Tapeworms in Cats and Kittens

Tapeworms in Cats and Kittens

by Scritch

Cats and kittens are susceptible to a variety of intestinal parasites, including cestodes, which are more commonly known as tapeworms. Tapeworms are long, flat, ribbon-like worms ranging in length from 4 to 20 inches. They are transmitted through fleas, rodents, or any small animal infected with the parasite. Because cats are scavengers by nature, tapeworms are quite common!


An analysis of your cat’s bowel movements is often the only way to diagnose a tapeworm, as most cats won’t show any other symptoms. Because tapeworms are ingested, they live in your cat’s small intestine and start absorbing digested food. As the worm continues to grow, pieces of it will break off and exit through the digestive tract, so one of the first signs will be small, rice-like worms in your cat’s feces. 

Other symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased appetite (despite losing weight)
  • Irritability or depression
  • Dull coat
  • Anemia or weakness
  • Dragging, licking, or biting at anus due to itchiness
  • Worm or worms in vomit (rare)


Once your vet has diagnosed your cat with tapeworms, the treatment is very effective! Deworming medications go to work right away either by paralyzing the tapeworm or by killing it directly. These de-wormers can be applied via injection, oral tablets, or skin drops. Your vet can help you decide which medication is best for your cat.


Because tapeworms are acquired by consuming fleas, rodents or other small animals, limiting your cat’s exposure to those can help prevent the risk of tapeworms. Keep cats inside in a clean environment as often as possible. Make sure any other pets in your household are also flea-free and worm-free. Many veterinarians recommend a routine fecal examination for each pet when they have their annual exam.

If your cat has been infected, wash all cat toys, bedding, and accessories in hot water. Practice good hygiene with your cat’s litter box: safely dispose of all feces daily, and disinfect the litter box and its surrounding area regularly.

If your cat goes outdoors, keep an eye on their fur and skin for fleas and consider using a regular flea preventive medication as a safeguard.

Can I Get Tapeworms from My Cat?

Tapeworms are zoonotic, meaning yes you can contract tapeworms from an animal. But it’s rare; there have been less than 20 cases in the last 20 years of humans developing cat tapeworms in their bodies. To ward off the chances of tapeworm for the whole family, practice good hygiene and flea control.

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