You've adopted a furry bundle of joy and you're wondering if you should go ahead and worm him. While it is a good idea to make sure your new kitten doesn't have worms, resist blindly picking up the first wormer you see at the pet store.
What Worms Affect Kitty?
Worms is a generic term describing parasites that kittens can contract. Roundworms, also called ascarids, are the most common parasite affecting felines. They look kind of like spaghetti and reach 3 to 4 inches in length as adults. Hookworms are smaller than roundworms and live in Kitty's small intestine. Since they feed on his blood, they can cause potentially life-threatening anemia, especially when he's young. Tapeworms are long and flat, up to 28 inches in length. They reside in Kitty's digestive system. Lungworms and heartworms are other parasites that kittens can contract, but they aren't intestinal -- meaning they won't be found in a fecal exam. These require special testing and treatment.
How Do Kittens Get Worms?
How a kitten contracts a worm depends on the type of worm it is. Roundworms and hookworms can be contracted by sharing a litter box with an infected cat. He can also get roundworms from his mother's milk if she was infected. Tapeworms have to be ingested, usually via a flea or rodent that was infected with tapeworms. If he lives outside, he'll be more exposed to worms, increasing his risk of contracting them. Administering Kitty a monthly preventative medicine will keep him worm-free.
Dewormers are typically given orally. You can find them as flavored creams that Kitty can eat as a treat or as liquids that you can add to his food. Always follow dosing instructions exactly and make sure the medicine it contains actually treats the type of worms he has. Ivermectin, milbemycin oxime and piperazine are common pyrantel pamoate medicines found in oral wormers. Selamectin is a monthly topical treatment that prevents roundworms, hookworms and heartworms. Most wormers will kill multiple types of worms, so speak with his vet to determine the best course of treatment. Don't just give him any old wormer you find and expect it to do the trick. This could be completely useless and even dangerous. Have his vet check him for worms before giving him any kind of medication.
Roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms can migrate from your cat to humans. This happens often with small children who play with cat poop or play on the ground outside where an infected kitty has used the bathroom. The best way to prevent getting worms from your cats is to use a preventative monthly treatment. Never handle cat poop without washing your hands, and keep kids out of the litter box. When you clean kitty's litter box, throw out the poop immediately. If Kitty shows any signs of worms, such as diarrhea or exceptionally smelly poop, have him checked by his vet immediately.