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how to diagnose worms in cats

Worms in Cats - How to Diagnose and Treat Cat Worms

Written by Steph McCulloch


Cats are playful companions known for their loveable nature and independent personalities. However, like all pets, they have certain health concerns and are susceptible to various issues. One of the most common and often overlooked problems is worms, or more notably, intestinal worms.
cat wearing face mask as a hat


Cats are playful companions known for their loveable nature and independent personalities. However, like all pets, they have certain health concerns and are susceptible to various issues. One of the most common and often overlooked problems is worms, or more notably, intestinal worms.

These parasitic problems can wreak havoc on your feline friend's well-being, making regular treatment and checkups crucial. In this article, we'll explore the signs of infection, including the symptoms of worm infestations in cats, how cats get worms, plus how to prevent and treat worms using effective worm treatment methods, so your cat can go on living their best life.

By gaining a deeper understanding of these parasite pests, and learning the best practices for diagnosis and treatment, pet parents can equip themselves with the knowledge to ensure their feline friend leads a healthy and happy life.

Understanding cat worms

cat getting cuddles from owner

Beneath their fluffy exteriors, cats can sometimes harbour hidden threats to their health – worms. Most types of worm infestations in cats are not only discomforting but can lead to serious health issues if left untreated. Recognising the typical signs and symptoms, particularly for worms in kittens, is crucial for early intervention.

Worm infestations in cats can result in a range of health problems. These parasites, such as a roundworm infection, feed on the nutrients within your cat's body, potentially leading to intestinal obstruction or malnutrition and weight loss. Moreover, worms can cause digestive issues, including diarrhoea and vomiting, which can be especially concerning for kittens as it can lead to dehydration and fatalities.

Additionally, certain types of worms found in cats, like hookworms, are notorious for causing anaemia in cats. These parasites attach themselves to the intestinal wall and feed on blood, leading to symptoms such as pale gums, lethargy, and weakness. Severe infestations can be life-threatening, especially for young and debilitated cats.

Signs and symptoms of worm infestations include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea: Clinical signs like frequent vomiting and diarrhoea, especially when they contain visible worms or worm segments, are indicative of an infestation.

  • Visible worms: In some cases, you may spot worms or worm segments in cat faeces, around their anal area, or in their bedding. When these segments dry, they can resemble grains of rice.

  • Bloated abdomen: A swollen or distended abdomen, often referred to as a "potbelly", can be a sign of heavy worm infestations, particularly in kittens.

  • Weight loss: Cats with worm infestations may lose weight, giving them an unhealthy appearance despite having a healthy appetite.

  • Lethargy: Infected cats may appear lethargic, with reduced energy levels and a lack of interest in play or exploration.

  • Poor coat condition: Worms can affect a cat's coat, making it appear dull and unkempt.

Common types of worms in cats include:

  • Roundworms: These are the most common intestinal parasites in cats and are often seen in kittens. They can lead to digestive issues and occasionally blockages.

  • Hookworms: Known for causing anaemia, hookworms attach to the intestinal wall and feed on blood.

  • Tapeworms: Symptoms of tapeworms include segments that can be seen around a cat's anus or in their faeces. Tapeworms are typically transmitted through an infected flea, acting as an intermediate host.

  • Whipworms: Less common but equally problematic, whipworms inhabit the large intestine, causing inflammation and diarrhoea.  

Ringworm is an exception to this list and is actually a fungal infection, not a parasitic one. For more information on ringworm, check out this article.

How cats get worms

a cat snuggled into a green towel

Worm infestations in cats can have various sources and aren’t just limited to outdoor cats. Sometimes worms can catch pet owners by surprise, especially those with indoor cats. However, it’s vital to be aware of these potential sources to protect your feline friend.

Worm infestations can stem from infected soil and contaminated environments, where cats, being natural explorers, can encounter worm eggs and larvae in outdoor elements like soil and grass, which they may ingest during grooming or exploration.
Contaminated food and water, including improperly prepared or uncooked meat and stagnant or dirty water sources, can also contain worm larvae. Fleas and other parasites, like rodents or birds, can carry certain worm larvae and transmit them to cats if they catch and consume their infected animal prey.

Litter boxes or litter trays can be a common route of infection, especially if not cleaned regularly. Even indoor cats can be susceptible to worm infestations due to the persistence of worm eggs. This can happen if your cat occasionally goes outdoors, or if you inadvertently bring contaminated soil or plant material indoors, potentially infecting your cat.

Regular worming routine using the right worming products and preventing worm infestations is challenging, but regular veterinary check-ups, following deworming recommendations, and maintaining hygiene for your cat and their surroundings can significantly reduce the risk.

Regular faecal testing using a stool sample can help in the early identification of worms. Staying vigilant and addressing any signs of potential worm infestations promptly will ensure your cat's health and well-being. Remember, an infestation can be an unpleasant experience for your cat, but with effective treatment, your furry friend can be back to their best self in no time.

A great way to detect and prevent worms early on is to keep on top of regular feline grooming. Our 
article on cat grooming features top tips and advice to help you out!

Preventing worms in cats

cat dyed purple and being checked by vets

Rather than waiting for an outbreak to occur, cat owners should proactively seek guidance from vets and provide regular worming treatments. 

Routine worming treatments, administered under the guidance of a veterinarian, can effectively safeguard your cat from nasty worm infestations. These treatments are tailored to your cat's specific needs and are designed to eliminate any existing parasites while preventing new infestations. By taking this approach, you’re not only ensuring your cat's health but also reducing the risk of transmission to other pets and members of your household.

As a cat owner, it's also beneficial to consider the importance of pet insurance, which can provide financial peace of mind when it comes to potential vet visits and treatments related to worm infestations. Veterinary care can become costly, especially when addressing the health consequences of untreated worm infestations.

Having a reliable pet insurance policy in place, like those provided by us at Waggel, ensures that your cat can receive prompt and comprehensive care without the burden of unexpected vet fees, allowing you to focus on their well-being and recovery. Preventive measures, regular worming treatments, and pet insurance act as a safety net for your most cherished companion, promoting a happy and healthy life for years to come.

Treating worms in cats

cat grooming himself on peach-coloured sofa

Consulting with a vet is super important when addressing worm infestations in cats due to several critical reasons. Firstly, veterinarians possess the expertise and diagnostic tools necessary to accurately identify the type of worm affecting your cat. This is vital as different worms require specific treatments, and some symptoms can be confusingly similar, making self-diagnosis challenging.

Once the vet identifies the specific worm, they can tailor the treatment accordingly. Prescription medications like spot-on or oral dewormers not only target adult worms but also address eggs and larvae, effectively disrupting the entire parasite life cycle. These medications are selected with your cat's age, weight, and overall health in mind, ensuring both safety and efficiency.

To safeguard your cat from future infestations, veterinarians often recommend regular, monthly oral or topical treatments. These preventative measures are crucial because cats can easily become reinfected from their environment, even after successful treatment. By following your vet's advice on preventative treatments, you can maintain your cat's long-term health and prevent the discomfort and risks associated with worm infestations.

Consulting with a veterinarian is the cornerstone of managing worm infestations in cats. Their expertise ensures accurate diagnosis, tailored treatment, and the prescription of safe and effective medications. Moreover, their guidance on ongoing preventative measures is essential for keeping your feline companion healthy and free from the recurring challenges posed by worm infestations.

Understanding your cat's overall health and addressing any underlying conditions is essential for bolstering their immune system, reducing vulnerability to parasites like worms, and maintaining their well-being. A healthy cat with a nutritious diet, a clean living environment, and well-managed health conditions is better equipped to resist and recover from infestations and lead a happier and parasite-free life.


cat peering over tablets on counter

In conclusion, recognising the signs of worm infestations in cats, especially in kittens, is essential for early intervention. Prompt treatment, tailored to the specific type of worm, is vital to protect your feline friend's health and well-being. Regular check-ups with your veterinarian and a proactive approach to deworming can help ensure a worm-free and thriving life for your best friend.

Grooming is also an important part of the worm prevention process, especially if your cat roams outdoors. Brushing them regularly can help you spot the early signs as well as keep their coat healthy and smooth.

For convenient and comprehensive vet care, why not consider the Medivet Health Plan? The Medivet Healthcare Plan is designed by vets with your pet’s well-being in mind. It’s an easy and cost-efficient way to cover the cost of the important healthcare essentials that go a long way to keeping your pet happy and healthy. Each plan is tailored to the specific needs of your pet and includes things such as annual booster vaccinations, flea, tick and worm protection, urine screening, health checks, and microchipping!


How can I know if my cat has worms?

You can know if your cat has worms by observing common signs and symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, visible worms or worm segments in faeces or around the anal area, bloated abdomen, weight loss, lethargy, and poor coat condition, and by seeking a veterinarian's diagnosis for confirmation. 

Are cat worms contagious to humans?

Yes, some types of cat worms, like certain species of roundworms and tapeworms, can be transmitted to humans under specific conditions, making regular deworming and good hygiene practices important for both cats and their owners.

What gets rid of worms in cats?

Worms in cats can be effectively treated with spot-on or oral deworming medications prescribed by a veterinarian, which are designed to kill and eliminate the parasites from the cat's body; the choice of dewormer depends on the type of worms present, so it's essential to consult with a vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Regular preventative deworming, grooming, and maintaining a clean living environment can also help keep cats worm-free.

Can cats survive worms?

Cats can survive worm infestations with prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment, but untreated or severe infestations can lead to serious health issues, so early intervention is crucial for their well-being.

Waggel Pet Insurance

Need more help? You're in luck if you're a Waggel Pet Insurance member. Along with our excellent coverage, we offer access to a 24/7 online vet to answer all your sticky questions, especially if you need grooming assistance.

Not a member? Why not get a quote now and cover your furry friend for a range of illnesses, all while enjoying our amazing perks and rewards.

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