Worms are uncommon in cats who live inside and never venture outdoors. However, if your cat even occasionally explores your backyard, intestinal worms may become an issue. Often these are carried by fleas, so taking care of flea problems can control the situation and reduce the likelihood of worms. Still, even without fleas it is possible for your cat to get worms, from eating the feces of other cats, or by eating infected slugs, rodents, or birds. Here's how to know if your cat has worms:
- Check the stool. When cleaning your cat's litter box, make a habit of noticing any stool that contains diarrhea or blood. Cats with worms may have diarrhea or become constipated. You may also be able to see the worms in the stool.
- Unexplained weight loss. If your cat seems to be eating the same amount of food, but is losing weight, this could be a symptom of worms. Because the worms are getting much of your cat's nutrition, she is unable to maintain the same weight.
- Physical symptoms. Cats with worms may be constipated or bloated. They may vomit or have trouble breathing. In some cases, worms may be seen in the vomit. Depending on the type of worm, they may be several inches long or only as large as a grain of rice.
- Note your cat's behaviors. Any unusual behaviors can be a sign of illness. Cats with worms often lack energy or enthusiasm. If your cat is lethargic, this may be a result of intestinal worms. However, these behaviors are also associated with a wide range of other health issues.
- Coat changes. If your cat's coat becomes dry or lacks sheen, this condition could be caused by worms, though there are also many other illness-related causes for coat changes.
- Take you cat for an annual physical. Even if your cat shows no signs of illness, an annual checkup can help catch problems before they become problematic. The fecal exam conducted as a routine part of the annual physical can detect worms and parasites. An annual physical is also important for catching a wide range of other health issues, even if you do not suspect that your cat may be sick.
Though a veterinarian should be consulted if you think your cat has worms, it is possible to check for worms if you suspect it before visiting the vet. However, you might not see the actual worms, even if your cat is infected. It is not always easy for you to detect worms at home, but you can notice symptoms that should be brought to the vet's attention. In cats, the most common types of worms are roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and lung worms. Treatment for these worms should be administered by a veterinarian.