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The Three Most Common Internal Parasites In Cats

Updated on May 18, 2015

Cats, just like any other animal, can develop internal parasites. These parasites are rarely problematic for humans but, when not treated, they can create significant health issues for your cat. This is particularly true if the cat has internal parasites and then develops a viral or bacterial infection or has other health issues.

Understanding the most common types of internal parasites in cats is critical for owners, as is routine worming based on the schedule provided by your vet. Since cats cover their faecal material seeing worms and parasites is really not common with cats. However, the sudden development of symptoms such as diarrhoea, blood in the faeces or litter box, or changes in eating are often symptoms that are not difficult to spot.


There are two types of roundworms which can occur in cats. They are Toxascaris leonina and Toxocara cati. Most kittens, as many as 85% or more, have roundworms, which they have become infected with as a direct result of contact with the mother cat.

Toxascaris leonina can be transmitted through the milk of the mother to the nursing kittens. Both types of roundworms can also cause infection when the eggs are swallowed or infected vermin are consumed by either cats or older kittens.

These worms are about 7 to 12 cm when fully mature and will be an ivory colour. As mentioned it will be rare to see these worms in cat faecal material, but it is common for cats and kittens to develop a pot-bellied appearance if the infection with the parasite is significant.


Also known as Isospora felis, coccidiosis is perhaps the most common parasite found in cats across the United Kingdom as well as around the world. It is typically caused by poor sanitation in the home, such as a poorly cleaned litter box, or by overcrowding cats or introducing new cats into the home that have not been treated for parasites.

This is most problematic in kittens and will result in bloody diarrhoea, sometimes with mucus, as well as failure to grow and thrive, dehydration and weakness. It can be fatal in very young kittens.

Coccidiosis is a particularly problematic condition as adult cats can carry the parasite and have absolutely no symptoms at all. Regular trips to the vet and parasite treatment are the best way to prevent this condition.


Tapeworms are one internal parasite that is often easy to see outside of the body. Cats can become infected with tapeworms by eating lice that are carrying the parasite, which is common when grooming themselves or other cats. The Taenia taeniaeformis tapeworm variety can be transmitted to a cat when eating a rodent or other prey animal with an infection.

Although you will not see the actual tapeworm, you may notice segments of the worm’s body around the cat’s rectal area or where the cat has sat or rested. These segments will look like grains of white rice, or they may be more yellow and translucent if they have been out of the body for a longer period of time.

Talk to your vet about routine parasite treatments for your cat. Restricting the cat’s territory to prevent hunting or contact with infected prey animals or other cats can also help reduce the risks of infections.

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