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Worming and kittens: how early should you start protecting your cat?

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Kittens are particularly susceptible to worms and other parasites, so the earlier you can treat them, the better. Find out what kind of worms your kitten might pick up, and how you can keep them safe.
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A lot of young infected cats don’t show any signs of having worms, which is why it’s so important to treat them – whether you suspect their presence or not. If left untreated, they can cause weight loss, vomiting, diarrhoea, irritation and a range of other health issues.

There are two main types of intestinal worm that can infect your kitten: roundworms and tapeworms. Roundworms are the most common and can be passed on through the faeces of an infected cat, infected soil or through the milk of the mother. Because of their age and obvious close contact with their mother, kittens are particularly susceptible to roundworm.

Tapeworms are long, flat and made up of segments – typically transmitted to cats and kittens by fleas. These infected fleas are ingested by the cat during grooming and the larvae of the tapeworm attaches itself to the feline’s small intestine and develops into an adult worm. Hookworms and heartworms are less common but their consequences can be a lot more serious.

In contrast to dogs, kittens are not born with worm larvae already present in their gut, but they can contract them from their mother’s milk and worming treatment should begin from a young age.  Dronspot Spot-on wormer for cats can be given to kittens from 8 weeks of age, and kills every type of intestinal worm commonly found in UK cats.  Drontal tablets for cats are also available; these can be given to cats from six weeks old.  Cats should then receive further worming treatment at regular intervals until they are six months old, from when they should be treated at least every three months.

If your kitten is too young to take medication, there are some clear signs to look out for. Since small segments of the tapeworm will break off and be passed through the gut, the presence of small, rice-like pieces in your kitten’s faeces or around their back end is a clear sign, while diarrhoea, blood in the stool, weight loss and a bloated abdomen are also good reasons to call the vet. Remember, most infected kittens will show no signs at all, so it’s safer to treat anyway.

Since tapeworm is passed on through fleas, protecting your kitten from these pesky parasites is the best way to prevent an infection and your cat should receive regular flea treatment to keep them at bay. Cats can also become infected by tapeworms when hunting so try to limit this behaviour!

Did you know…
It's widely reported that the longest recorded tapeworm ever removed from a human was the 37-foot worm pulled out of Sally Mae Wallace in Mississippi in 1991.

Find out more about worming for kittens here.