Common Parasites in Cats

Parasites are pesky creatures that can infest cats, causing harm and potentially transmitting diseases. As a responsible cat owner, it’s crucial to understand the different types of parasites that can affect your feline friend and take proactive steps to prevent infestations.

What Types of Parasites Do Cats Get?

Parasites that affect cats can be classified as either external or internal. External parasites, as the name suggests, reside on your cat’s hair and skin. Internal parasites, on the other hand, live inside their body.

What Are the Most Common External Cat Parasites?


Fleas are tiny insects that feed on your cat’s blood, causing discomfort and irritation. They are not only a nuisance but can also transmit serious diseases such as tapeworms and bacterial infections. Outdoor cats, cats that live with other pets, or those in multi-pet households are more susceptible to flea infestations.

Spotting fleas can be challenging as cats often hide the signs. However, frequent scratching, licking, or biting of the skin are common indications. The good news is that fleas are relatively easy to treat once identified. Your veterinarian can provide you with safe spot-on treatments or collars. Medications to eliminate fleas can also be prescribed.


Ticks are arachnid parasites with eight legs that can range in size from 1mm to 1cm. They are more prevalent in areas with abundant wildlife, making it easier for cats to encounter them. Ticks are active throughout the year, but they are more commonly found during spring and fall. Ticks can transmit diseases like Lyme disease and Mycoplasma to both cats and humans.

When checking for ticks, pay close attention to bumps or painful areas on your cat’s skin. Ticks can usually be felt as a small bump on their fur. The most common areas to find ticks are the head, neck, ears, and legs. Tick repellents are available in various forms, including spot-on treatments or collars. It’s important to use products specifically designed for cats, as those for dogs can be toxic to felines.

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Mites are spider-like parasites that can cause skin issues, irritation, and bacterial infections. The most common mite found in cats is the ear mite, which resides in the ear canal but can also be found elsewhere on the body. Other types of mites can cause scabies and trombiculosis.

Signs of mites in cats include constant scratching, head shaking, and biting. These behaviors can lead to sores, scabs, inflammation, and hair loss. To keep mites at bay, anti-parasite medications, observation, and regular grooming are essential. If you suspect your cat has mites, consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What Internal Parasites Can Affect Cats?

Internal parasites can include various worm-like parasites, such as roundworms, tapeworms, heartworms, and hookworms, as well as protozoan parasites like giardia, coccidia, and toxoplasma.


Giardia is a protozoan parasite that causes giardiasis. It attaches itself to the intestinal wall, resulting in symptoms such as diarrhea, greasy feces, and weight loss. Infected cats can ingest the parasite’s larvae from contaminated sources.

If your cat has giardiasis, your veterinarian will devise a treatment plan to eliminate the parasite effectively. Additionally, treatment for dehydration and diarrhea may be prescribed. Maintaining cleanliness and practicing good hygiene are essential in preventing giardiasis.


Coccidiosis is caused by one-celled parasitic organisms known as Isospora felis and Isospora rivolta. Cats can become infected by ingesting cysts found in excrement, consuming other animals, or through contact with contaminated soil. Most cases of coccidiosis in cats are not transmissible to humans.

While many infected cats may not show clinical symptoms, kittens and cats with weakened immune systems may experience severe watery diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Diagnosis is made through a thorough examination of the feces. Treatment usually involves anti-parasitic medications.


Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled parasite that is prevalent in cats but rarely causes illness. Cats become infected by ingesting cysts found in raw meat from infected prey. While healthy individuals are usually unaffected, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable.

Symptoms of toxoplasmosis are typically observed in cats with weakened immune systems, including fever, exhaustion, and loss of appetite. Depending on the specific symptoms, antibiotics and steroids may be prescribed. Prompt treatment is crucial, and your veterinarian will guide you through the process.

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Roundworms are large worms that live in the intestines and are common in cats. They are typically spread through the ingestion of larvae found in infected animals’ feces or through the consumption of prey. While roundworms can infect humans, it is relatively rare.

Symptoms of roundworm infection in cats include diarrhea, lethargy, weight loss, and vomiting. In some cases, infected worms may be visible in the feces or vomit. Regular deworming and maintaining clean litter boxes are essential preventive measures.


Tapeworms are flat, long, segmented parasites that cling to the small intestines of cats. The most common species affecting cats is Dipylidium caninum, which is transmitted through the ingestion of fleas. Detection of worm segments in the feces and around the anus is a common symptom of tapeworm infection.

Treating tapeworms involves dewormers, either oral or injectable. Preventing flea infestations is crucial in preventing tapeworm infections in cats.


Heartworm, caused by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis, primarily affects dogs. However, cats can also become infected, although they are more resistant. Heartworm is transmitted through infected mosquitoes, which inject larvae into the pet’s circulatory system.

In cats, heartworm infection may not exhibit noticeable symptoms until it has progressed significantly. Symptoms can include fast breathing, coughing, poor appetite, weight loss, and even sudden collapse or death. Preventives are available to protect cats from heartworm infection, but it is essential to consult with a veterinarian before administering any medication.


Hookworms are small, thin parasites that feed on the host’s blood and tissue fluids. They can enter a cat’s body through ingestion, skin penetration, or through nursing from an infected mother. While internal infection in humans is rare, larvae can cause skin irritation.

Symptoms of hookworm infection in cats include anemia, weight loss, diarrhea, dull hair coat, and bloody stools. Regular fecal examinations and deworming are important preventive measures.

Remember, prevention is key when it comes to protecting your cat from parasites. Regular vet check-ups, appropriate vaccinations, and practicing good hygiene can go a long way in ensuring your cat’s health and well-being.

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