Can cat worms be passed on to humans? Yes, they can.
What happens when cat owners get infected? Although results may be different amongst various cases, they can lead to the loss of function of the infected organ. If left untreated, such parasitic infection may be fatal to humans.
It is not very difficult for humans to develop cat worm infection. Fortunately, parasitic transmissions from feline animals are easy to avoid.
Cat Worm Infection Symptoms
Humans can be infected by hookworms even without ingestion. Merely walking barefoot on the ground containing hookworm-infested feline stool can trigger an infection. These tiny (about a centimetre long) thread-like worms can penetrate human skin and go underneath it. Symptoms could include:
- Rashes and severe itchiness on infected areas
- Red, bumpy, vein-like tracks visible on the skin’s surface
- Weight loss
This is the most common worm infection amongst feline pets, especially kittens. At its adult size, roundworms are 7–12 centimetres long, can latch onto intestines, and can cause blockage when they curl into a ball. Humans, especially children, can be infected when they ingest substances or come in contact with surfaces contaminated by roundworm eggs. These eggs are so small that they are invisible to the human eye. The infected cat may, for example, lick her rear end and then lick your face or hand. And when you touch your mouth with your fingers, the infection will develop.
There are two kinds of roundworm infections. For ocular larva migrans, which is when the roundworm has entered the eye, the symptoms may include:
- Reduced visual clarity
- Presence of floaters
- Discomfort when the affected eye is exposed to light
- Pain in the affected eye
- Bloodshot look
- Eye becomes misaligned (strabismus)
- Loss of vision (in severe cases)
With visceral larva migrans, the roundworm larvae have affected the lungs, liver, or the nervous system. Signs of this infection may include the following:
- Itchy skin
- Pain in the abdomen
- Cough accompanied by wheezing
- Shortness of breath
- Enlarged liver
As indicated by the name, tapeworms have flattened bodies, making them look like ribbons. It can modify its length, decreasing and increasing as necessary. Tapeworm infection usually happens via ingestion, and primarily affects the intestines. Transmission to humans happens when they unknowingly ingest substances that are contaminated by cat waste infested with tapeworm eggs. An example would be when an infected cat sleeps on the owner’s bed. The eggs shed by the feline may come in contact with the human body and later enter through the mouth. Infection symptoms, which may take years to appear, may include:
- Craving for salt
- Appetite loss
- Pain in the abdomen
- Weight loss
- Malnutrition due to insufficient absorption of nutrients
Treating and Preventing Cat Worm Infection
Treatment of roundworm, hookworm, and tapeworm infections typically involve prescribed oral medications taken for a number of days in order to kill and flush out the parasites from the body. Regular check-ups at certain intervals will be done by your GP to make sure that the body is clear of worm infection. This is especially the case with tapeworm as the medicines target the worm and not the eggs. Regular faecal exams will determine whether the treatment has cleared all eggs.
The key to preventing cat worm transmission is good hygiene. Generally, you and your household should:
- Wash hands after petting cats, especially with felines confirmed to be infected by worms.
- Avoid kissing or letting infected cats lick you in the face.
- Make sure your cats potty in the designated space.
- Avoid walking barefoot on ground where your cat potties.
- Wear gloves when you work in the garden.
- Do not allow an infected cat to lie on your bed or other furniture that you frequently use.
When Your Feline Has Cat Worms
Typically, worm infection symptoms in humans are similar to those in all cat breeds. They tend to feel weak and have pain in their stomach area, blood in their faeces, diarrhoea, and bloated appearance. When your cat has been diagnosed with a parasitic infection, have her dewormed by a veterinarian immediately. The vet will need to monitor the deworming, and that means multiple visits for the duration of the treatment.
You will also need to disinfect the cat’s bedding, other gear, and areas where she has lain or come in contact with. To prevent further infection after successful treatment, bring your feline friend to the vet for annual faecal and physical exams.