What are the signs of having worms?
Most cats show no obvious signs. Heavy infections can partially block the intestines and cause weight loss, vomiting, anaemia and failure to thrive, particularly in kittens.
What are worms?
Most commonly, cats get roundworms and tapeworms. These live in the intestines. Tapeworms are long, flat and segmented; whereas roundworms are 8-15 cm long and have a round body (like a piece of spaghetti). Infected cats will have microscopic eggs in their faeces and tapeworms release little segments into the faeces that you can see resembling grains of rice.
How are worms caught?
Roundworms can be caught by:
Eating the faeces of another (infected) cat.
Eating an ‘intermediate host’ i.e. an infected mouse or rat.
Most importantly through the milk of the queen (mother) to her kittens. Previous infections leave some dormant immature larvae in the tissues of the cats body, which when she gives birth migrate to the mammary glands are excreted in the milk. This means that nearly all kittens are infected at a very young age. It is safest to assume all kittens will be infected.
Tapeworms are often caught via fleas. Flea larvae eat the tapeworm eggs in an infected cats faeces. When other Cats pick up the fleas and eat them during grooming they also become infected.
Tapeworms are also transmitted via rodents although this is less common.
Frequent treatment of kittens for roundworms is very important because they are nearly always infected at a young age. We advise worming a kitten every three weeks until three months of age and then every three months thereafter.
Older cats (over 6 months old)
Older cats are more likely to be infected with tapeworms so we advise using a product active against roundworm and tapeworm every 3 months.
It is important to understand that all worming products can only kill the worms living in the intestines on the day the treatment is given. They cannot protect the cat from re-infection afterwards. This is why repeated regular treatment is the only way to ensure your cat is free of worms.
Always wash your hands after handling your cat before eating, and make sure that children do too.