cat having a veterinary examination

Tapeworm in cats: why and how to protect your cat from tapeworm

Like roundworms tapeworms are one of the most common types of worms found in cats around the UK. A good worming routine is all part of being a responsible cat owner – and it’s vital to protect your cat or kitten from the dangers of these pesky parasites. Your local vet will recommend the best treatment or over-the-counter wormer to keep your cat tapeworm free. 

Regular flea treatment can help to prevent tapeworm in cats, as their eggs are commonly carried by fleas and passed to your cat when he or she ingests a flea while grooming.

Does my cat have tapeworm? 

We’ve listed the common symptoms of tapeworm in cats below, but it’s quite possible for a cat with tapeworm to show no signs or symptoms – and even the healthiest-looking cat can have tapeworm without you knowing. Your vet should always be the first port of call for advice, diagnosis and treatment of tapeworm.

Cats that spend much of their time outdoors, hunting birds and rodents are particularly at risk of developing worms. And with the risk of complications from worms being high, a regular worming routine is vital. 

“Even the healthiest-looking cat or kitten can have tapeworm without you knowing.”

Identifying tapeworm in cats

As the name suggests, tapeworms look a lot like flat ribbons, made up of small segments – about the size of a grain of rice. These segments can break off and become visible in your cat’s fur, around the anus, or in your cat’s faeces. It pays to be vigilant, as these tiny, rice-like sections may well be the first sign of tapeworm in your cat.

The technical bit…

The tapeworm is a species of parasitic flatworm known as a cestode. The tapeworm’s mouth is filled with six sets of ‘teeth’ that it uses to attach itself to the lining of the cat’s intestine and feed on the nutrients from your cat’s food. The result is that your cat may begin to lose weight, despite being hungrier than usual.

Other signs and symptoms of tapeworms in cats:

  • Increased appetite
  • Itchy bottom
  • Weight loss

How often should I worm my cat?

Your cat or kitten may need monthly worming to keep them in tip-top health, especially if they are hunters (flea infested rodents carry tapeworm). Kittens are particularly at risk of contracting tapeworm, due to their immature immune systems and it is recommended that cats are routinely protected against tapeworm. While over-the-counter worming treatments can be very effective, the benefits are short-term, so it’s vital to get into a regular worming routine for your cat. 

Most cat worming treatments kill tapeworms your cat has already picked up, but prevention is better than cure, so get into the habit of keeping those worms at bay! 

Your local vet will advise you on the best worming treatment for your cat or kitten. 

Eww! In the early 1900s, rich people were known to consume tapeworms as a way of losing weight. That’s one seriously extreme – and highly risky – diet!

Expert advice on worming your cat 

For expert advice on worming your cat or kitten, contact your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.