How can I prevent my cat from getting worms?
Cats can get a variety of intestinal parasites, commonly referred to as “worms.” Some of these parasites are worm-like, such as roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. Others are single cell organisms, such as coccidia, Giardia, and Toxoplasma.
Many of these parasites can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, decreased appetite, poor hair coat, and anemia. Some are associated with minimal signs of illness in cats, but may present a significant health threat to the humans also in the home. Routes of exposure are as varied as the parasites themselves, but generally involve ingestion of feces of infected animals (through grooming behavior or exposure to contaminated soil) or ingestion of an intermediate host, such as a rodent or flea.
Treatment also varies with the type of parasite — that’s why it’s important to correctly identify parasites before giving medication. If you think your cat has intestinal parasites, contact your veterinarian for help in accurately diagnosing and treating the problem.
One of the best ways to prevent intestinal parasites is to keep your cat indoors to avoid exposure to infected cats, feces, and rodents. Regularly use feline-safe flea control products; ask your veterinarian for a recommendation that is right for your cat. Good litter box hygiene is important for both you and your cat; remove feces daily, and wear gloves when handling feces or changing litter.
Semi-annual to annual screening for parasites is recommended. For cats who can’t (or won’t) stay indoors, regular administration of a broad-spectrum de-worming medication may be recommended. There are a number of safe, easy-to-use topical or oral medications for this purpose.