At some point in your cat's life there is a good chance they are going to be exposed to gastrointestinal worms. When your cat is infected with worms they steal nutrition and cause damage to the stomach lining.
In adult cats, worms rarely cause serious disease, but they often cause issues in kittens. The good news is that worms can be easily prevented with regular worming treatments.
What are worms?
In cats, there are two principal types of worms, roundworms and tapeworms. Kittens can become infected when feeding from mum, and when older they can catch them from hunting wild animals and fleas!
Roundworms - These worms are white in colour, have a round string-like appearance and can grow up to 15 cm long. Whilst in the intestines they can lay thousands of eggs which pass in the faeces. The eggs can survive from months to years in the environment. They are then ingested by your cat through direct contamination or when they eat their prey.
Tapeworms -- These worms can grow up to an incredible 60cm long, and have a flat ribbon-like appearance. Tapeworms are made up of segments that looks like a small grains of rice. Fleas can become infected with tapeworm and infect cats when the flea is swallowed during grooming.
Other uncommon worms that rarely infect cats in the UK include, whipworms and hookworms.
How do I know if my cat has worms?
In some cases you may see physical worms, or segments that look like small grains of rice, on your cat's bottom or in their poo. When infected cats can show a few different symptoms including diarrhoea and weight loss. Because the worms steal some of the nutrition, your cat may appear a little hungrier than usual. Kittens can develop a pot-belly when they have a particularly high burden of worms.
How to get rid of worms?
Worming treatments come in all shapes and sizes tablets, pastes, powders and spot-ons.
Treating your kitten:
Kittens need a slightly different regime than older cats and your vet will help you choose the best medications and frequency to suit your kittens age and weight. Typically, kittens should be wormed every 2 weeks until around 16 weeks old, then monthly until 6 months old and then every 3 months.
Treating your cat:
Generally, adult cats should be wormed every 3 months and this should be enough to prevent worms from becoming a problem. But, if your cat is more of a hunter, it is recommended that they are wormed every month as they are at a higher risk of developing worms.
Can I get worms?
Very unlikely, but not impossible. Humans rarely become infected with worms from their cats, children can sometimes become infected when playing in areas where cats have been to the toilet, like a sand pit.
If you ever become concerned about yours or someone else's health, speak to your GP.
If you have small children, it is very important to deworm your cat regularly.
Do I need to go to the vet?
Should you notice any worms in your cats poop, or if they develop any concerning symptoms, you should contact your vet. It's worth taking a sample of their poop with you in case they want to send this away for analysis, samples from 3 different poops can make the results more accurate.