Cats can get tapeworms – even those cats that never go outside!
There are two main ways that cats get tapeworms – and it all depends on what they eat as tapeworms are acquired from eating an intermediate host that is a carrier of the tapeworm. When cats are infected with tapeworms, we often don’t see any signs, until someone notices that there are segments that look like rice segments, or sesame seeds sitting, or moving around the cat’s hind end (usually by the bum).
The cats get infected themselves by eating a host. The main two carriers are rodents that they have caught and eaten or fleas on themselves that they have chewed and then eaten. In both cases, there needs to be that host. Therefore, your other pets in the home are unlikely to get them, unless they share the same “snack.” Other pets in a flea infested home though can get them following the same chain.
Once the cat eats the infected host, it will develop into a long worm inside the cat with just the mature segments making their way out of the bum and into the environment for other rodents, for fleas to eat and start the cycle again.
They are, however, easily taken care of with deworming medication from the veterinary. If your cat is a mouse, it is a good idea to routinely treat every three months, as this is how long it takes from eating the host to showing the segments. If your household has fleas, it would be good to both treat your cat for the tapeworms and for fleas to avoid a recurrence.
So, keep an eye out for the segments and consider routinely deworming your cat to be on the safe side.
Written by Lisa Clifford, RVT