Cat worms are intestinal worms which can affect cats. In addition to being a problem for cats, many feline worms can also affect dogs, humans, and other animals. Treating cat worms is important, as worms can cause general ill health and interfere with the function of the cat's immune system, making it hard for the cat to fight off disease. Because there are several different types of worms, the advice of a veterinarian should be sought when treating cat worms, to ensure that the right medication is selected.
There are four basis types of cat worms: roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and hookworms. All of these worms like to set up camp in the intestines, with hookworms actually latching into the intestinal wall to feed, while roundworms can encyst in the muscle tissue, erupting at a later date. Hookworms in particular can be deadly in kittens.
Cats get worms in a variety of ways. Ingesting infected prey can cause a worm infestation, as can consuming fleas or feces. Cat worms can also migrate to a cat if the animal is exposed to worm eggs in dirt or on plants, as might be the case with an indoor/outdoor cat. Cat worms are especially common in cats which roam outdoors, as there are many potential vectors for transmission which cannot be controlled.
Humans sharing a household with a cat can also develop worms, if they are not careful. If a cat has worms, it is a good idea to exercise proper hygiene, washing the hands thoroughly after handling the cat, keeping the litterbox clean, and keeping the cat away from food preparation areas.
Some common symptoms of infection with worms include: weight loss, diarrhea, a potbellied appearance, vomiting, scruffy or dulled fur, anemia, and stunted growth. In the case of tapeworms, segments of the tapeworm may appear around the anus; these segments look like little grains of flattened rice. If you suspect that your cat has worms, the cat and a stool sample should be brought to the vet to determine which worms are present.
A veterinarian can prescribe an appropriate dewormer, and he or she will usually request a follow up examination in several weeks to ensure that the worms have been eliminated. Pet owners can take some steps to avoid cat worms, such as using antiflea medication and keeping cats indoors, where they cannot come into contact with contaminated soil or prey. Keeping cats indoors also extends their lifespan, and keeps the neighbors happy, as roaming cats can interfere with bird feeding stations and leave unwanted deposits in neighborhood gardens.