Symptoms and Treatment for Tapeworm in Cats

Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/10/20242-4 minutes
a girl with a kitten

If you think your feline companion may have a tapeworm infection, don’t panic—cat tapeworm treatment is available.

Tapeworms are a common parasite in mammals, usually found in the small intestine. Symptoms are not often present, but when they occur they can be unpleasant. Among other things, they usually involve your cat licking around their anus and, with increased severity, gastrointestinal signs.

Tapeworms are one of the few parasites pet owners can see with the naked eye. Fortunately, it’s easy to get rid of them with deworming medications from a veterinarian.

Read on to find out how to get rid of tapeworms in cats.

What Is Cat Tapeworm?

Tapeworms in cats are parasites that settle in the small intestine. They reproduce by attaching themselves to the gut and breaking into a series of segments.

These segments contain eggs, which are then passed out with the feces.

Tapeworms are long, flat worms of various lengths. They have a segmented body and a head with suckers and hooks, which help them attach to the small intestine.

You probably won’t see a tapeworm like that, however. Once they start growing, segments of their body separate from the rest. These segments resemble grains of rice. You may see them under your cat’s tail or in their feces.

How Do Cats Get Tapeworms?

Most cats get tapeworms from fleas. Many types of tapeworm larvae are found in fleas. If the cat ingests the flea while, say, grooming, the tapeworm larvae begins to grow inside the intestines.

Note that the chances of infection increase if you have other pets, as fleas can jump from one animal to another.

Cats can also get tapeworms if they eat feces infested with them. It’s possible for mothers to pass tapeworms to their kittens as well.

Another, less common type of tapeworm can cause infection when a cat hunts and eats an infected rodent. This is likely more of a concern if you have an outdoor cat.

Can Humans Get Tapeworms from Cats?

The most common species of tapeworms is not transmissible to humans. There are certain species that can be transmitted to humans, particularly children.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment is the best way to prevent humans getting tapeworms from cats.

Cat Tapeworm Symptoms

If you’re wondering how to get rid of tapeworms in cats, it first helps to know the signs. There are several indicators a feline has tapeworms:

  • Licking the anus
  • Biting or scratching at the anus
  • Dragging hind legs across the floor in an attempt to scratch the area
  • Rice-like segments of tapeworms in cat’s feces · Weight loss, even with increased appetite
  • Gastrointestinal signs like vomiting or diarrhea

If you notice one or more of the above symptoms, contact your veterinarian right away.

Cat Tapeworm Treatment Options

Once your veterinarian diagnoses your pet with tapeworms, they will prescribe tapeworm medicine for cats, typically an oral medication.

After administering the deworming medication, the worms dissolve in the intestines. Because they dissolve, they aren’t usually visible in the cat’s feces.

As with any medication your veterinarian prescribes, give your cat the full course of deworming medication to ensure the tapeworms are completely eradicated.

Fortunately, worm treatment for cats, when prescribed by a veterinarian, is often effective.

The timeline of when the medicine eliminates the parasite ranges from days to weeks, depending on the severity of the infection.

Since tapeworms are often caused by fleas, you’ll also want to wash pet bedding, clean carpets and any other areas where your cat spends time to eliminate the pest. If not, the tapeworms may return.

Are There Home Remedies for Cat Tapeworm?

There are no home remedies for tapeworms in cats. Ignoring them can also be dangerous, as they may cause digestive inflammation and secondary infections.

Prevention, however, is the best course of action.

Whether your cat has had tapeworms, or you want to avoid your cat getting infected, the best way to prevent them is by giving your cat flea preventative.

Your veterinarian can recommend a flea prevention medication to help keep your cat healthy and tapeworm free.

For more information on cat health and care from our experts, visit our Pet Expertise page.

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