How Do I Know if My Cat Has Worms?

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

19 September 2016

Worms: they’re really gross, sorry worm lovers. But as unpleasant as they are in front of your eyeballs, they’re even worse inside your cat. Not only will they make kitty sick, but they can then migrate to you or your loved ones. Worms are the worst, you heard it here first.

What kind of parasites are most common?

The 3 most common worms you should look out for are:

  • Roundworm
  • Hookworm
  • Tapeworm

If your cat is vomiting, has diarrhoea or constipation, or has unusually pale gums, lips, or ears, it’s possible it has worms. However, it’s very difficult to diagnose which parasite your cat has, although tapeworms do occasionally leave rice-grain sized segments in your cat’s faeces. Generally your vet is the one to contact if you think something is wrong. They’ll be able to diagnose the cause, and they’ll also know the best method of treatment.

What about heartworm?

Heartworm primarily affects dogs and is rarely a problem for cats: their immune system is a lot better at dealing with heartworm and the parasite has difficulty thriving in felines. Yet another point scored for cat-kind.

How do I prevent my cat from getting worms?

All of these parasites spread primarily when your cat catches and eats its prey while hunting, and one of the best ways of keeping your kitty from catching worms is to keep it inside, or in an outdoor cat enclosure. But even that is no guarantee - rats and mice love to make the perilous journey into your home, and there’s always a chance your cat will stumble upon a tainted meal.

To keep your cat safe, you should worm it with the worming treatment your vet recommends. These are generally tablets, administered at regular intervals to keep an immunity up. Note that supermarket brands may be less effective, and require more frequent worming. The usual worming schedule looks like this:

  • Worm kittens ever 2 weeks from the age of 3 weeks to 8 weeks old.
  • After that, worm your cat monthly until 6 months old.
  • After that, worm every 3 months

How do I get my cat to swallow tablets?

Anyone who owns a cat broke out in a cold sweat at the very mention of the word tablet. It can be stressful enough changing your brand of cat food, let alone sneaking a bitter - or worse, tasteless - pill into your master’s bowl. If you have the time, it may be possible to train your cat to accept its medicine as part of its dinner - but this particular trick requires the patience of a saint. We have a few other suggestions, in order of difficulty:

  • Buy some flavoured tablets: if you’re lucky your cat will take to these immediately and you’re spared the gauntlet of alternatives.
  • Hide the tablet out of sight in a portion of your cat’s favourite food. If you’re finding that your cat just eats around the tablet, and the instructions permit it, you can try crushing the tablet and mixing it in instead.
  • This is it - ‘hard’ mode, where you have to physically feed your cat the tablet. There are a lot of suggestions around on the best way to do this, but the fact is no amount of instruction can prepare you. Maybe phone a friend? You need to find a way to keep your cat still, squeeze its mouth open, insert the tablet, and then rub its neck to make it swallow, without letting it run and spit the tablet back out. Some websites recommend wrapping your cat in a towel to keep it still. We recommend prayer and a whole lot of treats, for everyone involved, after the ordeal is over.

You did it, you wormed your cat! We hope you made it out unscathed. By comparison, flea treatment will be a walk in the park - check out our guide, here.


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