How to spot if your cat has worms?


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr. Angie Armstrong, BVSc

It's not always a topic we like to think about, but worms in our pets are important parasites for Australian cat parents to understand. This is due to a number of reasons but one being that some worms are zoonotic, meaning they can be spread from your cat to you! Even indoor cats are at risk of contracting worms and other parasites.

Although worms can lead to serious illness this is easy to prevent with regular treatment. Read on to learn more about these unwanted parasites and learn how to keep your cat purr-fectly worm-free!

What Type of Worms Can My Cat Get?

In Australia, there are three main types of worms your can cat can get, these include:

  1. Intestinal worms- worms that live in the gastrointestinal tract including roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm
  2. Heartworm - worms that live in the heart and blood vessels
  3. Lungworm - worms that live in the lungs of cats
Did you know that NexGard SPECTRA Spot-On for Cats offers protection against all these worms as well as protection for deadly paralysis ticks, fleas and mites!

1. Intestinal worms


Roundworms, the most common intestinal parasite in cats, 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 infested cats, and these eggs can survive in the environment for several years. Cats can become infested with roundworm in various ways:

  1. Through ingesting worm eggs from the soil, generally through normal grooming
  2. Consuming a prey animal, often a rodent, carrying worm larvae
  3. Nursing from an infected mother cat (a common route of transmission for kittens)


These nasty critters can inflict damage to the intestine where they attach and feed on the cat's blood. In extreme cases this blood-feeding parasite can lead to fatal blood loss, particularly in young kittens. Transmission to cats can occur through various means:

  1. Ingestion of larvae from the environment
  2. Ingestion of prey animals containing infective larvae in their tissues
  3. Infection can also occur through larval penetration of the cat's skin
  4. Nursing from an infected queen


Tapeworms are so named for their flat ribbon-like bodies. The worms reside in the cat's gut and feed off the nutrients in there. Some cats may display no symptoms at all but others may exhibit mild signs of infestation. Sometimes you may be unfortunate enough to notice motile worm segments in your cats’ faeces or the fur around their bottom. Cats become infested 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:

  1. Dipylidium caninum (the flea tapeworm) infestation occurs when cats ingest an infected flea during grooming.
  2. Taenia taeniaeformis (the cat tapeworm) infestation occurs when cats prey on and consume rodents or birds infested with this parasite.

2. Heartworm

Unlike dogs, cats are not the natural host of heartworm; however they can still contract the infection through a mosquito.The cat's effective immune system usually fights the infection. Many cats won’t show symptoms however if symptoms do arise, they may include coughing, lack of appetite, or weight loss. Unfortunately in some cats the first sign that may be seen is sudden death.

3. Lungworm

These parasites are typically transmitted through slugs, snails, often reaching cats when they hunt and consume an animal, such as a rodent or bird, that has ingested an infected mollusk or earthworm. Outdoor cats with hunting tendencies face the highest risk of contracting this parasite. While some cats can live with a high worm burden, others may exhibit respiratory signs like coughing, wheezing and breathing difficulties.

How Do I Know If My Cat Has Worms?

Common signs of intestinal worms:

  • Your cat has diarrhoea (sometimes with blood)
  • Worms, or worm segments, visible in your cat's stool or around anus
  • Weight loss
  • Distended (pot-bellied) tummy
  • Your cat is vomiting or regurgitating
  • Weakness
  • Anaemia
  • Dull coat
  • No signs (many infected cats may not display any symptoms)*

It is important to note that your cat might not show any symptoms at all, and evidence of worms may not always appear in their faeces.

  1. In certain rare instances, your cat may actually vomit up a worm, in which case it's advisable to take the expelled worm to your veterinarian for identification.
  2. You may also spot worm segments in the faeces
  3. However, the most conventional method of diagnosing intestinal worms is by identifying worm eggs in the faeces which is done through faecal testing by your veterinarian
  4. Diagnosis is not always straightforward due to the different worm's characteristics

How are worms treated and prevented?

Treatment involves administering a dewormer to your cat. 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.

NexGard SPECTRA Spot-On for Cats is Australia's first and only parasite prevention that protects against fleas, ticks, mites, heartworm, lungworm and intestinal worms (including tapeworm!). It provides a convenient solution to control external and internal parasites (like worms) with just a single product. Just one and it's done!

Roundworms and hookworms of cats are zoonotic, which means they can infect and cause disease in people. To reduce this risk veterinary and human infectious disease experts recommend monthly deworming for all cats. NexGard SPECTRA Spot-On for Cats offers a convenient solution by ensuring monthly treatment for these worms.

Topical treatments are highly effective, especially for fussy and grumpy cats who are difficult to tablet.

NexGard SPECTRA Spot-On for Cats is applied to the skin on the back of the neck with an innovative, easy to use applicator which reduces stress and mess for cats and their owners.

After application, the three active ingredients are absorbed through the skin and into the cat’s blood stream to be distributed throughout the body.

For more parasite protection recommendations read Which Flea and Worming Product Does Your Cat Need?.

Preventative tips

  1. Deworm your cat monthly using a product that treats intestinal worms, including tapeworm, like NexGard SPECTRA Spot-On for Cats. Always follow the directions on the product label.
  2. Minimise environmental contamination by disposing of cat stools daily.
  3. Eliminate fleas, which are the intermediate host of flea tapeworm, through regular flea control and prevention.
  4. Keep your cat's living environment clean by washing bedding frequently.
  5. Avoid contact between your cat and unknown cats, especially their stools, to reduce the risk of transmission.
  6. If your cat displays any potential symptoms of worms, consult your veterinarian promptly.

Is My Indoor Cat At Risk Of Getting Worms?

Many assume that if their cat remains indoors, the risk of parasitic infections is low. However, indoor cats are still vulnerable to various parasites through different avenues.

Intestinal worms: Worm eggs can be inadvertently carried indoors on shoes and clothing. Additionally, cats can also acquire tapeworm indirectly via fleas carried inside by outdoor pets or through activities like hunting lizards. 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.

Heartworm: Every indoor cat is at risk of heartworm infection, as it is transmitted via mosquitoes, which can easily access indoor spaces.

Lungworm: Indoor cats can still contract lungworm, particularly if rodents are present in the indoor environment or if the cat has access to a balcony where birds or carriers like mollusks or earthworms may be encountered.

Can I Get Worms From My Cat?

One of the more concerning aspects of worms is their zoonotic risk, which is the potential transmission of these parasites from cats to humans. Both feline roundworms and hookworms can infect and cause serious disease in people.

The Australian Companion Animal Zoonoses Advisory Panel recommends monthly deworming and year-round flea control for all cats. This approach helps lessen the zoonotic risk associated with these parasites.

Further Reading

Tick Paralysis

Causes of Itching in Cats

How to Treat a Cat with Fleas

Heart Disease in Cats

Ringworm in Cats

What You Need To Know About Your Cat's Digestive System

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