If you cringe at the thought of your kitty having worms, you are certainly not alone. Intestinal parasites are pretty gross, but they can be even more frustrating to treat. Without a professional diagnosis and prescription from a vet, your cat could be stuck with worms for a long time.
If you think your cat has worms because you saw one in the litter box, then he probably has roundworms or tapeworms. Roundworms are more prevalent than any other intestinal parasite in cats, according to The Winn Feline Foundation. Roundworms are a little more disturbing to see since entire living worms can appear in your pet's stool. Tapeworms tend to break into inanimate segments that look like grains of rice. Cats can also get other types of worms, including whipworms, hookworms and stomach worms. These worms tend to be smaller and some are practically microscopic, so you may never see them at all. Ask your vet what type of medication specifically targets the type of worms your cat has. Some dewormers are only effective against either roundworms or tapeworms, but not both.
Cause of Infestation
No matter how much medicine you give your cat, you'll never get rid of his worms unless you prevent him from getting reinfected. Outdoor cats have a much higher chance of getting parasites. Eating mice, squirrels and other wild animals exposes your cats to numerous diseases and parasites, including worms. Unlike most other intestinal parasites, tapeworms can only get into your cat through fleas. The only way for your cat to get them is by swallowing an infested flea. Keeping fleas off your cat is all you need to do to prevent tapeworms.
Humans can actually catch roundworms, tapeworms and other parasites from cats. Wash your hands after petting or holding your kitty and keep children away until your cat is clean of worms. You should also keep your cat isolated from your other pets. Your dog could be reinfecting your cat, making treatment pointless. Limit your cat's time outdoors, especially during spring and summer. Rodents and birds are more active in warmer weather. Clean your kitty's litter box every day until he's recovered. Wash clothes, cat beds and blankets that your kitty likes to sleep on to kill any parasite eggs left on the fabric.
Contact your vet and ask him for advice. He may ask you to bring your cat in to verify the type of worm your cat has. Non-prescription worming products and home remedies may be effective sometimes, but your kitty needs professional treatment if his worms don't go away after a few weeks. Adult cats often show few symptoms when they have worms and some wild felines harbor worms for their entire life. Give your cat prescription medication exactly as your vet instructs you. Skipping a dose can mess up the whole process.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.