5 Ways Your Cat Can Contract Parasitic Worms
Parasitic worms are basically everywhere. They can survive in various water sources, contaminate almost any type of food, and even spread to new locations by hitching a ride on human clothing or animal fur. It’s no wonder that worm infestations are a common issue for both owners and pets!
As a cat owner, we bet that you’ve seen your fair share of wiggling strings in cat feces. And while that’s definitely not a sight you’d wish even your worst enemy to see, it’s often difficult to make sure that there won’t be a next time. However, being well-versed on the top causes of worm infestations in cats puts you one step ahead of these pesky parasites. So protect your feline friend by being wary of the following:
Fleas have always been notorious for carrying all sorts of disease-causing parasites, one of which are tapeworms. However, fleas only serve as a temporary host for tapeworms, meaning they don’t carry full-grown worms; only tapeworm larvae. While grooming themselves, cats can accidentally swallow a larvae-infested flea and become infected. Inside the body, larvae burst out of the flea and mature into adult tapeworms.
If your cat has tapeworms, they may start vomiting, losing weight, and getting diarrhea. In some cases, infected cats may also become constipated and have trouble pooping.
The best way to reduce your cat’s chances of contracting tapeworms is to invest in monthly flea preventatives. They come in several forms and dosages, so make sure that you talk to your veterinarian to find one that works for your pet.
Whether or not you’re a longtime cat owner, you’ve probably noticed that cats just LOVE to hunt. Once they’re in full-on attack mode, they chase almost anything that moves: your hands, your feet, your curtains, and of course, critters that make the mistake of moving into their line of vision.
With a hunting success rate of about 70%, cats rarely miss their target, which is more of a curse than it is a blessing. Why? Because when cats are on a hunting spree, they generally go for rodents, birds, cockroaches, lizards, and even grasshoppers—all of which are common carriers of parasitic worms.
How to Stop Your Cat from Hunting:
To stop your cat from hunting potentially worm-infested insects and backyard animals, refrain from allowing them to freely roam outside. Now, that might sound a bit extreme, especially if your cat has always been an indoor-outdoor feline, but here us out. Allowing your cat to go outdoors unsupervised increases their chances of contracting a parasite, so for their safety, opt for supervised walks and indoor enrichment instead. (You can check out a few of our favorite cat toys for indoor-only cats here!)
Another good option, is to build them an outdoor enclosure or a “catio”. That way, your cat can enjoy the great outdoors within a safe and secure area. For good measure, you can purchase a BirdBeSafe cat collar cover, which is a bright and colorful pet garment that allow birds (and other prey animals with good vision) to spot your feline friend before they get a chance to pounce. It’s tested and proven by many animal experts! You can read more about it in this article. If you’re interested in getting one for your cat, click here!
There are parasitic worms that spread specifically through the soil—they’re called soil-transmitted helminths. Whipworms and hookworms are prime examples of these kind of parasites. Your cat can pick them up by stepping or lying down on contaminated soil.
Hookworm larvae, in particular, can burrow into the skin and enter your cat’s body. Once inside, they’ll head straight for your cat’s intestines and attach themselves to the stomach lining, where they’ll feed on blood and organ tissue.
You can prevent your cat from contracting soil-transmitted parasitic worms by keeping them indoors and doing regular cleaning and disinfection. If you’ve recently had a hookworm infestation at home or simply want to make sure that the soil in your backyard or garden is parasite-free, then we highly recommend getting food-grade diatomaceous earth.
Diatomaceous earth can kill parasitic worms in soil and help repel bugs, cockroaches, fleas, ticks, and mites. Just sprinkle it on top of potentially contaminated soil and mix it in using a garden shovel. You can read more about diatomaceous earth and its uses in this article. If you’re interested in getting one for yourself, click here!
When it comes to parasitic worms, the most common way of transmission is through the feces of an infected animal; another reason to keep your feline indoors. However, whether or not you allow your cat to go outside, make sure to remove feces in and around your home area (porch, backyard, garden) immediately. Since there’s no way of knowing if the animal that left their business on your front lawn has worms or not, it’s best to consider all fecal matter as a threat to your cat.
If you see dried feces, don’t scrape them. Worm-infested particles could scatter through the air and make their way up your nostrils (or your cat’s). Instead, put some water in a spray bottle and carefully moisten the feces. Once they’ve loosened, scrape them with a disposable plastic knife or spoon and put them inside a plastic bag. When doing this, make sure to wear protective clothing (disposable gloves and overalls, a dust mask, and rubber boots).
An Infected Mother Cat’s Milk
Another way for a cat to contract parasitic worms is through contaminated breastmilk. Roundworms, in particular, can be passed from an infected mother cat to her kittens. In most cases, this leads to diarrhea, vomiting, and poor weight gain. So whether you have an intact female cat or a litter of kittens, make sure to get them on a consistent de-worming schedule. Normally, it’s recommended to get cats de-wormed every 3 to 6 months to effectively prevent worm infestations.