How do I know if my cat has parasites?
Parasites can have a profound effect on your cat. As a cat owner, it is only normal to be curious and alert for symptoms that your cat has a parasite in its body. All cats, regardless if they are indoor or outdoor cats, are susceptible to parasites. Most of these tiny parasites can get into your house and infect your cats in several ways.
Parasites can attack your cat in various ways. Some travel via skin or fur, like mites and ticks, or they can be gastrointestinal, which is quite common and can reach up to 45% of the cat population in terms of prevalence.
Gastrointestinal parasites can be wormlike or one-celled protozoan organisms. Most of the time, they cause symptoms that aren’t very specific, like a dull coat, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, mucousy or bloody poop, loss of appetite, pale mucous membranes, or a bloated look. Intestinal parasites can cause vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and dehydration, weakening a cat and making it more likely to get a virus, bacteria, or other diseases. Notably, some feline GI parasites have the potential to infect humans.
If your cat exhibits the symptoms mentioned above, there’s a big chance that it has parasites. In other cases, you can visually see parasites if they are the types that infect through external means.
Four easy ways to tell if your cat has parasites:
1. Check the Visible Presence of Worms
For many cat owners, visible worms will be the first indication. You can see whole worms, worm parts, or eggs in your pet’s stool or vomit. Worms or eggs can also migrate to the anus of a cat and become entangled in the fur.
The most common intestinal parasites in cats are roundworms, which you can see with the naked eye. Roundworms are about three to five inches long and resemble pasta. They take nutrients from the food your cat consumes. The eggs are then laid by the worms and expelled through their stool. Sometimes, you may see roundworms moving in your cat’s feces or vomit.
Other worms include tapeworms, hookworms, heartworms, lungworms, whipworms, stomach worms, bladder worms, and liver flukes. Ringworm is probably something familiar to you. Despite its name, ringworm is not a worm. It is a fungal disease that targets the skin and hair of cats. Even though not all these worms are visible, experts with the right tools can find them by looking closely.
2. Check Changes in Skin and Coat
Changes in your cat’s coat and the development of skin lesions are signs of parasites. Your cat’s fur may appear dull, rumpled, or clumped due to a lack of nutrients or dehydration. Parasites deplete your cat’s body of nutrients, resulting in poor hair and skin.
Helminths are parasitic roundworms that live most of the time in the connective tissue under the skin of the legs of their hosts. They infest raccoons, minks, and other animals in North America. Female worms can reach lengths of over a foot (300 millimeters). Male worms, in comparison, are tiny, measuring about 20 millimeters, or an eighth of an inch, in length. These worms are rare in cats. You can find them in cats exposed to small lakes and shallow, stagnant water bodies.
These worms are capable of causing skin ulcers in their hosts. The worms emerge from the wounds when the ulcers come into contact with water to lay their long, thin-tailed larvae. Cats can get the disease from contaminated water or eating an infected animal, like a frog.
3. Check Changes in Gum Color
When detecting parasites, gum color is one indicator that can provide us with information about your cat’s overall health. Keeping an eye on your pet’s gum color and looking for changes can help us with early disease diagnosis, but it can also highlight when your cat is hiding an immediate illness. While we do not rely solely on gum color for diagnosis, it can help us further diagnose and treat a sick cat when combined with other signs.
Pink gums should be your cat’s general color, indicating that they are healthy and well. On the other hand, white gums could mean that your cat has worms in its body, which could cause blood loss or anemia. If your cat’s gums are bright pink to red, they may suffer from high fever, heatstroke, illness, or toxicity. Parasites can cause these issues, and a medical professional must treat them immediately.
Purple or blue gum may also mean that there isn’t enough oxygen in the body. On the other hand, a yellow tinge in the gums is a clear sign of organ failure, most likely in the liver.
4. Check for Stomach-Related Symptoms
If your cat is chronically vomiting, parasites have likely infected them. Changes in stools or bowel movements are signs of a parasite infestation in the stomach. The presence of blood in the stomach, mainly due to hookworms, is indicated by a dark and tarry stool.
Recurrent diarrhea is another sign of parasitic worms. Irregular bowels would also result in drastic changes in appetite, even though you were losing weight. Your cat may want to eat more or less than usual, or it may lose its appetite completely.
When a cat has parasites, its stomach gets bloated, and other parts of its body thin out a lot.
What should you do if your cat has parasites?
People who own cats are well aware of the happiness that these affectionate creatures can bring into our lives. When we share our homes with cats, they tend to be easier to care for compared to other pets because of their naturally independent nature. Because of this, it is crucial for you and your cat that you are aware of what to do if your cat has parasites.
To ensure your cat stays healthy, you must pay close attention to any changes in its mood, appetite, and amount of water it drinks. It would be great if you also took it to the vet regularly. Parasites like fleas and worms can be bad for your cat’s health, as well as your health and the health of your family. Your veterinarian can diagnose, treat, and prevent these parasites. Once you have determined that your cat has parasites, you can take the following four actions:
1. Clean Your Cat’s Litter Box Immediately and Regularly
Since parasites exist in your cat’s stool, you must immediately clean its litterbox. Regularly cleaning its litter box can help guard your cat against intestinal worms. This action also stops the parasites from multiplying and spreading in other parts of your home. Use disinfectants and other cleaners to ensure that all parasites are gone.
2. Disinfect Your Cat’s Living Space and Your Home
If you are planning to get rid of parasites from your cat’s environment, mix one cup of bleach with one gallon of water. Then wipe down all hard surfaces and floors. Steam-clean your carpets. Wash toys, blankets, and bedding in boiling water. Vacuum daily.
3. Separate Your Cat from Other Pets and Keep It Indoors
As much as possible, keep your cat indoors and avoid having it come into contact with other cats within the vicinity of your home. Also, ensure it can’t access other pets’ stools or use their things. A solid quarantine is effective in stopping the spread of parasites among pets. Minimize the spread of parasites between pets by giving them separate food and water bowls. If you have multiple cats, each one should have a separate litter box. Wash dishes and bowls with hot, soapy water, and replace litter often.
4. Deworm Your Cat As Instructed by the Vet
Apply cat dewormer on a regular basis. Cat worms are best treated with deworming medication, which kills both larvae and adult worms in your cat’s intestines. Dewormers are often given in several doses to disrupt the life cycle of the intestinal parasite. Follow your veterinarian’s directions for the dosage and when to administer them. In many cases, the second dose kills any worms that hatch following the first dose.
As soon as you see that your cat may have parasites, it would be best to take it to the veterinarian as quickly as possible. Going to the vet is the most effective course of action. Some “home” remedies for treating and preventing cat worms include garlic, apple cider vinegar, pumpkin seeds, carrots, and turmeric.
But because cats are so likely to get worms, you should never use over-the-counter medicines or natural remedies to treat them.
There is no guarantee that these products are safe or effective in dealing with any medical condition, and they could harm your cat. Even though it might be faster and cheaper than going to the vet, there is no guarantee that these products are safe or effective.
A cat will usually get an internal or external parasite at some point in its life. Parasites can hurt your cat in many ways, from making it irritable to making it sick enough that it could die if you don’t treat it. All parasites, particularly internal parasites or worms, carry with them diseases that may harm other cats and people.
You can protect your cat and your family from potentially harmful parasites all year long by following your veterinarian’s recommendations and having your cat tested for parasites on a yearly basis.