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Common Worms Found in Cats

Updated on April 19, 2014

Cats may be prone to several different worm infestations


Many cat lovers may enjoy sharing their bed with their cat and some even allow their cats to walk on their kitchen tables. After all, cats are very clean creatures that are almost obsessed with cleaning their fur all day and that may never miss the litter box once. However, everything may change once owners suddenly notice one day something crawling about; then the most loving cat owners may suddenly retreat and leave poor Fluffy out of their bedroom and kitchen.

To make things worse, many owners often are quite shocked to learn that some of these worms may be transmitted to humans as well, particularly targeting those with the worse hand washing habits: children.

Luckily, there are many effective dewormers your veterinarian may be happy to provide after running a fecal test. Indeed, not all worms in cats are visible to the eye, depending at what part of their growth stage they are and the type of worm, many need to be seen by a microscope.

A fecal flotation test is therefore the best bet whether you have seen actual worms in your cat or not. This is an accurate test that can be run fairly quickly and only require a small amount of fecal matter. In order for the test to be accurate, owners must try their best to catch a fresh sample, preferably the freshest the better. Samples over 12 hours may not provide reliable results.

Once, the fecal flotation test is over, the veterinarian will call and prescribe the most effective dewormer. Indeed, not all worms are treated the same!

Trying an over the counter dewormer may be tempting at times but in order to work, owners must know exaclty what type of worm they are dealing with in order to be effective. Also it may be difficult for cat owners to verify the exact dosage required, risking potential over doses and increasing the likeliness for side effects. In some cases, cat owners have errounously given dewormers that were made for dogs. Consult with a veterinarian before trying an over the counter dewormer for cats.


What do they look like?

While tapeworms resemble rice grains, roundworms resemble strands of spaghetti. They can be found still moving in the cat's feces and sometimes cats may even vomit some live specimens. They are generally white or light yellow, however, sometimes they may not be visible.

How did my cat get them?

Cats get roundoworms in various ways:

  1. Many kittens are born with them or acquire them from their mother's milk
  2. Cats may get them from swallowing eggs found in a roundworm contaminated area.

What are the Symptoms?

Affected cats usually develop gastro-intestinal problems with vomiting and diarrhea. The cat's stools often may be bloody or dark and tarry.Some cats show a dull hair coat. Kittens may get a distended abdomen (potbelly). In severe cases, kittens may become anemic or devlop an intestinal blockage from having too many worms.

How is the cat treated?

The most effective dewormer consists of pyrantel pamoate (Nemex).

Can I get them?

Yes, humans may get roundworms as well, but they are not natural hosts. Therefore, the larvae are more likely to wander around (larvae migrans). In children, they may wander and settle in the eye sometimes causing blindness.


What do they look like?

You are grooming your cat when suddenly you notice some odd looking segments resembling rice grains right under your cat's tail, or you may be cleaning your cat's bedding and find these rice like shaped stuff all over. What are they?

They are tapeworm segments. These are not exactly worms but only segments that are expelled though the cat's rectum. These segments may crawl for a little bit and then they eventually dry out.

How did my cat get them?

Cats get tapeworms in two ways:

  1. From ingesting an infected flea
  2. From consuming raw meat from a rodent or rabbit

What are the Symptoms?

Affected cats do not generally develop symptoms other that anal itchiness. Some cats may scoot on the carpet to relieve this itching.

How is the cat treated?

Treatment consists of the administration of Praziquantel (Droncit) and Epsiprantel (Cestex). Because, this worm is transmitted by fleas, effective flea prevention is key in keeping tapeworms away.

Can I get them?

It is not very likely. In order to get them you would have to ingest an infected flea.


What do they look like?

Hookworms unfortunately are barely visible by the naked eye. They are only 1/8" (1-2 mm) long. A fecal test may be able to detect them.

How did my cat get them?

There are two possibilities:

  1. The cat may swallow larvae found in the environment
  2. The hookworms may have penetrated the skin

What are the symptoms?

Hookworms feed on tissue found on the cat's intestinal lining. Cats therefore, may develop bloody stools, anemia, poor hair coat, loss of appetite, pale gums and weight loss. In some cases, when the larvae penetrate the cat's skin, they may migrate in the lungs causing coughing.

How is the cat treated?

Treatment consists in the administration of Pyrantel Pamoate (Strongid-T).

Can I get them?

Yes, hookworm larvae may penetrate a human's skin.



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