Kittens and cats are prone to a variety of parasites, both internal and external. Cat parasites are not pleasant dinner conversation, but they are something you should be aware of and discuss with your veterinarian. These invasive foes can lurk in your pet’s body without you even knowing it until your cat’s symptoms worsen.

To help protect your precious feline from exposure, the OVRS team is here to provide more information about cat parasites.

Internal Cat Parasites

There are several common internal or intestinal parasites that affect cats. While seemingly harmless, they can create ill health and long term problems when not treated. These include roundworm, tapeworm, heartworm, and hookworm.

Roundworm often affects kittens. They can grow rapidly and impact your kitten’s development. Roundworms live in the intestines and also bring about digestive upset, diarrhea, and vomiting. Roundworms can be transmitted to other cats through the feces of an infected cat.

Tapeworms in cats are long, white, flat worms that can grow up to 20 inches in length. Many pet owners will first notice their presence through tiny, rice-like pieces in a pet’s feces or vomit. Tapeworms require an intermediate host, the flea. A cat can become infected by eating a flea or by ingesting infected feces. 

The Echinococcus tapeworm species is zoonotic, meaning that humans (and children especially) are prone to catching tapeworm from their cats. 

Heartworm – Heartworm is a long, white worm that resembles spaghetti and lives in the chambers of a cat’s heart (and sometimes lungs). A cat contracts heartworm through the bite of a mosquito which then carries heartworm larvae into the bloodstream. Heartworms can continue to reproduce in the system and be fatal to cats. Many cats do not show signs of heartworm until collapse and sudden death.

Hookworms are one of the most prevalent parasites affecting cats. This 1-1 ½ inch parasite attaches itself to the walls of the intestines and feeds off of the blood. If not discovered early enough, many cats will develop anemia. Some pet owners only notice the presence of hookworm due to skin problems or infections on the skin’s surface where the parasite has burrowed in.

Prevention of Cat Parasites

There are many more parasites that can wreak havoc on a cat’s health, including external parasites like fleas and ticks, leptospirosis, and so on. Understanding cat parasites and how to prevent them is key to ensuring that your pet never has to contract internal parasites or diseases carried by parasites.

Make sure to:

  1. Keep your pet on parasite preventatives (flea, tick, and heartworm) as they are intermediate carriers of other illnesses and internal parasites.
  2. Kittens are especially prone to parasites, which is why it is so important that they receive screening, deworming medication, and all vaccines and boosters.
  3. Indoor cats are less at risk than their outdoor feline friends.
  4. Launder your pet’s bedding often and vacuum frequently.
  5. Groom your pet to keep their skin and coat healthy, but also to catch ticks, fleas, and other evidence of parasites.

For more information on common cat parasites, please speak to your regular veterinarian.