Learning center

Worms in cats: how to diagnose, treat, and prevent them

Protecting your cat against worms is key, whether or not they're an indoor cat. Worms can be a risk not just for cats and kittens, but also for humans. Learn how to prevent, diagnose, and treat worms in your cat.
Chris Abney - Unsplash

Worms in cats: how to diagnose, treat, and prevent them

Worms in cats don’t just pose a risk for kittens; they also pose a risk for the humans around them. Certain worrisome worms, like the roundworm, are one example. They’re normally found in a cat's digestive tract, but can migrate to other body parts—and not just your cat’s.

When humans contract worms, especially kids, it can lead to serious issues (e.g. blindness) and problems with important organs like the liver, lungs, and central nervous system.

The good news? Since worms in cats are quite common, treatment is readily available and prevention tips are plentiful. Two quick tips? Take extra care when cleaning your cat’s litter box and make sure they’re on any preventative medications that your vet may prescribe.

Table of contents

  • Worms in cats: what your pet may encounter 
  • How do cats get worms?
  • How to tell if your cat has worms or internal parasites
  • How worms in cats are diagnosed and treated
  • How to prevent worms in cats
  • Cat worms FAQ

Worms in cats. Three words you probably don’t want to think about, let alone hear. But if you have a furry friend in your family, cat worms are something you should know about. We’re here to help you get started.

Worms in cats: what your pet may encounter

The most common types of worms in cats are giardia, roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms.

Lots of scary names, right? Don’t worry. Here are a few facts that make you feel a little less gross and a lot more in control. 

  • Hookworms can infect humans by penetrating the skin, but the itchy condition is easily treated
  • One way to prevent your cat from getting worms is to clean their litter box regularly 

How do cats get worms?

Worms in cats typically come from a few main sources. Once you know where they can be found, you can work on prevention. 

Worms in cats from feces

Have an outdoor cat? If they’re extra interested in the poop of other cats, dogs, or wild animals, they may be at risk of becoming infected. 

Worms in cats from the natural environment

Wherever animals go to the bathroom, worm eggs might get left in the soil, so your cat doesn’t have to eat worms to get them.

Have kids? Make sure they’re washing their hands if they’re playing in the soil. Putting their hands into their mouths after a day in the dirt can put them at risk of worms.

Worms in cats from wildlife

If a cat ingests an infected host, like a bird, reptile, or insect, they may become infected themselves.

Worms in cats from fleas

Tapeworms live two lives. The first part is in one type of animal, like fleas, and the other part is in larger animals, like cats. That means if your cat ingests an infected flea, they can get intestinal tapeworms. If your cat seems to be scratching more than normal, message our care team on the Juno app or book an appointment to talk about skin issues as preventative care.

Worms in cats from their mother

Kittens can get infected with specific worms in cats from their mother, either when they’re in the womb or from nursing. That’s why parasite control is extra important for kittens. 

Some signs that your cat may have worms or intestinal parasites include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Increased appetite, despite weight loss. Worms rob cats of vital nutrients, so they may eat more to meet their needs.
  • Diarrhea, especially if it comes with mucus 
  • Vomiting
  • Visible worms, or something called proglottids—small worm segments that can look a bit like cucumber seeds—in your cat’s stool or vomit. Make sure to check their fur, as proglottids can also be found there
  • Distended or what some may call a “pot-bellied” stomach. This can be common in kittens.
  • Weakness, pale gums, or poor growth, especially in young kittens
  • Their coat may appear dull, rumpled, or clumped due to lack of nutrients and dehydration

Some cats might not show any indication of worms, especially in the early stages of infection. If your cat has any of the symptoms above, give your vet a call or message us day or night on the Juno app. We’re here to help!

Cat worm tip: If you notice any symptoms, especially after flea exposure, see your vet and let them know the details. 

How cat worms are diagnosed and treated

Even in the healthiest cats, worms can show up without symptoms. At Juno Vet, we recommend at least one stool sample a year in adult cats. It's an important test and should be done, even if your pet feels a little shy about it! A physical exam, along with bloodwork, may be done in certain circumstances.

Because the lifecycle of each parasite is different, it’s important to know the exact type of worm infesting your cat. This will determine medication, treatment, and follow-up care. 

“Parasite prevention is essential for keeping your pet healthy,” shares Dr. Cassandra Vlahaki, Juno’s Head Veterinarian. “Without prevention, your cat is at risk of picking up a parasite, and if those go undetected, it could cause serious illness and even pass on to the humans in your household.” 

How to treat worms in cats

Thankfully, most intestinal worms in cats are easily treated with a dose of dewormer or a short course of deworming medication. These meds kill both the larvae and adult worms within your cat’s intestines. Make sure to follow your vet’s instructions carefully because these medications are only effective when they’re administered properly. In most cases, your cat will need a second dose to kill any worms that might have hatched after the first round of medication.

Did you know? Not all dewormers are created equal. Some work better against certain types of parasites, and most need to be given a few times to make sure your cat’s worms are totally gone. 

Once the cat worm treatment is done, your vet will follow up with another stool test to make sure the worms are gone for good. 

Untreated worms in cats

If worms in cats remain untreated, it can lead to serious health issues, including malnutrition, anemia, intestinal obstructions, and other life-threatening issues. That’s why it’s important to treat worm infestations as soon as possible.

How to prevent cat worms

At Juno we recommend year-round protection against worms, even if your cat seems healthy, and whether they’re an indoor cat or not. To make preventatives more convenient, certain heartworm, tick, and flea products have a dewormer. Chat with your Juno Vet care team about what's best based on where you live and your cat’s lifestyle. 

It’s also important to pay attention to your cat’s litter box, keeping it fresh and clean on a daily basis.

“Parasite prevention is essential for keeping your pet healthy,” shares Dr. Cassandra Vlahaki, Juno’s Head Veterinarian. “Without prevention, your cat is at risk of picking up a parasite, and if those go undetected, it could cause serious illness and even pass on to the humans in your household.”

Cats can contract worms any time of the year, so be aware of the signs and symptoms. Immediate treatment will prevent your cat from getting sicker and it’ll protect the other pets (and humans) in your household. With easy, effective treatments readily available, a case of worms in cats can be fixed in no time.

Q. What can I do right now to prevent worms in cats?

A. You can help to prevent worms in cats right now by talking to your vet about preventative medicine, and keeping your cat’s litter box clean.

Q. Is my outdoor cat safe, or is the risk of worms in cats too high? 

A. Yes, your outdoor cat is safe as long as they’re on a strict regimen of preventative medicines. You should also know the signs and symptoms of worms in cats, so you can recognize them. If your cat does become infected with worms, don’t worry, it’s easily treatable.

Q. Should I see my vet more often to prevent worms in cats?

A. We love seeing you and your cat, but regular care, like stool checks and parasite prevention, is fine for the regular prevention of cat worms.