Cats are curious, love to explore, and like to sample just about everything with their mouth. Because of this, they can frequently be at risk for acquiring intestinal parasites. There are basically three ways your furry friend can become infected:
1) From the environment: Intestinal worms shed large amount of eggs into the environment through an animal’s droppings. From there, the eggs are dispersed into the soil, on grass or even in water. Your cat can become infected when she inadvertently ingests these eggs. In addition to this, hookworms can also penetrate your cat’s skin if she happens to be walking or lying down in an area contaminated with them.
2) From their mother. If a pregnant mom cat is infected with worms, she can pass some of these worms to her kittens directly through her milk or by contaminating the immediate surroundings where her kittens live and nurse. This is why kittens are considered to be infected with worms.
3) From eating other infected animals: Rodents, rabbits, birds, and even insects (like fleas) eat parasite eggs too. However, these animals are known as secondary or intermediate hosts because the ingested eggs do not develop into adults but remain in a dormant intermediate stage. When a cat then consumes one of these critters (ever seen Stella stalking a chipmunk?), the intermediate stage will wake up and grow into an adult worm where it will live in the cat’s intestines.
Your cat can be at risk of acquiring intestinal worms anytime of the year. Many of the eggs released into the environment are very durable and can survive environmental extremes, often spanning a few years. It is important as a cat owner to always be aware and on guard year round, especially if your cat likes to go outside and hunt. As weather gets warmer however, wildlife becomes more active, potentially spreading and dispersing eggs into the environment and increasing the chances of interactions with your cat.
There are a variety of signs or symptoms that your cat may show if infected with hookworms or roundworms. The most common signs however are typically diarrhea and vomiting. You might even see spaghetti-like worms in your cat’s stool or vomit. Weight loss, a bloated belly, coughing and dehydration are also a possibility. Severe cases with heavy infections can even result in death. If you suspect your cat might have an intestinal worm infection, contact you veterinarian.