Your kitten may look perfectly healthy, but there’s a good chance that she has intestinal parasites if she’s never been treated for them. Some of these worms can make her pretty sick, but regular trips to the vet will handle any troubles before they get too bad.
Your kitten can pick up tapeworms at a very early age, often before she is even weaned, if she swallows an infected flea. These parasitic segmented worms attach to the lining of your little kitty’s intestines and rob her of some of the nutrients she should be getting. Tapeworms are invisible from the outside, but when an egg-filled segment breaks off you may see it on her rear end or in the litter box. When they’re just passed these worms look like wiggling rice grains, but as they dry out they start to look more like flat, brown sesame seeds.
A roundworm looks like a long, pale strand of spaghetti and can grow up to 5 inches long inside your kitten’s intestines. This parasite is the most common of those that afflict cats, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, and most kittens have them. While adult cats may get these from eating infected rodents or coming in contact with the eggs in the feces of other cats, your kitty probably got them from her mother. She wasn’t born with them the way puppies often are, but kittens typically get roundworms when they drink their mother’s milk.
These unpleasant creatures hook themselves into your kitty’s small intestines, and they hang there chewing on the lining and drinking her blood. Hookworms use an anti-coagulant to keep the blood flowing so that they can eat, and periodically they move to new spots in her intestines. The old places keep bleeding because of the anti-coagulant, and eventually all of this blood loss can make your kitten anemic, and maybe even kill her. These worms are transmitted when your kitten eats an infected rodent, but hookworms can also crawl through her skin if your kitty contacts infected soil.
Things to Think About
It’s not always obvious if your kitten has worms, so follow your vet’s advice regarding regular checkups and tests. If you see anything out of the ordinary, such as unexplained vomiting, diarrhea or blood in the stool, take your kitten to the vet immediately. Keeping her in the house will help to minimize her risk, but it’s still possible for her to get worms, so don’t assume your indoor kitty is parasite-free. Since you can get worms from your kitten, wash your hands after handling her, keep her litter box clean and control fleas on your cat and in your house.
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Gastrointestinal Parasites of Cats
- Cats.org: Fleas and Other Parasites
- University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine: Roundworms
- Web MD: Healthy Cats: Worms in Cats: An Infection of Intestinal Parasites
- Carrboro Plaza Veterinary Clinic: Hookworms, Canine and Feline
- Pet Informed: Flea Tapeworm Lifecycle
- John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images