Worms in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

So, your cat is showing signs of worms? That could be upsetting news for you. Most significantly, however, worms can adversely affect your feline friend’s health if left untreated. 

Worms in cats are a common problem because they are a frequent occurrence among pets and are easily transmitted. Luckily, prevention, early and proper diagnosis, and appropriate treatment are reasonably straightforward.

Nonetheless, cat owners need to be knowledgeable about cat worms in order to ensure proper prevention and treatment. Aware of this fact, I put together this article with every detail on cat worms. I’ll tell you how to keep your feline from getting worms and what signs and psymtoms to look out for. We’ll also discuss proper treatments. 

What Kinds of Worms Do Cats Get?

Worms in cats
TheDIMONDK, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are a number of worm species that find a favorable habitat in cats. The most prevalent ones are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms.


Roundworms are the most prevalent intestinal parasite in cats. Toxascaris leonine and Toxocara cati are the most common types of roundworms in cats. 

Roundworms are long and white, mimicking cooked spaghetti strands. Cats with roundworms pass their eggs in the feces. These eggs can survive in the soil for years, posing a threat of infection to other pets and humans. Read our comprehensive article on roundworms in cats.


Tapeworms are long, flat, and segmented worms. The segments are also called proglottids. When the segments are shed, the cat worms look like rice grains in the feces. These segments are sometimes seen around the cat’s anus or in the pet’s bedding. 

The two common types of tapeworms in cats are Taenia taeniaeformis and Dipylidium caninum. Tapeworms need an intermediate host to ingest the eggs and pass them to the cat. Fleas and rodents are common tapeworm intermediate hosts. 

You can discover more about tapeworms in cats from our complete guide.


Hookworms are small intestinal worms. Their name describes the hook-like mouth they use to attach themselves to the intestinal lining. Because they cause damage to the intestinal lining, the resulting bleeding can cause anemia and weight loss in your cat.

The most prevalent types of hookworms in cats are Uncinaria stenocephala and Ancylostoma tubaeforme. Your cat can get hookworms by ingesting the larvae, when the larvae penetrate the cat’s skin, or in utero from the mother. Our article on hookworms in cats has complete details on the topic.


Whipworms in cats are not as common as the other three types discussed above. Nonetheless, the effects of whipworms on cats can be serious. Cats get whipworms by ingesting infected soil, feces, food, or water. Trichuris serrata and Trichuris campanula are the most common types of whipworms in cats

Apart from these four species, cats can also be infected with other less common worms, including:

  • Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis).
  • Lungworms (Aelurostrongylus abstrusus).
  • Stomach worms (Ollanullus tricuspis & Physaloptera).
  • Liver flukes (Opisthorchis felineus).
  • Bladder worms (Capillaria feliscati).
  • Eye worms (Thelazia callipaeda).

It is not common to get a vet diagnosis for these worms. However, if it happens, they can cause serious health problems for your feline friend. In severe cases, the consequences can be fatal.

But exactly how do worms manage to find their way to your cat? Find out about that in the next section.

How Do Cats Get Worms?

How cats get worms will vary from one type to another. Some worms infect cats when they ingest their eggs. Other types have larvae penetrating the cat’s skin. In some cases, the mother can pass them to the kittens in utero

Below is a tabled summary of how cats get infected with the four main types of worms discussed earlier. 

Species of Cat WormMode of Infection in Cats
RoundwormsIngesting roundworm eggs from contaminated soil. Consuming a rodent that has ingested roundworm eggs. Kittens ingest roundworm larvae (Toxocara cati) through the mother’s milk.
Tapeworms Ingesting cat worms from fleas or rodents that act as intermediate hosts.
HookwormsIngesting hookworm larvae picked from infected soil. When hookworm larvae penetrate and burrow under the cat’s skin.In utero transmission from mother to kitten.
WhipwormsIngesting infected soil, water, food, or feces.

To tell if your cat has worms from one of these modes of infection, you will need to identify the clinical signs. 

What are the Signs a Cat has Worms?

Each type of cat worms can manifest in different signs. Nonetheless, there are signs that are common.

Here are the most common symptoms of worms cats can get:

  • Weight loss, even when your cat is eating normally. A cat with worms belly can also look distended. 
  • A coarse coat that lacks its usual sheen.
  • Atypical bowel habits, including frequent excretions, diarrhea, and tarry feces.
  • Visible signs of worms, such as cat worms small white segments around the anus, or cats with worms in poop.
  • Unusual behavior like dragging the bottom on a carpet. Worms in cats can also cause them to be lethargic, without energy, and lacking interest in what usually excites them.

Other signs include:

  • Stomach pain.
  • Skin lesions.
  • Irritated eyes.
  • Vomiting (sometimes there are cats worms in vomit).
  • Increased appetite.
  • Anemia.
  • Coughing.
  • A generally unhealthy appearance.
  • Abnormal breathing.

In kittens, slow and poor growth should also make you suspect the presence of worms. 

Cat Worms Diagnosis

Worms in cats

Noticing the above symptoms in your cat will make you suspect the presence of worms in your cat. However, a proper clinical diagnosis is necessary to confirm your suspicions and determine what type your cat is infected with. 

Fecal centrifugation is the most common way of testing for worms in cats. However, a study showed that coproantigen testing is more accurate than centrifugation. The test looks for cat worms poop and other excretory products to detect their presence. Coproantigen testing is especially useful when worm-eggs are not identified through fecal flotation.

A positive diagnosis means you should treat your feline immediately.

How Do I Get Rid of Cat Worms?

Whether you have a mature cat or a kitten, prompt treatment for cat worms is critical to preempt serious health risks. 

The best thing to do when it comes to treatment is to consult your pet’s vet. Your vet will prescribe the right treatment depending on the type of worms and your cat’s age. 

Cat worm medicine can be in the form of oral or injectable dewormers or spot-on suspensions. Broad-spectrum dewormers such as Drontal Plus and Panacur are common vet prescriptions. They are meant to kill both the larva and adult worms of roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. 

Because cat worms can easily build resistance to dewormers, it is advised that you avoid over-the-counter worm meds. Overall, though, keeping your cat free of worms through prevention is the best practice.

Preventing Worms in Cats

Worm prevention in cats is crucial for the pet’s health. Besides, cat worms have a zoonotic risk, meaning they can be passed to humans.

It’s best to ensure your cat stays free of worms to prevent worm-related health problems for both cats and humans. Below are five ways you can prevent worms in cats:

  • Administer worm medicine to your cat following a schedule recommended by your cat’s vet. This will prevent worms or eliminate them early in an infection before they can cause serious health risks to your cat. Flea prevention should also be given as recommended, considering fleas are intermediate hosts for tapeworms.
  • Always ensure good hygiene. Do this by cleaning your cat’s litter box daily and regularly washing the pet’s bedding. Also, eliminate any pet feces in your compound as soon as you notice them.
  • Keep your cat from roaming freely. A roaming cat will be more exposed to contaminated soil and has more chances of hunting worm-infected rodents.
  • Feed your cat cooked food. Raw foods can be contaminated with worm eggs and should be avoided. Ensure, too, that the water your cat drinks is clean and free of any contamination.
  • Test your cat for worms frequently, even if it has no symptoms. The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) advises that cats (especially kittens) be tested for intestinal parasites 4 times in the first year and at least twice annually after that.

Cats with Worms FAQs

Your cat is healthier if free of worms. As such, any doubts you may have on prevention and treatment are best cleared.

What is the Most Common Worms in Cats?

The most common worms in cats are roundworms, with an infection prevalence of 25%-75%. Most cats are infected with roundworms at a point in their lifetime. Roundworms are especially common in kittens. 

The prevalence of roundworms in cats is explained by the fact that they are transmitted in several ways. Roundworm transmission modes include ingesting contaminated soil, consuming an infected rodent, and getting worm larvae through the mother’s milk.

What Do the Worms Look Like in Cats?

Every type of cat worm has a different appearance. Roundworms appear like spaghetti strands, while hookworms are thread-like and have hook-like mouths

Whipworms have a thick end on one side that looks like a whip handle, and the other narrower end looks like the whip. This shape is the reason they are called whipworms.

Tapeworms are the worms people refer to when they ask, “which cat worms look like rice?” Though they look like ribbons inside your cat’s intestines, the tapeworm segments (proglottids) that cats shed with feces appear like rice grains.

How Often to Give Cats Worm Medicine?

The general rule is to give cat dewormers every 3 months. But this rule can change depending on a cat’s lifestyle. For example, a cat that roams a lot may require deworming every month. 

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) advises that you give dewormers to kittens at 2 weeks of age and repeat every 14 days until the usual broad spectrum parasite control is started.

How Many Types of Worms can Cats Get?

There are several species cats can get. The most common ones are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Rarer types of worms in cats include heartworms, lungworms, stomach worms, bladder worms, eye worms, and liver flukes.

How Many Worms Can a Cat Have?

It is not easy to tell how many worms a cat has. That’s because worm cat burden can only be determined by recovering and counting the worms at necropsy (post-mortem examination). Besides, identifying them with the naked eye can be difficult, and the aid of a microscope is required.

That said, you can tell that a cat has a heavy worm burden if it has obvious clinical signs. These signs include poor coat quality, loss of weight, abnormal bowel behavior, and worms in the cat’s stool or vomit.

What Happens if Worms go Untreated in Cats?

Cats will not show signs of worm infection immediately. This is why regular testing for worms is recommended. If a cat is infected by worms and is not treated promptly, the worm infection can become severe with time

Severe cat worms infection can cause serious health problems like malnutrition, anemia, and intestinal blockage. All three complications can be life-threatening for your pet, which answers the question, “will cats die from worms?” As such, the recommended cat worming should be done every 3 months.

Is there a Cat with Worms Home Remedy?

A lot of cat owners often wonder if there is a cat worms home remedy. Well, there are several home remedies that some cat owners claim are effective in cat worms treatment home. These include turmeric, apple cider vinegar, carrot juice, pumpkin seeds, garlic, coconut, and chamomile.

As a necessary disclaimer, however, these home remedies for cat worms should NEVER be used without the consent of a professional vet. In fact, some of them, like garlic, are toxic for cats. It’s suggested that garlic is 5 times more toxic than onions for cats.

Can Cats Worms Pass to Humans?

Yes. Cat worms pose a risk of zoonosis. This means cat worms transfer to humans if they are exposed to infected material. 

Cat worms infection in humans happens when the eggs are ingested in infected soil, food, or water. Infection can also happen if cat worm larvae penetrate human skin. Hence, it is recommended that you use gloves when gardening or handling pet feces. Read more on cat worms in humans from our complete article on the topic.

Featured Image Credit: Sharadch, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons