Worms in Cats

Molly Price, DVM
By Molly Price, DVM on Mar. 26, 2024
A beautiful striped cat sits in the tall grass.

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In This Article


What Are Worms in Cats?

It can be alarming when you find a worm in your cat’s stool. Worms are common internal parasites that infect kittens and cats with prevalence rates as high as 45% in the United States.

Gastrointestinal (GI) worms in cats are typically not a medical emergency but can become one if a cat is infested with several worms. Tell your vet immediately if you see any worms in your cat’s stool, so they can determine the type of worm and how to treat it. It may be beneficial to send a photo to your vet or save the stool sample.

If you also notice that your cat has pale gums, is having trouble breathing, or is vomiting or not eating, take them  to the vet immediately.

Types of Worms in Cats

The most common types of worms in cats are gastrointestinal worms. They include:

  • Roundworms—Roundworms are the most common type of intestinal worm in cats, with up to 25% of all cats being infected and even higher rates in kittens. Roundworms are 3 to 6 inches long, cream-colored, and resemble spaghetti when found in the stool.

  • Hookworms—Hookworms are tiny, thin, whitish worms. They are so small (about 1/8 inch long) that most people do not notice them on the cat’s stool. If you do see them, they look like tiny, thin strings. Hookworms get their name from their hook-like mouthparts and aggressive bloodsucking behavior; they attach themselves to the lining of the intestines and suck blood.

  • Whipworms—Whipworms are 2 to 3 inches in length with one thicker end and one thinner end, resembling a whip, hence their name. Whipworms are not easily seen in the stool and are diagnosed by your vet, who can identify the eggs under a microscope.

  • Tapeworms—Tapeworms occur when a kitten or cat eats a flea while grooming or eats a rodent infected with tapeworm eggs. Tapeworms look like grains of rice and are found around the anus or in a cat’s stool.

Other worms that can affect cats include:

Symptoms of Worms in Cats

Symptoms of worms in cats may vary. You can usually determine the type of worm based on your cat’s symptoms:

Causes of Worms in Cats

Most kittens are infected with GI worms while nursing their mother, when they ingest tiny worm larvae directly from their mother’s milk. If you are caring for a nursing mama or pregnant cat, ask your vet about deworming her to treat her existing worms and stay ahead of transmission to the kittens.

Worms in cats typically occur when worm eggs are ingested. This can happen when a cat licks their fur after exposure to a contaminated environment or when they eat an animal infected with the worm or its eggs.

Hookworm larvae can penetrate directly into the skin between the toes, causing skin infections. Keep your cat indoors to prevent exposure to GI worms.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Worms in Cats

To diagnose worms in cats, a veterinarian will likely need a stool sample. You can bring a stool sample from home or your vet can get a sample during a physical examination of your pet.

A fecal examination, also known as a fecal floatation test, may be performed in the clinic or sent out to a reference laboratory.

Even if you can see the worms in the stool and have a good idea of what worm you are dealing with, your veterinarian will likely want to run the fecal examination to ensure the worm is correctly identified. Your vet will also check for eggs of any other worms.

Unfortunately, a cat may have several different types of worms at one time.

Treatment of Worms in Cats

Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms are treatable with oral and topical medications, and sometimes injectable formulations, prescribed by your veterinarian.

Some worms in cats are killed with a single treatment. Other worms require multiple dosages of a medication given on a strict schedule over a certain period.

It’s important to carefully follow the directions provided by your vet and to schedule follow-up visits and tests to ensure the treatment is working for your cat.

The cost for treatment can vary depending on:

  • The type of worm being treated

  • The severity of your cat’s infection

  • The medication dosage

  • The frequency schedule your veterinarian recommends

  • Your cat’s health status

Recovery and Management of Worms in Cats

Depending on the type, cats that are mildly infected with worms can completely recover within a few weeks.

If your cat has symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or low appetite, your vet may prescribe a gastrointestinal probiotic such as FortiFlora® or Proviable® to aid digestion and provide immune system support.

Cats that are severely affected with hookworm and/or roundworm infection may require:

If an intestinal blockage is found from a large burden of worms, emergency surgery may be needed to remove the worms in your cat.

Prevention of Worms in Cats

The best prevention for worms in cats includes:

Flea control is essential to prevent your cat from eating a flea while grooming themselves and thereby becoming reinfected with tapeworms.

Ask your vet about starting your cat on one of these parasite preventatives:

Worms in Cats FAQs

Will worms in cats go away on their own?

No. If left untreated, adult worms will thrive and live for months to years in your cat’s body, causing serious harm to your cat’s health.

If you suspect your cat has worms, call their veterinarian.

How do you get rid of worms in cats naturally?

Despite claims that remedies such as garlic and apple cider vinegar can get rid of worms, there are no safe or effective “natural” treatments for deworming in cats. These remedies don’t kill worms and can even cause toxicity to your cat.

The safest way to treat your cat is through your veterinarian.

Can I get worms from my cat?

Some worms can infect humans by ingestion of eggs from soil, sandboxes, or handling infected cats.

Cats don’t have to show signs of illness to be actively shedding worm eggs. Young children and immunocompromised individuals are more susceptible. And although these types of infections are rare, worm infections can potentially cause skin, eye, or liver issues in humans.

If your cat is infected with worms, scoop the litter box daily, regularly change out the litter and disinfect the litter box, and always wash your hands after handling it.

Separate your infected cat and newly adopted kittens or cats until they have been examined, have had stool tests and deworming, and are cleared by your vet.

Molly Price, DVM


Molly Price, DVM


Dr. Molly Price has practiced small animal medicine for over 20 years and is a graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. She...

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