Your cat knows that snuggle time becomes harder to resist if they greet you with a tender meow and a soft, loving gaze. Cuddling with your kitty is a good way to bond, and chances are that you enjoy spending quality time with them as much as they do. But have you ever wondered if there were any health concerns from letting your cat climb onto your favorite blanket? As it turns out, you can get worms from your cat! However, it isn’t likely if you first take steps to prevent worms from taking residence in your cat.
What Type of Worms Can You Get from Your Cat?
Roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms are all common pests that can plague our pets. But some of these bugs actually come from another pest—fleas.
Humans can get tapeworms by swallowing an infected flea, which might have jumped off of their kitty. Fleas can eat tapeworm eggs during their larval stage. If your cat ingests an infected flea, such as accidentally swallowing one while grooming, the tapeworm egg will hatch in your cat’s intestines. They’ll continue to grow and reproduce asexually, releasing eggs into your cat’s feces and spreading the parasite to other animals.
The tapeworm is a secondary parasite because your cat won’t become infected with tapeworms if they eat their eggs. Instead, your cat must eat a flea that contains the eggs. Hookworms and roundworms don’t require a secondary host, however; they can get into your cat directly through ingested eggs.
Here’s a list of common parasites, and how they might infect humans:
|Parasite||Can humans get it?||How You Can Get Infected|
|Tapeworm||Yes||By accidentally eating an infested flea|
|Hookworms||Yes||Through skin contact with infected poop, such as walking on a beach with infected cat poop. Ingestion of hookworm larvae.|
|Roundworms||Yes||Through contact with infected poop, such as children playing in contaminated sandboxes. Ingestion of roundworm eggs.|
|Fleas||Yes||Cats can spread fleas on their fur, and they can hop from your pets to your skin. Fleas can cause itchy bites and even rashes, especially if you’re allergic.|
|Toxoplasma||Yes||Infection by ingesting food or water contaminated by cat poop.|
|Ticks||Yes||Although ticks aren’t as common on cats as dogs, they can transfer to humans if your cat brings one inside on its skin and then it crawls off onto you.|
|Heartworms||No||Heartworms infiltrate cats through mosquito bites. They are not transmissible from cat-to-cat or cat-to-human.|
What Will Happen If I Get Worms from My Cat?
Fortunately, cat hookworms don’t transfer to humans’ intestines the way they do in cats. A hookworm infection in humans results in “ground itch,” which happens when hookworm larvae burrow their way through your skin. The eggs won’t travel to your intestines because they won’t hatch. Hookworm infections most often occur through touching infected feces, such as if a child inadvertently plays with cat poop in a sandbox.
Roundworms on the other hand can pose an intestinal risk to humans. These pests can even travel outside the GI system into other parts of the body, causing damage to these organs such as the eyes and liver. Humans can only get roundworms by ingestion of roundworm eggs. They can cause two syndromes: visceral larval migrans and ocular larval migrans in humans.
You can only get tapeworms by accidentally swallowing an infected flea. How would you do that, you might ask? Some possible ways include picking them up with your mouth by kissing your cat or eating or drinking after them. It is more common for children to become infected.
Other pests such as fleas, mites, and ticks can be spread by the parasite jumping onto you from your pet, or from surfaces they frequent such as bedding. Keeping your bedding washed and your house clean should prevent these pests from becoming serious burdens.
Although heartworms are extremely dangerous to your pets, you can’t get them from your cat because they’re transmitted by mosquitoes. You should still protect your cat from heartworms by giving them a monthly prevention and guarding your yard against mosquitoes by spraying bug repellent or naturally by planting Citronella or other herbs that mosquitoes hate.
Ways to Prevent Worms in You and Your Cat
Protecting your cat from fleas is the first line of defense in preventing worms from getting to you. You can guard against fleas by following these three steps:
If your cat does develop worms, protect yourself by wearing gloves and thoroughly washing your hands after you clean out their litter box. Depending on the type of worm, you shouldn’t let your kitty back on your bed until the problem has been resolved.
You should always wash your hands after cleaning out your cat’s litter box, but it’s especially vital if your cat is infected with worms. Roundworms and hookworms are predominately spread to humans through contact with an infected cat’s poop. Wear shoes if you’re in an area that might have been soiled by cats and don some gardening gloves while tending to your garden if it’s frequented by felines.
Every year a significant number of people are affected by zoonotic parasites; infections from animals.Anywhere that you are in close contact with your cat brings the possibility of infection. So yes, your cat can pass on parasites to you, however, the chances are low as long as you follow safe hygienic habits and prevent your cat from becoming infected with fleas. These pests are potentially hazardous to you and your pet’s health, so you should be vigilant in your fight against fleas, ticks, and other varmints so your cat feels well for many more snuggles to come.
Featured Image Credit: Marina-mrs_brooke, Shutterstock