white and black cat with eyes closed being scratched on head

How Often Should You Worm Your Cat?

LAST UPDATED October 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Katelyn Bailey BVSc (Hons)

As a cat owner, you want to ensure your furry friend is healthy and happy. One common concern is intestinal parasites, which can cause a variety of health issues in cats. You might be wondering, "How often should I worm my cat?"

Intestinal worms can cause serious health problems for your pet and even human family members. Left untreated, an infection with these parasites can lead to weight loss, diarrhoea, and in some cases severe signs like anaemia. Even worse, your cat might look perfectly healthy on the outside, making it easy to overlook the internal struggle against these parasites.

So, what's the best course of action? Regular deworming treatments are the key to ensuring your feline friend's health and safeguarding your family.

In this article, we'll guide you through:
• Why worming is crucial
• How often you should do it
• The different types of treatments available and much more.

Why should you deworm your cat regularly?

Health implications for your cat

Once infected, cats can show any or all of the following signs:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhoea (sometimes with blood)
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Pale gums
  • Pot-bellied appearance
  • Rougher, duller coat
  • Stunted growth (if kitten)

Worms may also be visible in the stool or around the anus.

Cats with mild worm burdens may not show any physical symptoms, but remain infective and can develop signs over time.

In more severe cases, an intestinal worm burden can give rise to serious health issues for your cat. Diarrhoea and vomiting can both lead to dehydration and lack of nutrient absorption. If anaemia develops, this can cause a profound weakness and also puts added stress on the heart and lungs. If left untreated, severe intestinal worm infestations can even result in death- particularly in young kittens.

Preventing re-infection

Keeping your cat up to date with regular cat worming prevention at appropriate intervals is a vital component of breaking the parasitic life cycle and preventing re-infection. Regular deworming will kill and eliminate any worms your cat may ingest, therefore preventing eggs from being laid and stopping the life cycle in its tracks.

Regular treatment is essential to help keep your cat worm-free, as they will continually be at risk for reinfection due to their natural behaviours of roaming, grooming, and hunting.

Human Safety

Some intestinal worms that infect cats, such as hookworm and roundworm, are zoonotic. This means they can also infect and cause disease in humans- especially young, elderly, pregnant or immunocompromised individuals. Possible consequences of human infection include migration of the larvae into organs such as the liver, skin, nervous system, or even the eyes, which can lead to irreversible organ damage.

While maintaining good hygiene with regular hand washing and frequent litter tray cleaning is important, regular intestinal deworming plays a crucial role in reducing the risk of zoonotic transmission.

What type of worms do you need to protect against?

white kitten looking at camera

Roundworms

These are the most common intestinal parasites in cats, and are long and round with an appearance resembling spaghetti. A single female adult roundworm can shed up to 200,000 eggs per day in the faeces of infected cats, and these eggs can survive in the environment for several years. Cats can become infected with roundworm in the following ways:
• Through ingesting worm eggs from the soil, or through normal grooming
• Consuming a prey animal, often a rodent, carrying worm larvae
• Nursing from an infected mother cat (a common route of transmission for kittens)

Hookworms

Hookworms inflict damage to the intestine where they attach and feed on the cat's blood. In extreme cases this blood-feeding parasite can cause fatal anaemia, particularly in young kittens. Transmission to cats can occur through various means:
• Ingestion of larvae from the environment
• Ingestion of prey animals containing infective larvae in their tissues
• Infection can also occur through larval penetration of the cat's skin
• Nursing from an infected mother cat

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are named for their flat ribbon-like bodies. Sometimes you may be unfortunate enough to notice moving worm segments in your cat's faeces or the fur around their bottom. Cats become infected with tapeworm when they ingest an intermediate host infested with these parasites. The type of intermediate host varies with the different tapeworm species.

For example:
• Dipylidium caninum (the flea tapeworm) infestation occurs when cats ingest an infected flea during grooming.
• Taenia taeniaeformis (the cat tapeworm) infestation occurs when cats prey on and consume rats, mice or hares infested with this parasite.

Recommended Worming Schedules

cat being examined by vet

Adult Cats

Roundworm and hookworm

The Australian Companion Animal Zoonoses Advisory Panel recommends monthly deworming (and year-round flea control) for adult cats, regardless of whether or not they have outdoor access. This approach helps lessen the zoonotic risk associated with these parasites. Many 'all in one' products are given monthly and will protect against these worms.

Tapeworm

Cats that spend time outdoors or who prey or scavenge on rodents are at an increased risk for tapeworm infection and therefore monthly tapeworm coverage is recommended. For low-risk adult cats, tapeworm prevention can be given every 3 months.

Kittens

Roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm

Kittens should be dewormed every 2 weeks from 2 to 12 weeks of age. If you have adopted a new kitten and are unsure when they were last dewormed, it's recommended to double check with the rescue or breeder you got them from, and give worming prevention immediately if they are not up to date or if they have an unknown parasite prevention history. After twelve weeks of age, kittens should be dewormed monthly as per the schedule for adult cats.

Pregnant and Nursing Cats

Roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm

While all forms of parasite prevention are important for cats during pregnancy and lactation, deworming is particularly vital due to the risk of transmission to the kittens. As a general rule, pregnant and lactating cats should be dewormed every 3 weeks during the pregnancy, and up until the kittens have been weaned.

It's important to ensure the product you use is safe for pregnancy and lactation, and to also check with your veterinarian as to whether they recommend any specific instructions for parasite prevention given your cat's lifestyle and risk of infection.

For more information on parasite prevention during pregnancy, take a look at our Pregnant Cat Guide.

What types of worming preventatives are available for cats?

spot on parasite preventative being applied to cat

Spot-ons

Spot-on parasite prevention for cats is by far the most convenient and popular option for cat owners. Cats can be notoriously difficult to tablet, and applying a topical spot-on to the skin on the back of the neck is overall a much simpler process.

To make things even more convenient, there are multiple 'all in one' spot-on products available that, along with intestinal worms, also cover other parasites of importance such as fleas, ticks and heartworm, making it easy to keep your kitty up to date with everything needed.

Always make sure to carefully check the packaging for what parasites are covered, and how often the product needs to be applied. Many spot-ons that cover intestinal worms will need to be reapplied monthly.

It's also important to be aware that most spot-on products, with the exception of Nexgard Spectra for Cats and Profender, do not cover tapeworm so separate coverage for tapeworm will be needed.

Our top recommendations for topical intestinal worming products for cats:

Tablets

There are no 'all in one' oral preventatives available for cats, making them a much less convenient option when compared to spot-ons. That being said, there are multiple tablet options that prevent and treat tapeworm, which is not covered by the majority of spot-on products.

While a tapeworm-only tablet can be purchased from your veterinarian, many owners find it easier to give an allwormer tablet that covers tapeworm in combination with a regular all in one spot-on.

Again, always make sure to carefully check the packaging for what parasites are covered, and how often the product needs to be given.

Our top recommendations for oral intestinal worming products for cats:

Is it necessary to deworm indoor cats?

burmilla cat resting on bed

Yes. Many assume that if their cat remains indoors, the risk of intestinal worm infection is low. However, indoor cats are still vulnerable to parasites through a few different avenues.

Worm eggs can be inadvertently carried indoors on shoes, clothing or other pets. Additionally, cats can acquire tapeworm indirectly via fleas carried inside by outdoor pets or through activities like hunting lizards or rodents. Roundworms and tapeworms can also be transmitted to cats through the consumption of undercooked or raw meat or consuming pests such as small rodents which may enter the home.

What about heartworm prevention for cats?

It's important to be aware that some 'allwormers' targeted at intestinal worms do not cover your cat for heartworm. Always make sure you read the label carefully to see what your preventative product covers and check out Heartworm Facts Every Pet Owner Should Know for more information.

In conclusion

There are a lot of products on the market these days, many covering different parasites, and finding the best combination for your cat can get confusing very quickly! If you have any questions about the right products for your cat, or want to ensure your current regime is covering them for everything they need, make sure to ask your veterinarian or reach out to a Pet Circle Vet via live chat or email.

Further Reading

How do cats get worms?

Flea, tick and worming guide for cats

The scoop on your cat's poop

How to pill a cat

Worms in cats

Can indoor cats get fleas?

What is the best flea and tick treatment for cats?

Your cat's digestive system explained