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Common Cat Parasites

Jun 18, 2021
Cat scratching itself

It doesn’t matter if your cat stays indoors or outdoors; all felines are at risk of developing internal and external parasites. These parasites can be incredibly debilitating to cats and often make them more prone to catching other infections and viruses. That’s why cat owners must learn to recognise the sign of parasites and their life cycles to maintain their pet’s health.

The most common types of parasites found in cats include fleas, ticks, roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. If you have an indoor cat, it’s generally safe to assume that they’ll have less trouble with parasites than outdoor cats.

Here’s everything that cat owners need to know about the most common types of cat parasites.



Fleas are the most common external feline parasite. Many different types of fleas can impact cats, the most prevalent of which is the cat flea. It's important to learn how to control fleas if your cat gets them.

Cat fleas can potentially carry the larval stage of tapeworm, leading to another parasite problem when the cat eats the fleas. They can also carry infectious agents between your cats. If your cat has fleas, it also increases the chances of transmitting the ‘cat scratch disease’ to you and other humans.

Adult Fleas also feed on the blood of your cat. This can be particularly dangerous for young kittens as it can cause weakness, anaemia, and in the worst cases, death. Some cats can even develop an allergic reaction to flea bites.

How to check your cat for fleas

Cats like to groom themselves a lot, making it more difficult for owners to discover adult fleas on the cat. However, there are a few symptoms that you can identify. An incredibly itchy cat or insect bites around human ankles can indicate an infestation.

The best way to identify if your cat has fleas is to comb your cat carefully with a ‘flea comb.’ These are specialized combs that are designed to remove any fleas or flea dirt from your cat. Flea dirt looks like tiny black specs that you can confirm by placing them on some damp cotton wool if it’s available. The flea dirt will slowly deposit and leave reddish-brown blood marks.

How to treat your cat for fleas

Several products in the market cater directly to healing cat fleas. These are available in many different forms. Regardless of the type of treatment you get, it’s essential to follow the instructions given on the remedy.

When dealing with fleas, it’s also essential to thoroughly clean your household and the cat’s living area after an infection. That’ll help ensure that your cat doesn’t catch fleas again and reduce the risk of infecting other cats in the house.

Tick on a leaf


Ticks are another common external parasite for cats. Many people confuse them with fleas however, they’re entirely different. These parasites bite beneath the cat’s skin and feed on the cat’s blood.

Once the tick bites an animal, it’ll also pass on any diseases that it carries onto the cat. These diseases can cause symptoms like fever, anorexia, and discharge from the eyes. It’s very risky for the cat.

The most common way that your cat can catch ticks is by interacting with other animals. If your cat goes outside, then it’s reasonably likely that it’ll interact with other animals.

It’s also possible for the cat to catch ticks without interacting with any animal outside. Ticks can survive independently without a host and like to cling to blades of grass or leaves. They’ll attach themselves to anything that brushes past these leaves.

Even if your cat doesn’t go outdoors, it can potentially catch ticks from other members of your household that do go outdoors. If you live in an urban environment, then this isn’t as much of an issue. However, it’s pretty common for ticks to attach themselves to clothes and hair in grassy and woodland areas.

How to check if your cat has ticks?

One good thing about your cat having ticks is that it’s easy to identify, especially when the ticks already take a bite. When they take a bite, the tick starts to look like a small wart. Once you take a closer look, you’ll be able to see the legs of the tick as well.

The most common area where you’ll find ticks on your cat is the head and neck area. To check for ticks, part the cat’s fur and run your fingers along their skin. Tick bites can also potentially cause irritation and redness, which is another way to identify.

How to treat your cat for ticks?

You should never try to pull a tick out of your cat’s skin by yourself without the proper tools. If done incorrectly, it can leave the mouth behind, which can potentially cause an infection or inflammation.

If you’re not comfortable pulling the tick out yourself, you could take your cat to the vet, but this isn’t practical if it becomes a regular issue. Alternatively, you could ask the vet to give you a specially-design tick removal tool. Ask your vet to explain how to use the tool properly, and then use it on your cat as instructed.

Ginger cat with its head in its paws


Roundworms are among the most common internal parasites that can affect cats. While not particularly dangerous for adult cats, they can cause severe illness and death in kittens. Almost every cat will suffer from a roundworm infection at some point in its life.

Roundworms are large-bodied worms that range from between 3-6 inches in length. Instead of attaching themselves to the intestine wall, these parasites tend to swim freely within the intestine.

The parasite may show no symptoms in adult cats but are pretty harmful to kittens. They can cause kittens to have a pot-bellied appearance, severe abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite, dull coat, vomiting, diarrhoea, and poor growth.

How to check your cat for roundworm?

One of the most common ways to identify if your cat has a worm parasite is to check the faeces or the anus for any signs of worms. However, to properly identify whether your cat has roundworm or not, the vet will run a couple of tests.

The test involves submerging the cat’s stool in a solution that will cause the roundworm eggs to rise to the top. The vets will then be able to identify whether or not the cat is suffering from roundworms.

How to treat your cat for roundworm?

Modern medicine makes it much easier to remove roundworms if your cat is infected by them. The roundworms will safely pass through your cat’s stool after administering the proper deworming medication.

The treatment will span across two to three-week intervals to ensure no reinfection of the parasite.

Blue kitten in a basket


Hookworms are intestinal parasites that impact both cats and dogs. The name hookworm come from the hook-like mouthparts they use to attach themselves to the lining of the intestinal wall. These worms are significantly smaller than roundworms and are usually 1/8th of an inch long.

These hookworms tend to feed on the small intestine lining and are also known as ‘tissue feeders’. When hookworms suck blood, they inject an anti-coagulant which causes blood loss at the site. It can cause blood-loss anaemia, which is significantly more dangerous for kittens than adult cats.

How to check your cat for hookworms?

Checking your cat for hookworms involves the same steps as identifying roundworms. The vet will take a small amount of the feline’s stool and mix it with a special solution. This solution will cause eggs to rise to the top, and then they’ll monitor the eggs using a microscope.

The microscope will allow the vets to identify what kind of worms your cat is suffering from!

How to treat your cat for hookworm?

Treating your cat with Hookworm is simple, and anyone can do it at home easily. All it requires is for you to give your cat the proper deworming medicine at the correct interval as recommended by your vet.

Cat lying on a cat sized sofa


Similar to hookworms, tapeworms use their hook-like mouth to attach themselves to the intestinal lining of the cat. They’re known as tapeworms due to their flat body. They typically manage to reach 11 inches in length.

Tapeworms aren’t typically dangerous for cats, and very few clinical signs indicate their presence, but they can potentially cause debilitation or weight loss if they’re present in large numbers. Cats might drag their anus around the ground or carpet due to irritation caused by the worm.

Sometimes the tapeworm can move from the intestine to the stomach. In that case, the cat might throw up an adult tapeworm that’s several inches in length.

How to check your cat for tapeworms?

Checking your cat for tapeworms is very simple. Due to their flat, white exterior, the tapeworms are easily visible in the stool of your cat. Alternatively, they go through the same stool test at the vet as roundworms and hookworms.

How to treat your cat for tapeworms?

The treatment for tapeworms is the same as roundworms and hookworms. You should check with your veterinarian which products are the most effective for treating tapeworms. You might need to give the treatment in intervals to ensure that all tapeworms are completely removed.