Worming your Cat

By Dr. Francesca Matthews


When we talk about ‘worms’ in pets we are not talking about the common garden earth worm, but specialised worms that have developed to thrive in the intestines and other organs of our family pets.


Cats are affected by a number of worms. They should be regularly treated to ensure freedom from infection and to reduce the potential for disease spread to humans


In this article we will mention each of the worms we wish to control, followed by a recommended worming programme.




Infestation with roundworms can cause symptoms of lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation, poor growth rate, dull coats, a pot belly appearance and coughing.


Kittens become infected by eating larvae present in the mother’s faeces, from contaminated bedding or through their mothers milk. As kittens grow and start hunting, they can become infected by eating birds, rodents and other insects which can carry the larvae. They can also ingest larvae from grooming themselves or other cats.


Mother cats should be kept up to date with worming throughout pregnancy and lactation and kittens should be wormed regularly from 2 weeks of age.

See the section on zoonoses regarding the zoonotic potential of roundworms.





These worms can cause severe illness in kittens and adult cats. This is because they attach to the walls of the animals' intestines and feed on their blood. This can cause anaemia, weakness, and even death in severe infections.


The hookworm is passed in the mother's milk to the kitten. The infective stages also live in the ground, and contact with infected ground surfaces also spreads the disease. Regular worming is essential to control hookworm.

See section on zoonoses regarding the zoonotic potential of hookworms.




Fleas transmit the common cat tapeworms when cats ingest fleas during grooming. They are also spread by cats eating rodents which carry the larva. Illness associated with tapeworms is rare.


However, tapeworm segments look like grains of rice and are found by the cat’s anus. The segments can drop off, and are often found on the owners bed or couch where the cat sleeps, which because of the ‘yuck’ factor, can be a problem for the owner.


To ensure freedom from tapeworms, cats need to be treated with products containing praziquantal. These can only be purchased from your veterinary clinic.


Recommended Worming Programmes


Important to note:


  1. You must have an accurate weight for your cat prior to worming to ensure the correct dosage is given. This will give the maximum effect and minimise the risk of the development of worms that are resistant to treatment.
  2. Make sure the wormer being used is effective against the worms it needs to be effective against. Not all animal worm treatments are created equal.
  3. Regular worming should be carried out throughout the entire life of your cat. This is to ensure your cat remains disease free and also to minimise the chances of zoonotic disease caused by round and hook worms to be passed on to humans.


General Guidelines:


Kittens should be treated every 2 weeks from ages 2 - 12 weeks. The wormer must be effective against both roundworms and hookworms.


From 3 months of age all cats should be wormed every 3 - 6 months depending on your cat's exposure. For example an indoor cat will need less worming than an outdoor cat that is a great hunter. Please discuss with us the requirements of your cat.


Good news for owners of cats that are impossible to pill!


There is now a product, called 'Profender' available from us that ensures your cat stays free of gastrointestinal worms. This product is the only one on the market that is in a 'topspot' formulation, allowing you to worm your cats without getting bitten! Contact us for more details.


A note about combination flea and worm products:


Some of the newer generation flea products on the market provide worming for your cats as well as flea treatment. If you are using these products you need to be aware that you will not be keeping them 100% free of tapeworms. A separate wormer is required to ensure these are controlled. Discuss this with us.


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