How could my cat get worms?
The short answer is all too easily. Even the most cared for, well fed, happy and healthy cat can become infested with worms.
Even though you cannot see them, other cats may have left behind worm eggs and larvae, where they leave their droppings. These eggs and larvae can remain infectious for months, even years. These can be picked up on your cat's coat, muzzle or paws and are ingested during grooming. In this way, worms can then infect your cat, home and garden.
Both Roundworms and Tapeworms can be picked up from a hunting cat's prey; mice, for example often carry infective larval stages.
By far the most common tapeworm is acquired by swallowing infected fleas while grooming.
Types Of Worms
There are a dozen different species of roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms, which may infect the cat in the UK.
Fortunately there are very effective ways to control these and minimize the spread of infection.
Roundworms - The life cycle
The term roundworm also includes, hookworms and whipworms. It is helpful to look at the different lifecycles.
The relatively common one is Toxocara Cati.
- Cats can pick up roundworms by eating mice and from the environment.
- Adult worms in the intestines produce eggs.
- Roundworms can lay dormant in the mammary tissues of the queen and be activated during pregnancy.
- Transfer of worm larvae to the kittens as they feed on the mother's milk can take place.
- A nursing queen may be re-infecting the pups while cleaning them.
- Roundworm eggs are great survivors; they can remain infective for several years.
Unlike the roundworm, the tapeworm requires a third party called an intermediate host, to develop in before infecting your cat.
The two tapeworms found commonly are The Taenia species and the Flea tapeworm Dipylidium Caninum.
- 6 out of 10 cats in the UK have worms at any one time.
- Some types of tapeworm can grow up to 5metres in length.
- Tapeworms look like strings of rather flattened rice grains.
- Dipylidium caninum has a small head, which attaches itself to the wall of the small intestine, with hooks and suckers a long segmented body, which grows continuously.
- The oldest segments, containing the eggs are shed one or more at a time. It is these segments that we commonly see passing out of the anus.
- These segments can contain many thousands of eggs.
There are many preparations available sold on the market, we recommends routinely worming your kitten and adult cat with the most effective preparations, which are sold by the Veterinary Surgeon. It is only by working with the Veterinary Surgeon that the correct advice, preparation, dosage and routine can be given to your cat.
However effective the wormer recommended by the Vet, it cannot prevent re-infestation. There are a number of steps we can take to reduce the spread of worms, including:
- Effective flea control on the animal and in the home, to help reduce the transmission of the Flea Tapeworm.
- Careful, daily, disposal of cat litter.
- Wash your children's hands after playing with kittens and cats.
- Avoidance of raw offal or unsterilised pet food.