There is possible nothing more disgusting then going to clean out your cat’s litterbox and finding *gasp* a spaghetti like WORM in there! Ok…well, maybe tapeworms left behind on your lap after your cat gets up takes the cake for what is grosser-than-gross.

It’s a fact: cats get intestinal worms. While you might think that just outdoor cats get worms, indoor cats who hunt mice or have fleas are also at risk. Cats get worms from a variety of places: they can inherit them from their mother, they can get worms from coming into contact with contaminated fecal matter, cats can get worms from the prey that they hunt, and they can even get worms from grooming themselves! Tapeworms are carried by fleas, and any cat that grooms and ingests an infected flea will most likely come down with those gross little grains of rice-like parasites.

The tricky thing about worms is that cats can have them and show no clinical signs. Cats with heavy worms burdens might look bloated and unthrifty: they may have a lack of energy, poor hair and even though they eat a lot, they don’t seem to gain weight.

Worms are not only nasty, they are a human health risk. Roundworms and hookworms can infest cats, dogs, and people: children are most at risk, but every time you scoop the litterbox, you are at risk as well. These human infections can cause blindness or other severe side effects.

So, what can you do to keep worms out of your cat and out of your life?

Regular deworming (about every 6 months) is a good idea. You can get dewormer from your local veterinarian, local feedstore, or local pet store, but be aware: most over the counter dewormers only kill hookworms and roundworms. If you want something that kills tapeworms or other worms, you need to go see your vet, and take fresh fecal sample with you. The veterinary technician will test to sample for worms: most of the time the veterinarian is able to detect the eggs of intestinal worms under a microscope. He or she will then give you the correct medication. Another way to keep tapeworms at bay is to use flea prevention in your cat: use the products that your veterinarian recommends and avoid the over the counter products, as they can be toxic to cats.