It's important to know the symptoms of worms in cats so you can identify these pesky parasites, then treat your feline friend. Symptoms associated with worms depend on the type of worm your cat has. You'll notice some of the same symptoms appear with different types of worms, which is why a vet must identify the exact type of worms a cat has in order to provide the right de-worming treatment.
Signs of Roundworms in Cats
Roundworms (Toxocara cati, Toxascaris leonina) are one of the most common parasites with which your cat may come in contact. They are 3 to 6 inches long, are usually a milky white or tan color, and have tapered ends. Your cat passes them either through vomiting or in their stool, and they look like spaghetti.
The presence of roundworms can cause a cat to:
- Look pot-bellied
- Constantly feel hungry
- Stop eating
- Vomit (with or without worms in the vomit)
- Have sudden or chronic diarrhea
- Be less active than usual
- Have a dull coat
It is important to note that roundworms can be transmitted to humans and other animals in the household.
Cat Tapeworms Symptoms
Tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum, Taenia taeniaeformis) are very common in animals, especially those that have a flea infestation. Cats get tapeworms from ingesting fleas that are carriers of this parasite. These worms stick to the intestinal lining of the animal and feed on digested food.
You can easily see tapeworm segments, which the worm sheds and your cat will pass, with the naked eye; they are small and white in color. Dead segments of the tapeworm can be identified as tiny, rice-like pieces in your pet's bedding. You will usually find them in your pet's stools or stuck in the fur under and around a cat's tail.
Symptoms of tapeworms include:
- Seeing small segments of worms in the fur on your cat's rear
- Seeing worm segments in your cat's stool
- Weight loss
- Constant hunger
Luckily, tapeworms are not easily transmitted to humans.
Signs of Hookworms in Cats and Kittens
Hookworms (Ancylostoma braziliense, Ancylostoma tubaeforme) are also a common parasite in felines, although they are difficult to see with the naked eye. They feed off the blood of the animal they have infested and can cause anemia. This can be fatal in felines, especially kittens. Adult cats may not exhibit any symptoms though they can still be infected with worms.
Symptoms caused by hookworms include:
- Blood in the stool
- Dark, tarry stools
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Pale gums
Hookworms can be transmitted to humans by walking barefoot on infected ground.
Recognizing Stomach Worms in Cats
Stomach worms (Ollulanus tricuspis, Physaloptera spp.) live in a cat's stomach. Ollulanus is rare in the United States but can still be found in stray cats and households or facilities that have multiple cats. Animals become infected with this stomach worm by ingesting the vomit of an infected animal.
Cats can become infected with the Physaloptera worm by ingesting crickets or cockroaches. It can also be obtained by eating a transport host, such as a rodent that has also eaten the infected cricket or cockroach.
Stomach Worm Symptoms
Symptoms of Ollulanus and Physaloptera worms in cats include:
- Weight loss
- No appetite
- Dark, sticky diarrhea
These worms can be identified by a veterinarian through inspection of the infected animal's vomit and stools.
Heartworms in Cats
Heartworms are seen more often in dogs than in cats. An animal gets the parasite through a bite from a mosquito. Generally, cats are not natural hosts of this parasite, but they can become infected. Unfortunately, there is not approved treatment for heartworms in cats, as the drug used to kill heartworms in dog is toxic to felines. The best way to protect cats from heartworm infection is prevention.
Infected cats may show little or no signs of these invaders. However, as the disease advances, you may see symptoms including:
- Labored breathing
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Sudden death
Heartworms cannot be transmitted to humans, but they can be fatal in cats. Talk to your vet about protecting your cat from this type of worm.
Know the Signs of Worms in Cats
The info provided here is not meant to replace professional veterinary diagnosis and treatment. While over-the-counter de-worming medications may work, they can cause stomach distress for your pet, and they may not kill the pests completely. For your pet's health and safety, seek the advice of a veterinarian before beginning any de-worming program.