There are several ways your cat can get worms: fleas, hunting, exposure to infected cats or infected feces; worms can even be passed on through their mother’s milk. While it is possible to minimize the risks, you may find it virtually impossible to eliminate the risk of parasitic worms entirely. Because of this, you need to prepare yourself for the possible, maybe even inevitable. If you follow these steps, though, you’ll be able to make it through a cat worming relatively stress-free.
1. Determine if Your Cat Has Worms
Very likely, the first sign of worms will be in your cat’s feces. Often, you’ll be able to easily see worms in her stool as you’re cleaning her litter box. You’ll also want to watch out for diarrhea. While there are plenty of other reasons a cat will have runny stool, all types of worms, including tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms, can potentially cause diarrhea. If you notice these things, take a sample to your vet.
You should also be on the lookout for vomiting, or a big change in her weight. (You should always have a good baseline weight for your cat, so you’ll be able to tell if there are any noticeable changes.) You’ll want to take note of her gum color. Cats should have pink gums, but the presence of parasites will usually make gums appear pale, which can indicate anemia or shock. You should also keep an eye out for lethargy or difficulty breathing. (The last two symptoms, though, require immediate assistance, and shouldn’t wait for an opening at the vet’s office.)
2. Visit the Vet
If you think your cat may have worms, you will need to take her to the vet to make sure you’re getting her the right treatment. There are many different types of worms and different treatments for the specific stage your cat is in. You’ll need a professional opinion and evaluation before administering any treatment. Improper diagnosis and treatment poses health risks, including serious illness or death. This is a scenario that requires a veterinary care professional.
You’ll always want to take every newborn kitten to the vet for a de-worming, because the risk of contracting worms during her nursing is high. You’ll also want to take any newly adopted cat to the vet, especially if you don’t know their medical history. If at all possible, when taking your cat in for a de-worming or diagnosis, collect a stool sample (as fresh as possible) for evaluation. The vet will also likely want to take blood if he suspects heartworm disease.
3. Give Oral Medications
There are two primary types of medications used for treating worms in cats: either a pill or an oral injection. (Check out our list of the best cat dewormers to find the right treatment for your pet.) Most cats don’t like either option, so you’ll want to protect yourself by wrapping your cat in a towel or blanket to avoid scratches and escape. Be sure to pet and verbally encourage your cat while you’re administering her meds, because a calm cat is less likely to make things difficult.
Hold your cat securely and tilt her head back, opening her mouth. For oral pills, place the pill deep into her mouth (but not in her throat to avoid choking) and for liquid, squeeze the medication on the side of one cheek. Then let her close her mouth and gently hold it closed. Lift her jaw and rub her throat to stimulate the swallowing reflex. Once you’re sure she’s swallowed, check to make sure. If she has, release her from the towel and pet and praise her or give her a treat for good behavior.
4. Watch Out For Side Effects
Keep in mind that no matter what de-worming medications your vet recommends, you’re effectively poisoning those worms to kill them. The only positive about putting these poisons into your kitty is that they’re more deadly to the worms than they are to your cat. So you shouldn’t see too many side effects. And if you do, discuss them with your vet immediately.
You should watch out for diarrhea and vomiting. While these responses aren’t pleasant, they may not be serious reactions. Discuss possible side effects with your vet before giving them their medicines so you’re prepared. Anything like seizures, difficulty breathing or lethargy are more serious reactions that should never happen in response her medications.
5. Prevent Future Problems
While there are several possible methods for your cat to contract worms, the biggest risk remains from fleas. As such, you’ll do best to make sure your home, yard, and cat remain flea-free. There are several ways to make sure you’re preventing a flea outbreak, but keeping up on a monthly topical solution may be your easiest bet.
You may also consider minimizing (or eliminating) your cat’s time outside. The more time they spend outside the more likely it is that they will pick up worms; either through picking up fleas or through hunting. Finally, you’ll need to make sure you’re keeping up on cleaning your litter box. That means scooping out the waste daily and completely dumping and replacing the litter frequently. Wash the box out between one to two times a week, depending on your cat’s waste. To make maintaining a litter box easier on you, you may want to consider a Litter Genie.
In your concern for your kitty, you want to make sure you’re keeping in mind that worms are definitely transmittable to humans. So protect yourself and your kids; always take precautions when handling their waste or petting them. The best way to protect yourself, though, is always be confident that your cat is worm free; and doing that means keeping on top of prevention, diagnosis and treatment.