How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Tapeworms in Cats
Tapeworm Segments in Cat Tail Fur
Intestinal Tapeworms in Cats
The most common type of worms that I've seen in cats, in all my years of rescuing, are tapeworms.
What do Tapeworms Look Like on Cats?
They are called "tapeworm" because the entire worm is long and flat, resembling tape or a ribbon. You may see yellow, sesame seed-sized items on the fur near your cat's behind. These are dried up tapeworms. Or, you may see live tapeworms in the fur near your cat's behind. The worms move by shortening the body, then lengthening, going from about 1/8" to 1/2".
In the first photo above, you can see a worm in the kitty's fur, close to her behind. In the second photo below, you can see tapeworm segments in a kitty's tail, and stuck to her fur. Hopefully you can also see how small they are.
Tapeworm Near Kitty's Behind
Tapeworm Segments in Cat Feces
In the photo below, you can see several tapeworm segments on cat feces. This photo will give you an idea of how many tapeworms can live inside of your family feline.
Looking closely at your kitty's feces is not much fun, and seeing tapeworms is not pretty to look at either. However, this will allow you to identify whether or not your kitty may have tapeworms. In the photo below, the tapeworms are easy to spot.
If you do find something that looks similar to the photo below, please seek proper treatment swiftly for your kitty.
Tapeworms in cat feces
Close-Ups of Cat Tapeworms
Below is a photo of a tapeworm segment pulled from feces, on a piece of toilet paper. This worm is at its full length.
Also, the litter next to the tapeworm segment is wheat litter, just to give you an idea of the size.
Tapeworms in Cat Litter
In the photo below, you can see, in the center of the photo, a tapeworm on cat feces that has pulled itself short and very small to about the size of a grain of cat litter.
It's very easy to miss seeing the worms, unless you look very closely. Sometimes, you will also see them moving.
Tapeworm on Fecal Matter
Tapeworms are Sometimes Hard to See
It's sometimes hard to see tapeworms on fecal matter after a kitty uses the litter box. Worms are small, and hard to distinguish from litter unless you're looking very closely.
One method for inspecting fecal matter is to carefully scoop out the fecal matter before the kitty covers it up. Try not to get any more litter stuck to it than is already there. Place fecal matter on a paper towel for closer inspection.
In the photo below, fecal matter has been placed on a paper towel. You can see that two tapeworm segments (there are red arrows pointing to them) have fallen away and are stuck to cat litter. The third tapeworm is still stuck to the fecal matter and is very hard to see.
Tapeworms hidden amongst cat litter
More Close-Ups of Tapeworms
The next two photos are a close up of the tapeworms in the photo above, pulled away, and stuck to kitty litter.
As you can see, the tapeworms are slightly off-white in color, and shiny. If you look for half a minute, you may see the tapeworms move, confirming that they are indeed tapeworms.
Tapeworm in Kitty Litter
Two Tapeworms, Amongst Litter
Close-Up of Tapeworm Segments
In the photo below, the tapeworm segment on the left has pulled itself short. The tapeworm segment on the right is almost at full length, just over 1/4" here.
Note: The camera flash kind of washed out the detail, sorry about that. However, the photo shows the different shapes that the tapeworm segment could appear in.
Tapeworm Segments Close-Up
Tapeworms are usually caused from a cat ingesting flea eggs. How does that happen? Well, a cat licks his or her fur during the grooming process. Then, as you know, cats are generally very clean animals, so they groom frequently. If the kitty has fleas, the cat ingests infected fleas and their eggs during grooming. These infected fleas cause tapeworms.
Or, alternatively, a cat can become infected when killing and ingesting a portion of an infected rodent.
Our rescue prefers using Drontol, which is a broad-spectrum de-wormer that treats roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and hookworms. This medicine requires a prescription and is well worth a trip to your veterinarian.
Our rescue also has tried over-the-counter medications and found them to be ineffective in the treatment of worms, so we continue to use the prescription medication.
Drontol takes one dose, or two doses given two weeks apart. Dosage will depend on the type prescribed.
Be sure to consult with your vet when deciding to treat your pet.
Once a cat is rid of tapeworms, the best way to keep them clean is to keep them flea-free.
The easiest way to do this is to rid them of fleas, and keep them indoors. Flea treatment consists of two treatments 30 days apart to ensure that the fleas and their eggs are eliminated during the entire cycle of fleas hatching.
Our rescue prefers Advantage—Advantage Plus has worked well for many years, however in more recent years, we're finding that fleas are starting to build up an immunity to some of the flea treatments.
Be sure to consult your veterinarian prior to giving any medication or flea treatment to your pet.
Other Flea Treatment Options
Our veterinarian prefers Frontline and has said that many pet owners that are finding that Advantage is no longer effective will try Frontline with good results. Revolution is another well-known brand that one of our cat boarders prefers.
I personally use Advantage Multi on my kitties and my foster kitties. In addition to treating fleas, it also treats roundworms, hookworms, and ear mites.
Beware of Inferior Flea Treatments
We have heard, and seen firsthand, some cases of horrible side-effects caused from over-the-counter flea treatments. So please, before purchasing any flea treatment, look online for the brand you are considering to see if there have been reports of seizures and/or death caused by that treatment.
We helped out with a case where 10 cats were treated with an over-the-counter flea treatment, and all of them started having seizures and had to be rushed to the vet. The vet bill was very expensive, costing far more than it would have cost to pay a little more for the Advantage.
Unfortunately, some of the cats didn't survive, so please be cautious when treating your pet with any medication.
Beware of Expired Medications
Always keep an eye on your pet for the first 10 minutes or so after treatment to ensure there are no negative side-effects. One time, I treated a foster kitty, and he started having very mild seizures (drooling and back muscles spasming), so I immediately washed the treated area with soap and water. That did the trick and the kitty was fine. I found out after this ordeal that the Advantage I had was expired. So, please keep an eye on the expiration dates of your medications and treatments too!
Has one of your cats ever gotten tapeworms?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.