Like human children, kittens sometimes contract parasites. Also like human kids, they need us to watch for signs of them and get them treated. All kittens should be dewormed even if you have not seen evidence of an infestation. Doing so helps ensure that your kitten grows up healthy and happy.
How Kittens Get Roundworms
Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasites found in cats, according to the ASPCA. You'll more likely see them in kittens than adult cats, but they can infest kitties of any age. Nursing makes kittens more susceptible to them. They are passed to kittens through their mother's milk when they are 2 to 3 weeks old. Once infested, kittens can also shed them into their environment. Adult cats can get them from killing and eating a rodent that had them or by coming into contact with waste from an infected cat. Roundworms live in the intestines, which is why dead ones are seen in stool.
Obviously, visible dead roundworms is a clear symptom of infestation. Physical symptoms of roundworms in kittens include vomiting, diarrhea and anemia. Affected kitties are thin but have a pot-bellied appearance. They might also cough or develop pneumonia due to the worms migrating from the bloodstream to the air sacs of the lungs. Severe infestations of kittens can even be fatal.
The Effect of Roundworms
Mild cases of roundworms may cause nothing more obvious than a rough, dull coat. In more severe cases, they cause vomiting and either diarrhea or constipation. They also cause anemia by attaching themselves to the lining of the intestines. A serious case may cause weight loss and poor body condition in general. They can also be fatal due to damage of the kidneys and liver.
WebMD recommends deworming your kitty for the first time by 3 weeks of age to prevent roundworms infesting his environment. He should be treated again two to three weeks later. The site also recommends deworming once a month thereafter until your kitten reaches 6 months old. If you have seen dead roundworms in your kitten's waste or litter, you should definitely have him dewormed immediately, even if he has been treated before.
Once your kitten has been dewormed, clean his environment thoroughly to kill any remnants of the worms that may have shed into it. Empty his litter box completely and clean it with bleach, or dispose of it and get a new one. Mop the area around it with bleach, if possible. Vacuum it thoroughly if it is carpet. Wash his bedding in hot water with bleach or color-safe bleach. Empty his food and water bowls and wash them thoroughly in hot water or run them through the dishwasher. The Cat Health Guide also recommends keeping your lawn free of waste, especially from cats who do not live there, and not allowing kitties to indulge their hunting instincts.
Leslie Carver has been a professional author since 2009. Her work appears on multiple websites. She has an associate's degree in English with progress toward her bachelor's at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She has been awarded an Outstanding Student Award in English and twice nominated for creative writing awards.