Dogs and cats, among other animals, are common victims to intestinal parasites that are commonly called worms. Parasites are any organism that feeds off another organism. As unpleasant as it sounds, intestinal parasites are very common. In the case of dogs and cats, intestinal parasites make their way into the digestive system of their host, where they feed off the nutrition the host is getting.
How did my cat get worms?
Worms are common in the environment, so that makes them easy for a cat to pick up. Believe it or not, even an indoor cat can get worms. 1-800-PetMeds says they are so common that kittens can even be born with worms because they get them from their mother! In that case, if the mother cat has worms, they pass into the kittens while they are still in the womb.
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They can also be passed to kittens through the mother cat's milk. An outdoor cat can encounter worms through contact with infected feces left by other animals. Since many rodents have worms, if a cat eats an infected rodent, the cat can become a new host for the worm. If one of your cats goes outside then gets infected, then returns to the house to use the litter box, they may leave infected eggs that other cats in your household could pick up.
A flea infestation can also play a role in transmitting worms to your indoor cats. As cats groom themselves, they can eat a flea egg, or ingest a flea larvae, which can pass the worms into their own bodies. There are three common worms: roundworms, tapeworms, and heartworms.
The American Heartworm Society explains that dogs are the natural and most common host for heartworms, but cats can get them too. As their name suggests, heartworms actually live in the host's heart, where they can cause lung problems and other serious organ problems. In cats, heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed because it is uncommon. Heartworms are commonly transmitted through mosquitoes, which deposit microscopic baby worms into the host's bloodstream.
Animal Planet says cats can encounter a few different types of roundworms, usually through eating infected rodents or even cockroaches. Kittens get it from the milk of their infected mothers. Roundworm is hard on a cat's body—an untreated infection can kill a kitten. If the infestation continues long enough, the worms can migrate to the liver, bloodstream, and lungs.
Roundworms are white, cylindrical, and pointed at both ends. These worms look like grains of rice and can be seen exiting your cat's body on their rear-end or in their feces.
An outdoor cat can easily encounter tapeworms, which are a common type of worm to affect cats according to Quality Cat Care. Eating uncooked meat, usually from a rodent that they catch, or an infected flea is the easiest way for cats tog et tapeworms. Once the worm is consumed, it attaches to the cat's intestinal wall and begins to hang out, absorbing nutrients from the cat's digestive system.
Eggs produced by the tapeworm pass out in the cat's stool. Again, you can see worm segments or their eggs on the cat's rear-end or on their stool. As their name suggests, tapeworm are flat and rectangularly shaped small white worms. Dried eggs can look like a grain of rice or a sesame seed.
A less common worm in cats, but one that is more common in humid, tropical areas, is hookworm. Infestation occurs in the usual ways. Larvae can also penetrate the skin, especially around the toes, and migrate to the small intestine. Quality Cat Care says to check your cat for hookworm on a regular basis if you live in an area where this parasite is common.
Can I get worms from petting my cat?
Car World says that yes, people can get worms from cats, but getting worms just from petting is not likely. Roundworm eggs live in soil, so touching soil contaminated by roundworms (and then putting your hands in your mouth) can transmit them to you. Handling infected feces is another way they can be transmitted. They also say that infection is more common in children than adults. This could be because children may come into contact with infected cat feces, and the not wash their hands.
Cat World says human infestation of tapeworms is rare, thank goodness! For us to become infected, we have to swallow a flea infected with tapeworm. My Healthy Cat proposes similar information: It is possible for humans to get worms from cats, but you would have to ingest the eggs of this parasite somehow.
Can I get worms from kissing my cat?
Even though worms are common, they are internal parasites, which means that for the most part they live inside their host. Touching and even kissing your cat's body can be considered low-risk, as long as you're not putting your hands or mouth near their rear end. If you know your cat has worms, take some extra precautions and wash your hands more often and avoid touching your face after petting them.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.