Tiny white worms that plague your cat’s lovely fur are caused by a cestodiasis, or tapeworm infection. Tapeworms can vary in length, ranging from less than 1 inch to several feet. Its segmented body can break into separate parts, resulting in white rice-like worms that may cling to your cat’s fur.
More and more segments may break off the tapeworm as it grows, leaving dried white- to cream-colored segments in the cat’s feces or stuck to the fur around his anus. Cats with tapeworm infections often lick, bite or scoot their butts on the floor to relieve the itching. Tapeworms do not cause many ailments, besides anal irritation and a possible bout of diarrhea. In rarer cases, tapeworms can cause an intestinal blockage.
Cats can carry two common tapeworm species: Dipylidium caninum, which is spread by lice or fleas, or Taenia taeniaformis, which kitties acquire by ingesting rodents, uncooked meat or raw freshwater fish. Fleas, lice and rodents can harbor immature tapeworms in their intestines which infect the cat when he eats them. Flea larvae first digest tapeworm eggs through contact with contaminated carpets or bedding. The infected larvae then mature into adult fleas. As the cat grooms himself, he can accidentally ingest infected fleas.
Treatment for a tapeworm infection typically consists of treating the active tapeworms, as well as the intermediate host. Once your vet has diagnosed tapeworms, she may prescribe an oral medication or inject a dewormer into your cat. Deworming must be combined with a flea or lice control medication to rid the cat of the underlying problem. Once your kitty has undergone treatment, the intestines usually digest the remaining worm segments.
To keep your beloved cat free of pesky parasites, engage in a quality flea control regimen. Ask your vet to prescribe medication to help prevent flea infestations. If your cat does develop a flea or tapeworm infection, treat the environment along with your cat to prevent a reoccurring infestation. Keep your cat away from areas that could be potentially riddled with fleas or other parasites, such as the garbage or around dead animals. Check your cat’s fur frequently for signs of parasites.
Based in northern New York, Brandy Burgess has been writing on pets, technical documentation and health resources since 2007. She also writes on personal development for YourFreelanceWritingCareer.com. Burgess' work also has appeared on various online publications, including eHow.com. Burgess holds a Bachelor of Arts in computer information systems from DeVry University and her certified nurses aid certification.