Can humans get Tapeworms from Cats?

Tapeworms can be a real concern with cats.

If you have a feline friend, it is important to learn about these parasites.

What are Tapeworms?

Tapeworms are essentially parasites that commonly affect dogs and cats. These parasites appear thin and white, usually measuring three to six inches long. The eggs are laid inside the animal’s intestines, which can cause a lot of damage.

tapeworm microscope

How Do Cats get Tapeworms?

There are two varieties of tapeworms that cats can get include taneia taeniaformis and dipylidium caninum. The former type is passed onto a cat from the larvae of a flea. 

Cats are always grooming themselves, and sometimes they consume fleas. If your cat swallows a flea that has eaten tapeworm eggs, it is almost certain that they will become infected.

A cat can contract the latter variety of tapeworm by eating a mouse or squirrel that contain tapeworm larvae. This is why this type of tapeworm is more common with outdoor cats that hunt and eat a variety of animals in the wild.

cat sick

How Do Humans get Tapeworms?

While it isn’t especially common, a person can get a tapeworm if they accidentally consume a flea that is infected with worm larvae.

This can happen if you pet your cat and put your hand in your mouth afterward. Yes, you can get tapeworms from your cat.

You can avoid cat-to-person transmission by petting or touching your cat’s face. It is also important that you wash your hands thoroughly after handling any amount of cat feces, even with gloves.

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Children are more likely to become infected with tapeworms, as they tend to be more careless with handling pet feces and with petting.

How to Tell if Your Cat has Tapeworms

The easiest way to tell if your cat has tapeworms is by examining their litter box. If they have been infected, you should see small white specks in the litter. These worms may look like tiny grains of rice.

Your veterinarian will be able to confirm the presence of tapeworms by analyzing a stool sample from the cat. It is important that you confirm this so you can get your pet the treatment it needs. 

If you suspect that you have tapeworms, you can get your blood drawn or stool analyzed to confirm this. Even an MRI or CT scan can be performed to detect the presence of cysts, which are common with tapeworm infections.

Treating Tapeworms

Tapeworms can be easily gotten rid of with an anthelmintic, which is a medication specially designed to kill these worms. You will have to give your cat two individual doses of the medication in order to get rid of the worms completely. With proper treatment, the tapeworms should no longer be a problem at all.

Treatment for human tapeworm infections is a bit different. There are numerous medications that a doctor can prescribe, including Alinia, Albenza, and Biltricide. The specific medication that you are given will depend on the type of tapeworm in your body.

In rare cases, it might be necessary for a person with a tapeworm infection to undergo surgery to remove any cysts they might have. Cysts can form on the lungs, liver, and even eyes. If left untreated, these cysts can cause organ damage and eventually failure.

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After Treatment

Once you have given your cat the prescribed medication, you need to remove all feces, as some of it could still contain tapeworms.

If you have any children in the house, you will need to teach them about proper hygiene when it comes to pet feces. This will help prevent future infections.

Signs of Tapeworms

It is important that you recognize the sign of a tapeworm infection in your cat so you can get it the necessary treatment right away.

Some of the signs of tapeworms include:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Your cat keeps dragging its butt across the floor (scooting)
  • Worms crawling around in feces
  • Vomiting (at this point the worms have moved the stomach)

Other Types of Worms

There are two other types of worms that cats can develop issues with—hookworms and roundworms. Both of these can be transmitted to humans, so you will need to know as much about them as possible.

Roundworms

It is fairly common for cats to get roundworms, which have either a brown or white coloration. They are able to survive by feeding on your cat’s intestines. A person can get these worms from a cat if they handle their feces or vomit and do not wash their hands afterwards.

While human to human transmission of roundworms is fairly uncommon, it is possible. If someone prepares food for another person without washing their hands, they could get infected through the contaminated food.

Hookworms

A big part of what makes hookworms so dangerous is that they cannot be seen by the naked human eye. These worms infiltrate the small intense and lungs of their host. It is possible for people to get these worms from their feline companion. 

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All you’d have to do is just step in cat feces with bare feet to get them. The feces contain the eggs of the hookworms, which eventually hatch to produce larvae. Once this has occurred, they latch onto the skin. Humans cannot spread hookworms to other humans.

Conclusion

  • Cats get tapeworms from consuming fleas that have worm larvae in them, which is also how humans can become infected.
  • It is important to wash your hands after handling cat feces, even if you wore gloves.
  • A tapeworm infection can be confirmed with a stool or blood sample by a veterinarian (for cats) or general physician (for humans).
  • There are numerous medications that can be used to effectively get rid of tapeworms, both in cats and people.
  • Some of the signs that your cat might have tapeworms include sudden weight loss, vomiting, and scooting.
  • If you suspect that you’ve contracted a tapeworm infection from your cat, it is important to see a doctor right away.
  • There are other types of worms that can be passed on to humans from cats that you need to be aware of.
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