Cats are susceptible to a plethora of parasites, including nematodes, cestodes, and trematodes.
These parasites are often referred to as worms.
The worms that affect cats can be divided by their location in the host in two major groups – intestinal worms and non-intestinal worms.
The different types of worms
• Roundworms or Ascarids (Toxocara cati & Toxocara leonina) – Long, thin and pointed, roundworms are the most common intestinal parasite in cats, regardless of age.
Roundworms look a lot like the worms found in our yards and gardens.
• Tapeworms (Taenia spp. & Dipylidium caninum) – These flatworms are particularly long and built of several different segments.
Each segment contains worm eggs.
Tapeworms are more commonly seen in older cats.
• Hookworms (Ancylostoma spp. & Uncinaria spp.) – As the name suggests itself, hookworms have powerful hooks which they use to hook on the lining of the cat’s intestines
They are small and look like half-inch long threads.
• Whipworms (Trichuris spp.) – They have a thin, whip-like front end and a thicker back end. Whipworms are rarely seen in cats.
• Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) – The Heartworm is a filarial worm that resides in the cat’s pulmonary artery. Heartworms are much more common in dogs. However, cats can also be affected.
• Subcutaneous worms (Dirofilaria repens) – This parasite resides under the skin, where it forms small nodules. Although rare, these subcutaneous worms are worth mentioning.
• Lung worms (Aelurostrongylus abstrusus) – They reside in the cat’s airways and unfortunately, are quite common.
• Eye worms (Thelazia californiensis) – Eye worms can be found in the cat’s tear ducts and between the eye and its protective eyelids. Eye worms are not very common in cats.
The Different Routes Of Worm Transmission
The means of worm transmission varies from one type to another.
Generally speaking, the majority of worms are shed in the environment through the feces.
Therefore, it can safely be assumed that the most common way of worm infestation in cats is by ingesting feces of infected felines.
Alternatively, the way of an infestation can be by coming into contact with objects contaminated with feces from infected cats.
Kittens usually get worms from their mothers.
It is an interesting fact that certain types of worms can pass through the placenta and infect the unborn kittens.
This way of an infestation is known as prenatal infection.
Young kittens can also become infected by suckling milk from infected mothers.
Some worms can be secreted via the milk.
Vectors And Intermediate Hosts
Certain types of worms need a vector or intermediate host.
A vector or an intermediate host is an animal necessary for certain phases of the worm’s cycle.
The most common intermediate hosts are organisms such as rodents, birds, mosquitoes, and fleas.
A cat can get worms if she swallows infected fleas during grooming, if she gets bitten by an infected mosquito or if she hunts and preys on infected birds and rodents.
Last but not least, food plays a significant role when it comes to worm transmission and worm infestation.
Undercooked meat and irregularly processed meat products, if previously contaminated with worms, can serve as a means of transmission.
Generally speaking, commercially available wet cat foods found in pet stores and supermarkets are worms-free and safe for consumption.
This is because those wet foods undergo strict preparing regulations and are carefully tested before being released for sale.
On the other hand, when preparing your cat’s wet food at home, the chances of transiting worms are much higher.
This is because undercooked ingredients can serve as infestation sources.
As upsetting as it sounds, it is essential to know that at some point in your cat’s life, he/she will undoubtedly be affected by worms.
It is an inevitable part of feline life.
It should be well emphasized that some worms are capable of crossing the species barrier.
This means that they can be transmitted to or from other household pets (ex. dogs) and even humans.
To protect your cat, yourself, and the rest of your pet babies, you have to deworm your cat regularly.
Commercially available wet cat foods cannot serve as a source of worms, and therefore cats cannot get worms from them.
However, home-prepared wet cat foods, if inadequately prepared and previously contaminated with worms, can serve as a source.
Therefore, if preparing your cat’s meals at home and your own, you need to make sure all ingredients are adequately prepared and well-cooked.