How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Tapeworms in Cats

Updated on June 5, 2017
Amber Killinger profile image

Cat lover to the max! I have helped rescue and re-home over 100 cats. My family cats fill my heart with joy every day.

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

Every red arrow points to a tapeworm.
Every red arrow points to a tapeworm.

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.

Intestinal Worms

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 hidden amongst cat litter
Tapeworms hidden amongst cat litter

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

Red arrows point to tapeworms.
Red arrows point to tapeworms.

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

Causes

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.

Treatment

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.

cat tapeworm medication.
cat tapeworm medication.

Prevention

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?

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    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      5 months ago

      Thanks Molly!!

      PJ - When I have groups of cats together, if one has tapeworms I generally treat all of them. Your vet can check a stool sample from each cat to determine whether or not they have tapeworms before treatment.

      If your cats are always indoors, and they end up with fleas, there are a few ways that can happen.

      1) The flea treatments haven't been successful and the fleas weren't actually ever gone.

      2) A person or other visiting animal carries fleas into your house. If your yard has opossums, skunks, raccoons, dogs, cats, etc passing through, they can drop fleas in your yard and the fleas live in your grass. A flea could jump onto your leg/pants when you walk through the grass and you carry it into your house. Sad, but true. Or if you have a rodent infestation, they can bring fleas.

      3) You haven't treated your home/carpet for fleas, they will re-infest. One of my vets recently told me that flea eggs can stay dormant in the carpet or upholstery for a really long time. When a cat or dog passes close to the egg, the animal's body heat activates the egg and soon it hatches into a flea. I believe human body heat would do the same. So if your cats have fleas, you should also treat your home to kill the fleas and eggs.

      When I do a combo cat treatment and home treatment, 2 months in a row, all the fleas are gone and I stop treating the cats since the treatment is a type of poison, I prefer to only treat when needed. The only way my cats get fleas again is if I unknowingly bring them into the house, as mentioned above. Hasn't happened in years.

      When purchasing Advantage or any other flea treatment, you should be very careful where you purchase it. There are many counterfeit products that aren't effective and sometimes can be dangerous. I know someone personally that got a hold of a bad batch and treated a house full of cats. The cats started having seizures and even though she got treatment as soon as possible, many of the cats died. Also, if you purchase anything online from Walmart, be aware that Walmart allows third party vendors to sell products through the Walmart website, so you could be purchasing from someone else.

      Good luck!!

    • profile image

      molly 

      5 months ago

      Thanks a lot for your sight and for being very detailed.

    • profile image

      PJ 

      5 months ago

      I have 5 inside cats. They get Advantage the first day of every month and have for years. We made a mistake and purchased Advantage from Wal-Mart instead of our vet for a few months and there is a big difference in the way it worked on our cats. My husband and I never told anyone because it made us sound paranoid, but it truly was not the same Advantage. How that can be I don't know, but they itched and got fleas without leaving the house and we never saw a flea on anything in this house until then. So we went back to the vet and got the advantage from her. No more fleas!!! Then I found that one of my cats was itching and running like she had seen a ghost and started checking and sure enough, she had one tapeworm that I could see, so after cleaning her up, I went to my vet and got a treatment for her. Nothing was mentioned about 2 treatments, but she got the one and now I am waiting to see if that worked. Would it be best to treat the other 4? I have looked but see no problems but it seems that if they eat together, sleep together, drink and go to the same 4 litterboxes, they should be treated. Any ideas?

    • profile image

      Izzy 

      8 months ago

      4 of my cats, 3 kittens and the mom, have tapeworms. :/

    • Amber Killinger profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Killinger 

      17 months ago

      CS

      Did the praziquantel you ordered through Amazon, manufactured by Bayer (R) work for getting rid of the worms in your kitty? I hope so!!

    • profile image

      CS 

      23 months ago

      Thank you so much for posting several pictures. Finally, I know what our rescue kitty has and can treat it properly (she's too traumatized to be able to take to the vet). She had the worms when we got her. Previously, we lost a beloved kitty who had "resistant" worms-- vet & "natural" treatment failed. Perhaps it was the "natural" treatment that caused her violent death?

      I have ordered praziquantel through Amazon, manufactured by Bayer (R). I will be much relieved to have our cats treated!

    • LaurieNunley517 profile image

      LaurieNunley517 

      2 years ago from Deep South

      I just finished another vet prescribed treatment for tapeworm for my kitten. I recommend asking your vet for the two dose prescription. Kitty had tapeworm about four months ago and recently had them again. Since kitty and house are fairly flea free, we assumed the first dose didn't kill it. Thanks for your informative article.

    • profile image

      Mimi 

      6 years ago

      I don't have money for a vet but my cat has tapeworms is there a medican that works were I don't have to go to the vet?

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 

      6 years ago from Mason City

      If cats get the t worms again, they need to be dewormed again more than likely. Worms are a bad problem.

    • LifeStylePets profile image

      LifeStylePets 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Chilling photos. The poor kitty. Worms can be a bad problem.

    • Paulart profile image

      Paulart 

      6 years ago from 2510 Warren Avenue Cheyenne,Wyoming 82001

      This is very informative hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      terrilyn 1979 

      6 years ago

      I treated my cat with the revolution and then he went to get fixed and he came back with a couple fleas on him an now he seems to be reinfected with the t worms! the thing is we only see them on his bum once in a while any sugjestion?

    • profile image

      mdloreto 

      6 years ago

      Thank you. This has helped me very much. It offers great information and the pictures really helped too.

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 

      6 years ago from Mason City

      It is a good idea to consult a vet before using any medication on a cat. A person would need to know what kind of worms the cat would be needed to be treated for. A vet would know best. Tapeworms are creepy! They are so gross!! I thnk that prescription medication is the best, rather than over-the-counter.

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