Cat standing in litter box

Key takeaway

Finding worms in cat poop can be alarming, but it can also help pet parents realize their cat is unhealthy. Tapeworms, roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms are common intestinal worms that affect many cats.

Worms In Cat Poop: What To Do

Cats can contract worms at any point in their lives. Unfortunately, finding out your cat has worms can be unpleasant because it likely means you physically see them in your cat's droppings. Seeing worms in your cat's stool can be scary, but there are various ways to safely and effectively treat worms in cats. Additionally, pet parents can choose to prevent worms in cats. This article will discuss everything you need to know about worms in cat poop, including the common types of worms and treatment. 

What Do Worms Look Like In Cat Poop?

Many different types of worms can affect cats. The most common intestinal worms that will come out in your cat's poop include: 

Tapeworms 

Tapeworms are one of the most common intestinal worms you might find in your cat's poop. They typically have long, flat bodies that resemble a ribbon. Tapeworms typically live in the small intestine and absorb nutrients from food eaten by the cat. Additionally, pieces of the tapeworm break off and end up in cat stool. You may even find tapeworms near your cat's tail or rectum. Tapeworms look like grains of rice that can stretch when they're fresh or will dry up to resemble sesame seeds.1

Roundworms

Roundworms affect up to 75% of cats and are three to five inches long and light-colored, usually a creamy white hue, and resemble spaghetti noodles. Roundworms survive by eating food that your cat ingests, and female worms produce eggs that are passed through your cat's poop, making it easy to infect another cat.1

While most cats don't have any symptoms of roundworms other than passing them in their stool, kittens are the most likely to show symptoms, which include vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. Roundworm infections can be life-threatening, so infection needs to be treated as soon as possible. 

Hookworms 

Hookworms are thin worms often shaped like a hook and are less than half an inch long. They feed on your cat's blood. Unfortunately, hookworms are some of the hardest worms to spot in cat poop because they're so small. Hookworms can live for many years, but they're less common than roundworms. 

Typically, adult cats become infected by ingesting hookworm larvae that will develop into adult worms in the intestines. Common symptoms of hookworm infections include diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia due to blood loss.  Additionally, even though your cat's poop may not have any visible worms in it, the feces will look tarry because the cat is digesting their own blood.1

Whipworms

Whipworms are typically ¼ of an inch in length and are rarer than tapeworms in cats. Adult whipworms live in the large intestine and typically don't carry disease, although they can cause diarrhea.Because they're so small, they will likely not be visible to the naked eye, making them slightly more difficult to diagnose than other types of intestinal worms. Instead, whipworms can cause bloody stool and weight loss. 

Signs of Worms 

Some worms are visible in the stool, but you should also be aware of any other signs of worms in cats because worms may not always come out in your cat's poop. Signs of worms include:

  • Visible Worms: While the first sign of worms might be seeing them in your cat's stool, you may also see whole worms, parts of worms, or eggs in their vomit. You may also see worms around their fur or on their tail. 
  • Change in Coat: Cats who are infested with worms are losing valuable nutrients to those worms, which you may be able to see in their coat. Typically cats with worms have duller coats or hair loss, but that's not always the case. 
  • Vomiting: Worms don't only cause diarrhea; they can also cause vomiting. While cats vomit quite frequently, vomiting more than usual could be an indication of a worm infestation.
  • Poop Changes: Cats with worms typically experience changes in their stool and bowel movements. For example, dark stool might indicate that your cat is ingesting blood due to an infestation. Additionally, worms can cause diarrhea. 
  • Hunger: Cats with worms are experiencing nutrient loss that's being stolen by the worms, so they might have an increased appetite as your cat's body tries to get the nutrients it needs.

How To Treat Worms In Cats

Treatment of worms in cats depends on the diagnosis. Your vet will examine your pet's stool with a microscope to confirm the presence of worms or eggs. However, some worms cannot be easily detected. For example, whipworms may not show up in stool examinations because passing eggs occurs on an irregular basis, so not every stool sample will have eggs in it. 

Treatment for worms in cats typically requires medication.1 Even though your vet needs to determine what type of worm your cat has, they are all treated similarly. Most intestinal worms can be resolved with a single dose of dewormer or a short course of medication. Unfortunately, some worms are more difficult to treat than others. For example, hookworms have longer treatment courses than tapeworms. 

Tapeworms 

Tapeworms rarely cause disease in cats, but they should still be treated to ensure your cat is getting all the nutrients they need. Cats typically become infected with tapeworms by ingesting infected fleas. Luckily, tapeworms can be treated with medications. However, reinfection is fairly common in cats.The best way to protect your cat from tapeworms is to prevent fleas. Fortunately, there are many options for preventing fleas that you can have prescribed by your vet, including a flea collar, spray, or even oral preventative medication, which can also help reduce the risk of tapeworm reinfection. 

Roundworms

Roundworm infections can become life-threatening due to anemia. Infection should be treated as soon as possible. Luckily, there are several medications available to treat roundworm infections in cats. However, you can also prevent infection by reducing your cat's exposure to the feces of other cats that might be infected. 

Hookworms 

Hookworms can be fatal to cats because they feed on their blood and can cause extensive blood loss.Hookworms can be easily diagnosed and treated with medication. Additionally, you should clean your cat's litter box daily to prevent reinfection.

Whipworms

Whipworms are typically treated with medication. However, reinfection is common, so you may have to treat your cat again every few months. Additionally, heartworm medication can help prevent whipworms and other types of worms in cats. 

While medication can help remove worms in cats, you should also find ways to prevent recurring infections. Always follow your vet's instructions for administering your cat's medication. Additionally, keep your cat's litter box clean and wash it with a disinfectant to remove worms while using preventative measures, such as heartworm medication and flea prevention, to stop worms from infecting or reinfecting your cat. 

Of course, it's always best to prevent intestinal worms in cats before they occur. You can keep your pet on worm prevention medication year-round to ensure you won't ever find worms in their poop. Your cat's veterinarian can tell you about the options you have for preventing worm infestations in your cat. Additionally, it's always best to keep your indoor cats inside to prevent them from coming into contact with feces from an infected cat. 

Worms In Cat Poop: FAQs

What are the little white worms in my cat's poop?

Small white worms in your cat's feces are most likely tapeworms or another type of common intestinal worm. Tapeworms typically look like small, dry grains of rice or seeds in your cat's poop, on their body, or where they spend most of their time. If you find any worms near your cat or in their feces, take them to the vet as soon as possible for treatment. 

Is it normal for cats to have worms in their poop?

Intestinal worms are common in cats, but they're not healthy. Luckily, they're easy to treat, and most cats can fully recover. If you find worms in your cat's poop, take them to the vet for treatment and prevent reinfection at home by cleaning their litter box with a disinfectant. 

Can humans get tapeworms from cats?

It is possible to get tapeworms from cats, but the risk of infection is low. However, humans can accidentally ingest larvae that have passed through your pet's feces. Even though the risk of infection from cat to human is rare, it’s always best to disinfect your home after your cat has been diagnosed with worms to help prevent reinfection or the infection of other cats and humans. 

Cat owner cleaning up litter box

Final Notes

Many types of worms can show up in your cat's poop. Some are more harmful than others and can be fatal if not treated. While seeing worms in your cat's poop can be scary, it's often the first symptom many pet parents see before taking their cats to the vet for worms. 

Unfortunately, many cats can have intestinal worms without showing symptoms, so it's important to take your cat to the vet every year so they can be screened. A fecal test should be part of your pet's annual wellness exam to help identify the presence of tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms before they start causing your cat distress. 

Finally, it's always best (and cheaper) to prevent your cat from getting worms in the first place. Ultimately, preventing worms in cats is easier than treating them, although treatment typically only involves medication. There are many different ways to prevent worms in cats, including year-round preventative medication. 

Dutch can help you find the best medication to help treat and prevent worms in cats. Dutch's telemedicine for pets provides you with access to a vet any time of day from the comfort of your own home to help you take care of your pet without causing them stress by going to the vet. 

A Dutch veterinarian can help you find the right treatment options and preventative medications to ensure your pet's worms are gone for good. If your cat is experiencing any other symptoms of worms in cats, we can help treat that, too, to ensure a healthy and happy recovery.

References

  1. “Gastrointestinal Parasites of Cats.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 21 Nov. 2019, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/gastrointestinal-parasites-cats.