Cat Parasites – does your cat or kitten have them? Kittens are particularly susceptible to parasites due to a weaker immune system and are likely to have some parasites internally or externally. Roundworms are very common apparently in young kittens as is the single cell protozoan, coccidia. For those of us who flea comb regularly (our cat!) the common flea is the one we know and admire/hate :). The cat flea is very robust and pound for pound the world’s best jumper (back onto the cat…).
This is an overview page pulling together other posts and adding where necessary.
What Are Parasites?
They are organisms that live in or on another organism (including people) and takes nourishment from the host. Accordingly, a parasite cannot live independently. They invade the host animal living off the nutrients that the host has ingested.
This results in the host losing important nutrients than can affect the function of organs.
Kittens are susceptible to a wide range of parasites.
How Can We Tell if Our Cat has Parasites?
Internal parasites can be checked by a fecal exam of the cat’s stool. External parasites can be checked by visual inspection.
Often veterinarians play safe and give a dewormer for internal parasites as a precaution. External parasites are treated with drugs or more simply by physical removal.
- Roundworms – Most common parasite affecting kittens as it can be transmitted in the colostrum (first milk) from their mother when nursing. Larval stages inhabit body tissue. Larvae mature in the gastrointestinal tract causing serious illness. There are effective dewormers. See: Cat Deworming Treatments
- Tapeworms – I wrote a post on my blogger site about feline tapeworms (new window).
- Coccidia – a single celled parasite living in the gastrointestinal tract. Picked up by oral contact with the faeces of another cat or dog. Causes inflammation of the tissue of the intestine. Causes bad diarrhoea, sometimes bloody. Loss of fluids and electrolytes cause illness. Can be eliminated with drugs. See picture above.
- Giardia – another single celled parasite that colonises and reproduces in the small intestines of several vertebrates, causing giardiasis (diarrheal disease). The parasite lives in the intestine, and is passed in the stool. Usually transmitted from cat to cat through contaminated drinking water. Can cause serious diarrhoea. Treated with drugs. There is a vaccine too.
- Heartworm – another one of the cat parasites and a small thread-like worm, a parasitic roundworm. The definitive host is the dog but it can also infect cats. It can result in serious disease to the host. The larvae is injected into the cat by a mosquito bite but only a low percentage of cats end up with adult heartworms in lungs and heart. Rare disease affecting adult cats. In the USA, feline heartworm disease is most likely to occur in the southeast. A symptom is a chronic cough. Preventative drugs can be administered but they are often not advised on a risk/detriment basis. The worm usually dies of its own accord after 2 years or so. I made a post on this: Cat Heartworm (new window).
- Lungworm (new window).
- Ear Mites – I have a post on these horrors: Cat Ear Mites (new window)
- Fleas – Our most commonly occurring problem, I think. I have made several posts on these monsters: Cat Flea Treatments, Cat Flea Life Cycle, Flea Treatments Can Kill, Cat Skin Rashes (referred to in passing – new window), Ragdoll Cat Skin Scabs. They can cause serious skin irritation and an allergic reaction. As they suck blood, if the infestation is bad a kitten can become anemic. Fleas can transmit the tapeworm (see above). The best treatment is proactive and preventative. One step is Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth.
- Mange mites – another post: Feline Mange (new window).
- Cat Ringworm. This is a fungus actually so should not be on this page but is mentioned nonetheless for completeness. Most cats will self cure. I have administered thrush cream to a stray cat I feed and it worked fine. He gave me ringworm (it is zoonotic) so the cream was for me. We shared it.
- Ticks – please see an earlier post: Cat Parasite. See picture above right. They are blood suckers. Ticks are quite large and easy to see attached to the skin. They can transmit serious diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and cause skin irritation. Permanent indoor cats shouldn’t be infested.
- More: Cat and Dog Parasite Pictures (new window).
Cat parasites – Photos: Cat flea (Ctenocephalides canis) Wikimedia Commons – Author: Outesticide (new window). Tapeworm – Wikimedia Commons – Author: Salvadorjo. Coccidia – Wikimedia Commons –Author: Joel Mills. Giardia – Wikimedia Commons – Author: Janice Carr. Cat Parasites – Heartworm – I am not sure about the veracity of this image. Source unknown, please advise. Tick – bloated tick © Allies Dad creative commons license. One of the most foul cat parasites.
Sources: Book 5 of Medical References and Methods plus those referred to in the linked posts.