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How to Deworm a Cat

Cat neck being scratched

Fact checked by a Hello Ralphie expert veterinarian

Your veterinarian will recommend regular deworming for your cat depending on its risk level for contracting intestinal parasites. The number of times you’ll need to deworm your feline friend will depend on the cat’s particular lifestyle, as well as the area in which you live.

Climate, temperature, and local wildlife also play a role in determining your cat’s risk level. Cats that spend a significant amount of time outdoors, or those that tend to prey on animals such as rodents, have a higher risk level for contracting an intestinal parasite. The likelihood that your cat will develop intestinal worms if it strictly lives indoors is low, but it’s not impossible.

How Could My Cat Get Worms?

Most intestinal parasites that impact cats are transmitted through the consumption of prey. Transmission can also occur if the cat consumes food that’s been contaminated with the feces of infected animals.

Kittens can contract various parasites through their mother’s milk, or even via placental transmission. Some species of tapeworm can even pass to your cat if it accidentally ingests fleas.

The fact that fleas can transfer worms is part of the reason why outdoor cats have a much higher likelihood of developing an infection. The parasites live in the intestine of your cat and absorb their nutrients.

Most intestinal parasites will lay eggs inside the host animal, which are then passed through the feces. The infected animal’s feces will then become contagious to any mammal that eats even trace amounts of it. Racoons, rabbits, and small rodents like mice commonly carry worms.

Can I Get Worms from My Cat?

Some worm infections are transmissible to humans. Make sure you wash your hands after playing with your cat if you suspect that he or she might have intestinal worms.

The litter box should also be frequently cleaned and disinfected to reduce any risk of transmission. Contact your family physician if you have concerns that you may have contracted intestinal worms from your cat.

Cat in the House

How Do I Know if My Cat Has Worms?

A Hello Ralphie veterinarian can provide you with advice about your cat’s risk of developing an intestinal worm infection. If your cat does have worms, they can also help address the issue.

Fecal Sample Tests

A veterinarian may recommend submitting a fecal sample for testing. This is performed on a sample of your cat’s feces to identify the presence of intestinal worm eggs.

A positive fecal sample means your cat has adult worms. Fecal tests will also check for any other parasites. Depending on the species, treatment for these other parasites may require separate medication.

Other clinical signs of potential intestinal worm infections include abdominal bloat, increased hunger that doesn’t translate to weight gain, and abnormal lethargy. Read “Why is my cat losing weight?” here.

Sometimes a cat may even vomit live worms. But if you’re unsure if your cat has intestinal parasites, speak with a veterinarian. A Hello Ralphie veterinarian can provide a virtual consult and advice regarding your concerns.

How Do I Deworm My Cat?

The safest and most effective way to deworm your cat is with a deworming medication prescribed by a veterinarian.

A Hello Ralphie consult can help you determine which approach is best for your cat. Most deworming medications are administered orally or topically.

Oral Medications

The medications are available in both tablet and liquid forms. Some medications will be combined with other parasite preventives, which can safeguard against fleas, ticks, and more.

Oral deworming medications are usually easier to administer if they’re given with food. If your cat is a picky eater, a pill pocket – soft, hollow treats that conceal capsules or tablets – can be used to deliver the medication.

Deworming medications can also be administered with a pill gun, syringe, or by mixing them into soft food.

Topical Medications

Topical medications are relatively easy to administer. They’re usually oil based and applied on the back of the cat’s neck.

To apply a topical deworming medication, part the cat’s fur so the crease of their skin is exposed, then squirt the vial’s contents directly onto the skin. It’s important the cat doesn’t get wet within 24 hours of the topical medication being applied.

Topical deworming medications also often treat and prevent for multiple other parasites. Speak to a Hello Ralphie veterinarian about this option if you’re interested in flea and other forms of prevention. Remember, some intestinal parasites, such as tapeworms, can be transmitted by fleas. A combination of flea and worm preventatives could be an effective safeguard for your cat.

Cat in the Basket

How Often Should I Deworm My Cat?

Kittens are dewormed more frequently that older cats, as they tend to be at a higher risk of contracting intestinal parasites from their mother and littermates.

Kittens generally receive their first dose of deworming medication around four weeks of age. They’re then dewormed about every two weeks until they’re at least three months old. Depending on your veterinarian’s advice, this plan may need to be adjusted to suit your kitten’s particular situation.

Adult cats should be dewormed at least once per year. Again, frequency will depend on the cat’s particular risk level. A veterinarian is the best source to determine how often your cat should be dewormed.

In some cases, fecal tests run the risk of giving false-negative results, so it’s always best to speak with your veterinarian regarding deworming and come up with an approach that’s best for your particular cat’s needs.

A Hello Ralphie veterinarian can help you decide which route is best for worm prevention.

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  1. […] If your cat frequently goes outside, interacts with other cats, or hunts rodents, they may be at risk of catching fleas more than indoor cats, although indoor only cats are still at risk. A Hello Ralphie veterinarian can help you decide the frequency of which you should be applying flea treatments to your cat as well as provide you personalized flea product recommendations. Think your cat may have worms? […]

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