquitoes. While rare in the UK, your cat may be at risk if travelling overseas.

Whipworms, like hookworms, are parasites that survive by sucking your cat’s blood, and are particularly hard to identify as they can’t be seen by the naked eye. 

Signs and symptoms of worms in cats include:

  • weight loss
  • change in appetite
  • itchy bottom
  • weakness
  • dull, dry coat
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • enlarged abdomen, especially in kittens
  • constipation

How often should I worm my cat?

Your cat or kitten needs regular worming – at least every few months – to keep them in tip-top health. Kittens are particularly at risk of contracting worms, due to their immature immune systems and possible infection whilst in the womb or nursing. While cat worming treatments are very effective, the benefits are short-term, so it’s vital to get into a regular worming routine for your cat. 

Most cat worming treatments kill worms your cat has already picked up, but don’t prevent them from becoming infected, so keep those regular treatments up!

Medicating your cat can be tricky, but there are increasing numbers of wormer liquids, tablets and spot-ons - often combined with flea and tick control - available to make it easier for you.

Your local vet can advise you on the best worming treatment for your cat or kitten.

Expert advice on worming your cat

For expert advice on worming your cat or kitten, contact your local vet. 

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.