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How do cats get intestinal worms?

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Intestinal worms are a common problem for cats – but where do they come from?
How do cats get intestinal worms?
Cat grooming in sunlight
How do cats get intestinal worms?

Cats can potentially pick up several types of intestinal worms during their life, but the most common are roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms. These parasites can cause a range of health issues – but how do cats get worms in the first place?

From eating worm eggs released in infected animals’ faeces

Cats infested with roundworms pass microscopic eggs in their faeces. These eggs can leach into the surrounding environment, like the soil in your garden, where they can survive for years. If your cat accidentally eats these eggs, for example, if they walk over contaminated ground and then groom and lick their feet, they can develop a new roundworm infection. In the case of hookworm, eggs on the ground hatch,

releasing larvae which can be swallowed by your cat, and can result in a hookworm infection.

From fleas 

The most common way for a cat to get tapeworms is by eating infected fleas carrying the larval form of the worm. It is estimated that a cat will ingest around 50 percent of any fleas present during grooming – so fleas carrying tapeworm larvae will often end up in their gut.

From hunting 

Rodents, birds, lizards and other small animals can be infected with the larval stages of roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms. If cats ingest all or part of these animals while hunting or scavenging, they can become infected too.

From the mother’s milk 

Unfortunately, it’s easy for kittens to get worms before they leave the comfort of their home, as infected mothers can pass roundworm larvae to their kittens via their milk. Because kittens are so small and vulnerable, this can be particularly dangerous, causing diarrhoea, vomiting, and poor weight gain.

From larvae penetrating the skin

In the case of hookworm, after the eggs on the ground release larvae, these larvae can crawl through the skin to access the deeper tissues.

Treating your cat for worms

Maintaining a regular worming schedule can save your cat from health issues and discomfort. There are several types of worming treatments available.

Preventing worms in your cat 

It's important to understand that most wormers are treatments only, which means that they kill adult worms present in your cat at the time of treatment, but they do not persist in the body and cannot offer any ongoing protection. Advocate is different, it not only kills worms at the time of treatment, but when given monthly, as directed, it is also able to keep on working to prevent new worm infestations between treatments.

Did you know? 

Unfortunately, cats can pass worms to their owners – but pets aren’t the only potential cause of worms in humans. In some parts of the world, people can contract the guinea worm by drinking contaminated water that contains water fleas infected with guinea worm larvae. Once swallowed, guinea worm larvae migrate through the intestinal wall, mature into adults and the females migrate into the skin over the course of the next year or so. The worm causes a burning sensation under the skin, causing the infected person to dunk the burning body part into water. Once in contact with water, the worm releases thousands of new larvae that can potentially infect more people.

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