Indoor Cats and Intestinal Parasites
Intestinal parasites seldom make the list of topics we like to discuss, and yet, parasites are certainly a big part of life – especially for our pets and other animals. When it comes to indoor cats, however, many pet owners mistakenly assume they’re risk-free from these bugs – but they’re not.
In our own practice, we’ve seen quite a few cases of indoor cats with parasitic illnesses, including those in the gastrointestinal tract. To stress the importance of parasite screening and control for all indoor kitties, we’d like to share some basic information about these parasites and the problems they can cause.
Ew, Worms! Intestinal Parasites Among Indoor Cats
You may be surprised to know that internal parasites are prevalent among felines, with an estimated 45% or more being affected by these worms in their lifetime. In fact, most kittens are born with internal parasites as they’re passed in utero from the mother, which is why deworming is a part of kitten wellness care.
There are many different types of intestinal parasites, which can cause mild to more serious health complications, including:
Certain protozoan organisms like Giardia and Toxoplasma can also be transmitted to indoor pets. It’s important to note that both of these illnesses, as well as some of the aforementioned GI worms, can be picked up by humans; children are particularly susceptible.
Symptoms vary with each type of parasite, but most worms cause the following:
- Dull coat
- Pale gums
- Bloated belly
- Appetite loss
- Blood or mucous in stool
Many pet owners will first notice pieces of these worms (or live worms) in their pet’s vomit or stool.
The Case for Parasite Protection
One of the reasons we see so many “indoor only” cats suffering from various types of internal parasites is because owners believe them to be immune. What they don’t realize is the number of different ways cats can become exposed to these organisms.
For example, one of our feline patients kept returning to us with repeat episodes of GI parasites. As it turns out, the source of the exposure was contaminated potting soil used for indoor plants. Other common ways these parasites find their way into the home is through the family dog. Indoor cats who live in multi pet households should be careful, especially if those other pets spend time outdoors. Fleas, by the way, are the primary source of tapeworms.
No other pets? Well, your indoor cat still isn’t parasite-proof. You can also bring in parasites on your own clothing, shoes, and belongings. So, what’s the answer? Prevention!
- First, make sure your pet is screened at least annually and is on the right parasite prevention protocol.
- Clean litter boxes frequently.
- Wash your hands and change clothing after interacting with other animals.
- Ensure ALL pets within the home are current on vaccines and monthly preventives.
- Remember to use caution when handling pocket pets and exotics, as many of these small animals can carry parasites that can be spread to others in the home.
For more information on keeping your cat parasite-free, please phone the Maywood team.