A bundle of energy and joy, cats light up the lives and homes of their owners with their playful antics and their unconditional love. However, being a cat owner means much more than love towards your pet; it also requires proper pet care. Cats can develop a variety of health problems like allergies, fleas, diarrhea, etc. One of the most common ailments to affect your feline friend is cat worms.
What are Cat Worms?
These are intestinal parasites that attach themselves to the linings of a cat's stomach and the small intestine, thus robbing your pet of vital nourishment leading to weight loss, diarrhea, and a rough coat. The worms usually thrive in the cat's guts by producing eggs. They are shed through the feces of the cat and may infect other animals and sometimes even humans! Kittens seem to be at a risk of contacting the worms from their mother while nursing. Also, kittens being naturally curious tend to ingest soil and other sources that might be infected with the ova of the worms.
The typical types of cat worms are tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms. The most common among them, a roundworm resembles a piece of spaghetti and causes diarrhea and vomiting in cats. A roundworm infection leads to weight loss, lethargy, and a pot-bellied appearance. In severe cases, it might cause pneumonia and obstruction of intestine in cats. Similarly, cats are also at risk from tapeworms which attach themselves to the walls of the small intestine and hookworms which cause blood loss and anemia by 'hooking' themselves to the walls of the cat's intestine. Although less common in cats than in dogs, a heartworm infection might cause convulsions, vomiting, and in certain cases even blindness in a cat.
How Do Cats Get Worms?
The most common cause of worm infection in cats are certain vectors or transmitters. For example, fleas consumed while grooming might be a reason for tapeworms in cats. Sharing a litter box with an infected cat might also be a cause of the infection. Kittens nursing from an infected mother can also ingest the parasites.
Common vectors of cat worms in cats are preys such as mice and birds which are infected with parasites. This may also cause toxoplasmosis in cats which is a zoonotic risk, affecting owners and children.
An alarming fact for pet owners is that humans can also ingest the worm ova that may be passed on by an infected cat. It is, thus, important to keep the cats away from the kitchen countertops and tables.
What are the Common Symptoms?
The symptoms may vary for cats based on their age, nutrition, duration, and the type of parasite infection. A common symptom of internal parasitism is diarrhea and vomiting. Other symptoms may include lack of appetite, lethargy, and bulge in the abdomen. Sometimes the cats may not display any significant symptoms. However, due to high incidence of the problem it is a good idea to get your cat routinely checked for worms, every six months, even if the stool check is negative.
How to Treat Cat Worms?
Diagnosis of cat worms is done by the examination of fresh stool sample of the cat to identify the parasite eggs that may pass through the feces. However, intestinal parasites are notoriously hard to detect. Sometimes the vet may need multiple samples to confirm the diagnosis or may treat for a specific parasite where the likelihood of infestation is more. Once the type of worm is identified, a deworming medicine is given to the cat. If the cat has multiple types of worms, then accordingly the vet might diagnose and treat it.
It is important to keep in mind that treatment for worms is not for life. Once the cat resumes its normal lifestyle, the infestation might reoccur.
Common as it may be, cat worms is a serious health problem affecting your pet. The best way to prevent the infection in your cat is to try to keep your pet indoors, eliminate mice and fleas, and keep the litter box clean. If infected, it is best to take your cat to a vet for examination and medication.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.