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How Do Cats Get Worms? Vet Reviewed Causes, Signs & Prevention

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	Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Finding worms in your favorite feline’s poop or around their butt is never fun (and is kind of gross!). But it’s not uncommon for our pets to come down with parasites, such as worms—not even if your cat is strictly an indoor one. But how do cats get worms in the first place?

There are actually a handful of ways for cats to catch worms (and a few different worms they can get), and it’s important to know these so you can reduce the risk of transmission to yourself or other pets in the home. The most common ways a cat can get worms is by mosquitoes, or by eating infected feces, mice, or fleas. Knowing how to treat worms is essential, too, so you can get your feline feeling healthy again. Here’s the down low on how your cat can get worms, what signs to look for if you think your pet might have them, and how to treat and prevent them.

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The 4 Worm Types in Cats and How They Are Caught

Cats can get a few types of worms, with some being more common than others1.

1. Tapeworms

Image Credit: Rattiya Thongdumhyu, Shutterstock

Tapeworms are extremely common among felines. These worms are long and flat with segmented sections and hang out in a cat’s small intestines. Tapeworms look like grains of rice when you find them in feces or around a cat’s rectum. Taenia taeniaeformis is the most common form of tapeworm and is passed to cats when the feline eats an infected flea.

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2. Heartworms

You give your cat heartworm prevention and for good reason! Heartworms can be fatal because they cause damage to the lungs and heart. The good news is that felines are more resistant to these worms than canines, but that doesn’t mean cats never get them. The heartworm is mostly passed to felines by mosquitoes—mosquitoes will drink from an animal that is infected, then carry heartworm larvae to the next animal they decide to make a meal of.

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3. Roundworms

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Roundworms are quite common. These worms come in three species, with Toxocara canis being the most common (and the one that can spread to people). However, Toxocara cati is a roundworm species that can be passed to kittens from their mothers via milk.

Most roundworms, though, are acquired through eating feces that contain roundworm eggs.

Lungworms are another less common roundworm a cat can get. As the name indicates, these worms are found in the lungs and lower respiratory tract. These worms start in the intestines but then make their way to the lungs. They are commonly undiagnosed because any signs of infection a cat may have will look like those of a regular respiratory condition.

Eyeworms are less common than some other roundworms on this list, and as the name suggests, they affect the eye. These white worms are long but still small enough to move across the surface of the eye and might hide in tear ducts. They can result in clouding of the cornea and watery, itchy eyes and are transmitted by flies depositing larvae in the eye.

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4. Hookworms

Hookworms are also fairly common in certain countries and environments. The most common hookworms found in cats are Ancylostoma. These worms burrow their way into the intestinal lining causing gastrointestinal issues such as bleeding and weight loss. They are typically caught when cats eat either infected feces or animals (like mice). These worms may also be passed to a cat via skin penetration.

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Signs of Worms in Cats

If your cat has worms of any kind, there will be (though some signs will be easier to spot than others). Signs of lungworm will be the most difficult since they will simply resemble a number of respiratory conditions.

But if worms are present, you should see one or several of the following:
  • Worms in feces
  • Bloody feces
  • Worms around the anus
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anemia
  • Pot-belly
  • Dull coat

cat paw divider Treatment and Prevention of Worms in Cats

Luckily, worms are treatable in felines, and there are ways you can prevent them from occurring in the first place.


Worms are treatable in cats, so as soon as you suspect your cat has them, you need to take it to the vet for a proper diagnosis. Once the worm type has been determined, your vet will be able to prescribe deworming medication that is either injectable or oral.

It’s inadvisable to give your cat any home remedies for worms, as they may be ineffective. And worms that aren’t treated can, in some cases, lead to a fatal outcome.

cat getting a shot from a vet
Image Credit: Kachalkina Veronika, Shutterstock


Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so working to prevent worms from infecting your cat is always preferable!

There are several ways to go about this, including:
  • Not having more than one cat per litter box
  • Regular worm/heartworm treatment
  • Deworming treatments for kittens until the age of six months
  • Yearly vet visit for a check-up
  • Using tick and flea prevention on your pet
  • Preventing rodents in the home

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Final Thoughts

It’s not fun for anyone when your cat has worms! Now that you know the types of worms your pet can come into contact with, though, and how they come into contact with them in the first place, you should have an easier time preventing your feline friend from getting worms. However, if prevention doesn’t work, your vet should be able to treat any worms your cat has with deworming medication. Here’s to happy, healthy kitties!

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