Jun 07, 2021

Parasitologists report that while cats may be less susceptible to worms and other intestinal parasites compared to dogs, worms still rank as one of the most common cat health problems in the world. Parasites affect cats of all ages, and it doesn’t matter if you have an outdoor cat or an indoor cat. Sooner or later, your furry friend will be exposed.

When you suspect that your cat has worms, it’s always best to take them to see a veterinarian. Your vet can assess the problem’s seriousness and may, in cases where the worm infestation is critical, prescribe, and administer a cat wormer. However, mild worm infestations are treatable by using an over-the-counter dewormer in the comfort of your home. It will also save you big on vet bills.

3 common types of intestinal parasites that infect cats

Every cat dewormer on the market has an active ingredient that targets a specific type of gastrointestinal parasite. Thus, cat owners need to be familiar with the different types of worms that may affect their cats. 

Roundworms

Roundworms can be found in three out of four cats, warns Cornell University, and is especially problematic for young cats and kittens. There are two types, Toxocara cati and Toxascaris leonina, prevalent in cats, and symptoms often include poor appetite, chronic fatigue, and a bloated or swollen stomach. Your cat may pick up roundworms by licking or eating roundworm eggs in the environment, being exposed to other animals that have it, like rats or mice, or drinking it from an infected mother cat’s milk.

Tapeworms

Dipylidium caninum and Taenia taeniaeformis are the two most common types of tapeworms found in cats. The former infects your feline friend via fleas, and the latter gets transmitted to your cat from rats, mice, and other rodents, which can be especially problematic if your cat goes outdoors. Common symptoms include poor appetite or watery feces, and you may even find pieces of worm in your cat’s litterbox.

Hookworms

Hookworms, like Ancylostoma tubaeforme and Uncinaria stenocephala, infect your cat when it licks itself during grooming if eggs are present on their fur, or when hookworm larvae burrow into your cat’s skin. Once the hookworm is in your cat, it “hooks” into your cat’s intestine, which often leads to symptoms like anemia, bloody feces, and chronic weight loss. Some of these worms start as a minor inconvenience but can quickly grow, quite literally, into a bigger problem that may lead to severe health complications in your cat. Some hookworm infestations may even prove fatal. Talk to your vet if you’re unsure of what type of parasite your cat may have. Targeted treatment is always better for your cat and your wallet.

Parasite treatment solutions

If your cat has worms, you can go the all-natural route, like adding diatomaceous earth or garlic to your cat’s food, or you can pick up deworming medication. When it comes to medications, it’s best to ask your vet for a prescription, but many over-the-counter cat dewormers can be just as effective as a prescription dewormer and significantly more budget-friendly.

Every dewormer targets a specific type of gastrointestinal parasite using a specific active ingredient:

  • Pyrantel pamoate: Available as a liquid suspension, chewable tablet, or a capsule, it kills hookworms and roundworms within a couple of hours.
  • Praziquantel: Delivered as a tablet that’s crushed into your cat’s food, it starves and kills tapeworms.
  • Piperazine: Administered as a liquid suspension or a tablet, this ingredient paralyzes roundworms so your cat can excrete the parasite in its feces.

No matter which active ingredient and dewormer you choose, always consider the potential side effects. While all worm infestations are serious and should be treated immediately, knowing what side effects your chosen treatment may trigger can help you be proactive in guarding your cat’s safety and comfort. Understanding side effects is especially crucial if you have a cat with a pre-existing medical condition or if your cat is very young or very old. In such cases, consult your vet for professional guidance. For any medication that you give your cat, be sure to follow the labeled guidelines. Even over-the-counter medications can cause severe problems if administered incorrectly, sometimes causing parasites to come back. 

Gastrointestinal parasites in cats

They may be small, but roundworms, tapeworms, and other parasites can cause big health complications for your feline friend, plus your cat can even pass those parasites on to you and your family. The bad news is that your cat can pick up a parasite anywhere — from their food, from the environment, from other cats, and even from merely grooming themselves. They could also be infected without showing any symptoms. There is some good news, though. Cat owners have many convenient at-home options for treating parasites and deworming their cats. 

Whether your cat is showing symptoms of an infestation of tapeworms, hookworms, or roundworms, or if you just want to be proactive and treat the potential health problem ahead of time, our expert pet advisors have researched the most effective cat dewormers for all breeds and all ages. Read on for a comprehensive, in-depth review of the best over-the-counter cat dewormers, including all-natural remedies, that work quickly to kill and prevent the many different worm species that may infect your cat. 

The 5 best cat dewormers

Best Overall
Our Score 9.4 Out of 10
Check price chewy.com
Best Mid Range
Our Score 9.2 Out of 10
Check price amazon.com
Cheaper Choice
Our Score 8.9 Out of 10
Check price amazon.com
Our Score 8.6 Out of 10
Check price chewy.com
Our Score 8.2 Out of 10
Check price amazon.com

Best all-purpose dewormer: Bayer Drontal Broad Spectrum Dewormer

Our Score 9.4 out of 10
Drontal Tablets for Cats and Kittens, 2-16 lbs
Drontal Tablets for Cats and Kittens, 2-16 lbs chewy.com Check price

Description
Knock out parasites and help your pet feel better with Drontal tablets. Specially formulated for cats and kittens, Drontal is prescribed by veterinarians to help treat a variety of inte...

If you don’t know what type of parasites your cat has, or if your cat is struggling with several different forms of intestinal worms, Bayer Drontal Broad Spectrum Dewormer may be the most effective. Each individual pill contains praziquantel and pyrantel, which targets roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms. Keep in mind that broad-spectrum treatments may increase the risk of side effects in your cat, and it’s always best to identify the specific parasite you’re dealing with to identify the right active ingredient that will eliminate the problem.

Best tapeworm dewormer: Bayer Tapeworm Dewormer

Our Score 9.2 out of 10
Bayer Tapeworm Dewormer (praziquantel tablets) for Cats, 3-Count Praziquantel Tablets for Cats and Kittens 6 Weeks and Older
Bayer Tapeworm Dewormer (praziquantel tablets) for Cats, 3-Count Praziquantel Tablets for Cats and Kittens 6 Weeks and Older amazon.com Check price

3-count bottle of tapeworm dewormer for cats
Easy effective way to remove common tapeworms in cats
Tablets may be crumbled and mixed with food or taken by mouth
Tapeworm Dewormer for Cats will remo...

These praziquantel tablets can be broken up and mixed into your cat’s food or, if your pet isn’t particularly fussy, placed directly in your cat’s mouth. Bayer’s Tapeworm Dewormer targets Dipylidium caninum and Taenia taeniaeformis, the two most common types of tapeworms in cats. It is effective for cats that are older than six weeks of age.

Best roundworm dewormer: Durvet Wormeze Feline Liquid Wormer for Cats & Kittens

Our Score 8.9 out of 10
Durvet Wormeze Feline Liquid Wormer for Cats & Kittens 4oz.…

This liquid dewormer targets all common forms of roundworms in cats, including Toxocara canis, Toxocara cati, and Toxascaris leonina. It uses piperazine citrate, an anthelmintic that causes your cat’s body to expel the parasites. Use the label instructions to identify the recommended dose based on your cat’s weight, then add to their food or water.

Best budget-friendly roundworm dewormer: Hartz UltraGuard Rid Worm Liquid for Cats

Our Score 8.6 out of 10
Hartz UltraGuard Rid Worm Liquid Cat Treatment, 4-oz bottle
Hartz UltraGuard Rid Worm Liquid Cat Treatment, 4-oz bottle chewy.com Check price

Description
Help get rid of those pests bothering your furry friend with Hartz UltraGuard Rid Worm Liquid Cat Treatment. This easy-to-use solution can be applied directly in your paw-tner’s mouth o...

If you are on a tight budget, this roundworm treatment is a cost-effective version of the Durvet product highlighted above. It contains the same active ingredient, administered as a liquid suspension, but at a fraction of the cost. 

Best all-natural dewormer: FurFinds Herbal Cleanse for Cats

Our Score 8.2 out of 10
FurFinds Herbal Cleanse fot Cats and Dogs - Homeopathics Parasites and Toxins for Dogs and Cats - All Breeds and Size - Puppy & Kitten - 2oz
FurFinds Herbal Cleanse fot Cats and Dogs - Homeopathics Parasites and Toxins for Dogs and Cats - All Breeds and Size - Puppy & Kitten - 2oz amazon.com Check price

EFFECTIVE FOR DOGS AND CATS - professionally formulated and effective. Works for both dogs and cats, puppies and kittens, senior dogs and cats of all breeds and sizes.
EASY TO USE - liquid formula ...

Using chemicals on a cat makes some owners wary. If that’s you, consider using an all-natural treatment before resorting to traditional medications. The goal is to create an environment within your cat’s digestive tract and intestines that makes their body inhospitable to worms, helping your cat’s body naturally resist the parasites and excrete them when they occur. FurFinds Herbal Cleanse for Cats is a liquid formula that can be added to your cat’s water or food. It contains herbal extracts like oregano, papain, cloves, and whole food supplements like pumpkin seed and apple cider vinegar. 

How to proactively defend your cat from parasites

It’s always better if you can prevent a health problem instead of treating a health problem. Because your cat could be carrying worms without showing any signs or symptoms of an infection, make sure you stay up-to-date on your vet appointments. Regular screening is the best way to keep worms at bay and stop the problem before it spreads. Along with regular veterinary visits, consider other preventative measures that keep your cats free of parasites and worms:

  • Practice good litter box hygiene: Remove feces promptly, change the litter regularly, and sanitize all surfaces in and around your cat’s litter box. This is especially important when you’re using a deworming product since some dewormers cause your cat to excrete worms that may re-infect your cat if the litter is not promptly cleaned.
  • Keep your cat indoors. Besides rodents, outside soil, grass, and sidewalks can carry parasites or parasite eggs. Plus, indoor cats live an average of 17 years compared to the average outdoor cat’s lifespan of two to five years.
  • Kill fleas and ticks. These parasites cause their own problems but may also be secondary carriers of worms.
  • Check and test your cat’s feces. It’s one of the earliest forms of detecting a worm problem.
  • Maintain your cat’s general health. A healthy cat is naturally more resistant to worms, parasites, and other health problems. This includes a healthy diet and talking to your vet about any feline supplements or vitamins that may support optimal wellness.

Happy cat, happy family

Unless your cat is one of the very few exceptions, he or she will be exposed to worms and worm eggs at some point. Keeping your cat free of parasites supports your cat’s health and wellbeing, as well as your family, as some worm infections can be passed along to humans. Make sure you are well versed in over-the-counter solutions, and consult a vet if you are unsure or think the infection is severe.

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