How to Treat Worms in Cats: Tips for Deworming Your Cat

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12 Minute Read
Updated May 13, 2024

Should you be concerned about worms in cats? Learn how cats get worms, how you can treat them quickly, and get simple tips to prevent worm infestations in your feline friend.

Worms are a common concern for cats that spend time outdoors, but indoor cats aren't immune to these pesky parasites. Regular checkups with your vet can help you catch worm infestations early, but preventative measures can be taken at home to keep your cat safe year-round.

Known for their curious nature and independent personalities, cats are natural-born hunters and explorers. Whether you have a strictly indoor cat or a bold outdoor adventurer, there are many ways that cats can interact with parasites. From food and soil and plants to wildlife, the risk of an infestation is always present.

Worms in cats can lead to various health problems if left untreated. Learning how to reduce your cat's exposure to worms and other parasites, spot signs of infestations early, and treat infestations quickly will help keep your playful and curious cat happy and healthy.

 

What Causes Worms in Cats?

Worms in cats are usually caused by the ingestion of worm eggs or larvae. Worms are often present in your cat's environment, such as from soil or feces, or through the ingestion of infected prey, such as rodents or birds.

Even indoor cats can be susceptible to worms by interacting with other pets that spend time outside and from flying pests, like mosquitos and other insects that make it into your home.

Kittens can also acquire worms from their mother, either through the placenta or through nursing, which is why it's a common practice to deworm kittens at regular intervals before and after leaving their mother.

Worms in Multi-Pet Households

Worms are particularly concerning in multi-pet households because parasites can be passed back and forth between pets. Many types of worms shed their eggs through feces. 

When multiple cats share a litter box, or if you have dogs that like to hunt for buried treasure in the litter box, cross infection and even re-infection are likely without proper treatment.

 

Types of Worms in Cats

There are many different types of parasites present in your cat's environment, but there are only a handful of worms that are common in Canadian cats. Check out each type below and learn how your cat could come in contact with these pests.

Roundworms and Hookworms

Roundworms and hookworms are the most common parasitic worms in cats. They are both commonly passed by infected wildlife through their feces and in contaminated soil or sand. 

Once ingested, the eggs hatch and attach themselves to the small intestine, leeching blood and other tissues. These types of parasites, in extreme cases, can lead to anemia and further health issues if left untreated.

Tapeworms

These food-stealing parasites are most commonly associated with unwanted weight loss and malnutrition because they primarily feed off of the food that passes through your cat's system. This can be especially dangerous to a growing kitten.

Tapeworms are long and white but have segmented bodies that shed. This is why one of the signs of tapeworms in cats is rice-like worm segments in their stool.

The worm larvae are primarily passed by infected cat fleas, so infestations tend to be more common in warmer seasons and in humid climates when mosquitos are most active.

Heartworms

Heartworm is a parasite that is passed through bites. They are most common in heavily forested and humid climates, like much of Ontario and parts of Quebec and Manitoba.

Heartworms are unique from other worms. Heartworm infections are not treated or prevented the same way as other parasites, so you need to talk to your vet if you are concerned that your cat has or is at risk of getting a heartworm infection. Heartworm is deadly and is very difficult to treat, so prevention is the only truly effective treatment.

 

Signs of Worms in Cats

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Learning how to spot the signs of worms in cats can help you stay on top of infestations. Some symptoms are obvious and easy to identify, while others are more subtle or may not appear at all in the early stages. 

It's best to familiarize yourself with all the signs so that you can avoid missing some of the harder-to-notice symptoms. From changes in bathroom habits to odd behaviours, here are a few signs you need to be on the lookout for.

Visible worms

One of the most easily recognizable signs of worms in cats is when you actually see worms or worm segments in your cat's vomit or feces. These worms can vary in size and appearance depending on the type of worm. 

While this may seem like good news, visible worms are a sign that the infestation is well-developed in your pet's gut and that you need to seek prompt treatment. Worm eggs will be shed much earlier, but they are too small to see without a microscope.

Weight loss

Worms can cause weight loss in cats, as they compete with the cat for nutrients. The longer a worm infestation continues, the more of your cat's calories and nutrients will be stolen by their digestive intruders. 

Unexpected weight loss by itself can be a symptom of many issues, but when combined with other symptoms, can indicate an advanced infestation. Regular weight check-ins are always a good idea to stay on top of your cat's overall health.

You may also notice that your cat's appetite increases, despite the weight loss.

Diarrhea

Worms can cause changes to your cat's bowel movements including loose stool and diarrhea. Take note of any changes to your cat's bathroom habits, especially if they are persistent or worsening. Other digestive disturbances can include constipation and irritated or itchy bums. Pay attention if your cat starts paying too much attention to their rear end.

Vomiting

Cats with worms may vomit, and you may notice worms in the vomit. Some worms are quite large, like roundworms, and can cause a variety of digestive issues. Vomiting is a common reaction to the digestive disturbances that can be experienced.

Bloating

In some cases, worms in the tummy can lead to a pot-belly effect from the presence of the worms. This bloating can lead to some discomfort and lethargy. This is more common in kittens as they have much smaller bodies and weaker immune systems.

Dull coat

A lacklustre or dull coat can be a sign of worms. This is due to the fact that the worms are stealing nutrients, your cat may not be getting enough of the essential vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that support healthy skin and coat.

Coughing or Wheezing

In advanced stages, some worms can migrate to the lungs and lead to coughing, wheezing, and other respiratory issues. If you suspect your cat has worms and shows any symptoms of respiratory issues, call your vet immediately, as this can quickly become very dangerous if not treated.


The signs and symptoms of worms in cats can be subtle in the early stages. The most obvious signs, like worm activity in their stool, often don't show up right away, so regular vet checks are the best way to ensure your cat stays worm-free. Follow these simple tips for spotting worms quickly:

    • Keep the litter box clean and monitor bowel movements for changes or irregularities.
    • Daily brushing can help you spot changes in your cat's appearance and fur texture.
    • Monitor weight loss or gain by using a scale and the body condition score system for cats.
    • Changes to activity, routine, or mobility should all be taken seriously, especially when combined with any other signs of worms.
    • Outdoor cats need to be monitored closely, as they are at much higher risk of getting worms.

 

Worms in Kittens

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Unlike adult cats who typically get worms from their environment, kittens can get worms from their infected mothers. It's transferred through their placenta or even from nursing. This is why it's recommended that kittens go through a stricter deworming process in the first 6 months of life.

Kittens can get dewormed as early as 4 weeks, again at 8 and 12 weeks, then every month until 6 months old. This can help ensure they stay parasite-free until well after they are separated from their mother and litter mates, and have a better-developed digestive and immune system.

Under 6 months old, kittens have particularly sensitive digestion and a weakened immune system because they are still developing. This makes them more susceptible to worms and in greater danger of severe symptoms caused by worms.

 

How to Get Rid of Worms in Cats

In the early stages of an infestation, some types of worms in cats can be treated at home using over-the-counter dewormers and deworming supplements. These options are great for routine deworming as a preventative, but can also be effective for treating common worms, like roundworms in cats.

If you suspect your cat might have worms, or if you want to routinely deworm your cat as a preventative measure, then either over-the-counter or natural supplements could work. 

Over-the-counter Dewormer for Cats

Though many worming medications for cats require a prescription, some dewormers are allowed to be sold over the counter. These types of medications only treat the most common types of worms, like roundworms.

DVL Worm Tabs

dvl-worm-tabs

At Homes Alive Pets, you can buy DVL worm tabs, which is a single-dose treatment for removing large roundworms in dogs and cats. DVL Worm Tabs is made from Piperazine, which acts as a paralyzing agent for the worms. Once paralyzed, the worms can be safely passed through the digestive system and removed.

Check out How to Pill a Cat for tricks and tips to make this easy deworming treatment simple and safe.

Natural Dewormers for Cats

The harsh chemicals in dewormers might seem a little scary. While it's always best to consult with your veterinarian for the most effective treatment, there are a couple of natural remedies that may help in conjunction with conventional treatments.

Both remedies below can be effective in treating mild infestations but work most effectively in a preventative manner:

Thrive Diatomaceous Earth

thrive_diatomaceous_earth

Diatomaceous earth: Food-grade diatomaceous earth is a natural substance that can help eliminate worms. It's made of finely ground fossils that feel like silk to us, but for parasites and other pests, it's razor-sharp crystals that slice them open and dehydrate them.

This white powder isn't going to be very appetizing by itself, so it's a good idea to mix the diatomaceous earth in some tasty wet cat food or a wet cat treat to mask the flavour.

Keep in mind that natural remedies may not be as effective as prescription medications, so it's important to use them under the guidance of your vet. 

HomeoPet Host No More

homeopet_hostnm

While not all natural remedies are effective, this homeopathic solution was formulated by a veterinarian to ensure an effective and safe natural solution for worms in cats. 

Homeopet Host No More is not designed to kill worms but instead helps to boost your cat's immune system so the parasites can be naturally expelled.

DIY Dewormers for Cats

Natural, homemade remedies may sound like the better and safer solution over harsh chemicals for treating worms, but they aren't all as effective as they claim.

If you type natural cat dewormer into Google, you will see several options using real food ingredients you might even have at home.

Sadly, there are plenty of natural remedies for which there is no evidence that they are effective at all. Though you may find some anecdotal evidence for these natural deworming alternatives, they are typically not effective on their own.

Here are a few natural dewormers you might see:

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain cucurbitacin, which is said to paralyze the worms and aid in expelling them. While many tote this claim, the reality is there is no evidence that pumpkin seeds actually have this effect on parasites.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Advocates for apple cider vinegar claim that adding some vinegar to your pet's food makes the digestive tract more acidic and inhospitable for worms. Cats already have an extremely acidic stomach environment where worm eggs can survive. Adding apple cider vinegar is unlikely to further lower pH, and could even lead to health issues if it does.

Coconut Oil

Last but not least is coconut oil. Now we love coconut oil for it's anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, but as an anti-parasitic, it doesn't live up to the hype. It's important to note that while these natural remedies may be helpful for some cats, they should not be used as a substitute for proper veterinary care.

 

Preventing Worms in Cats

The trick is that symptoms of worms in cats aren't always obvious, and infestations get quite severe before you start to notice obvious symptoms. 

This is why prevention is key when it comes to worms in cats. Here are some tips to help prevent your cat from getting worms:

    • Regular deworming: Routinely deworming your cat is recommended to prevent infestations. Talk to your vet about a safe deworming schedule for your cat.
    • Flea control: Fleas can transmit tapeworms, so it's important to keep your cat protected from fleas. Flea prevention treatments, like Elanco Advantage ii, can be used to fend off flea activity on your cat.
    • Keep your cat indoors: Cats that are allowed outdoors are more likely to come into contact with infected prey or contaminated soil. Indoor cats aren't immune to parasites but have a lower risk. Outdoor cats may need more frequent deworming and vet checks to keep them safe.
    • Clean litter box: Keep your cat's litter box clean to reduce the risk of exposure to contaminated feces. Outdoor litter boxes are especially important, as your cat may not be the only animal using them.
    • Daily Brushing or Petting: Regular brushing or massages for your cat can help you identify changes to skin and coat health and also identify pest activity that could contribute to parasite transfer.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Worms in Cats

Can worms in cats be transmitted to humans?

Some types of worms that infect cats, such as roundworms and hookworms, can be transmitted to humans. It's important to practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands after handling your cat or cleaning the litter box, to reduce the risk of transmission.

How often should I deworm my cat?

The frequency of deworming depends on your cat's lifestyle and risk factors. The standard recommendation is 3-4 times per year for adult cats, but more frequent deworming might be necessary for certain environments, lifestyles, and age groups.

What should I do if I suspect my cat has worms?

If you suspect your cat has worms, it's important to consult with your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. Knowing the type of worms and the severity of infestation will lead to safer and more effective treatment.

Are there any side effects of deworming medication for cats?

Deworming medication is generally safe for cats, but some cats may experience mild side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy. These side effects are usually temporary and should be resolved on their own. If you notice any concerning side effects, consult with your veterinarian.

Can I use over-the-counter deworming medication for my cat?

Though some OTC treatments are effective, not all natural remedies will work for all cats. Talk to your vet about the type of worms and proper treatment for active infestations, and leave pet-safe over-the-counter meds and natural dewormers for routine management and prevention.

 

The Early Cat Dewormer Gets the Worm

Worms in cats are a common problem that can lead to serious health issues if left untreated. By being aware of the causes and symptoms of worms, you can take steps to protect your feline friend. We hope you can use these tips to safely prevent and treat worms in your cat.

    • Though kittens are the most susceptible, most cats will get worms at some point in their life. Even indoor cats aren't immune and being aware of the risks is important.
    • A routine deworming schedule is key to preventing severe worm infestations and related illnesses. Early treatment will lead to quicker removal of worms and relief from symptoms.
    • All cats need routine deworming, but kittens benefit from a stricter deworming schedule starting as early as 4 weeks old.
    • Natural remedies may help in conjunction with conventional treatments, but it's important to consult with your veterinarian for the most effective treatment plan.
    • Remember to practice good hygiene for your cat. Regular grooming practices, a clean litter box, and limited contact with wildlife, including carcasses and feces, will all go a long way in keeping them worm-free.

Shop for deworming treatments for cats at Homes Alive Pets in Canada to keep your cat protected from worms.

Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She is currently working for one very rebellious cat, Jack, and hanging out with a goofy but loveable doggo named Roxy.

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