Monday 26 July 2021

Parasites that can infest full-time indoor cats

It may surprise people to know that full-time indoor cats can be infested by a range of parasites. On this page I will briefly list them and how they come to infect full-time indoor cats. I'm not going to go over any other aspect of this discussion in this article but by all means click on the links below to read more about parasites.


Fleas are the obvious parasite which can infest indoor cats because they can be brought by their owner into the home. Or visitors to the home can bring one in or if there are other pets in the home which go outside, they may bring a flea inside the home. They will then jump onto the cat. The cat can ingest them when grooming. They can bite the cat causing a flea bite allergy which is most distressing. They transmit tapeworms to domestic cats.

Cat flea the most common cat parasite which can infest a full-time indoor cat
Cat flea the most common cat parasite which can infest a full-time indoor cat. Photo: Shutterstock.

This brings me nicely to the next parasite which is tapeworms. This is a gastrointestinal parasite and the most common internal parasites in adult cats. They live in the small intestines and can be several feet in length. You sometimes see body segments containing the eggs passed in faeces and sometimes attached to the fur on the cat's backside. They are transmitted to cats by an intermediate host. One species of tapeworm is acquired from fleas or lice. Another species of tapeworm is acquired by eating rodents, uncooked meat and raw freshwater fish.

Roundworms are acquired by cats by ingesting the eggs. They can do this inside the home by eating a host animal such as a beetle or rodent which has acquired encysted larvae in its tissues.

Hookworms can be acquired by full-time indoor cat when the cat eats a mouse which is a host to hookworm larvae.

There are some rare worm parasites such as trichinosis which is acquired by ingesting uncooked pork which contains cysts. People acquire this parasite. It would be rare for a cat to acquire this parasite because they would have to eat uncooked pork but it is possible because sometimes people give cats treats such as uncooked meat. They may do so in order to attempt to provide their cat with a raw diet which some people consider to be beneficial.

Stomach worms most likely infect cats living in the south-western United States. Cats acquire them by eating beetles, cockroaches, crickets or lizards. Insects are on the domestic cat's menu.

Protozoan parasites can infect full-time indoor cats. These are single-celled creatures invisible to the naked eye. The first is giardiasis which is acquired by drinking water from streams and other sources that are contaminated with infected cysts. This may affect a full-time indoor cat if the cat it has access to an enclosure outside the home.

Toxoplasmosis is a very well-known protozoan parasite which has been endlessly discussed on the Internet. Although normally cats acquire this disease from consuming infected birds or rodents, they can also get it from eating raw or undercooked pork, beef, mutton or veal and/or unpasteurised dairy products.

Coccodiosis as a gastrointestinal parasite which usually targets young kittens. There are several species. One of the species, Cystoisospora is acquired by kittens from their mother who are the carriers. The mother would have acquired it when they eat a host animal such as a bird. This would be unlikely to happen if the owner keeps all their cats indoors full-time but it is conceivable.

Heartworms are delivered to a cat through a mosquito bite as larvae are in the mouthparts. The larvae burrow beneath the skin.

This list is probably quite comprehensive but I may have inadvertently have missed out one of the parasite species. As you can see a full-time indoor cat can acquire parasites and a veterinarian would recommend that you treat your cat for parasites. 

There are various ways of doing this. The most common parasite is fleas and provided you keep your home clean and tidy my advice is to flea comb your cat daily or twice daily to check for fleas. In this way you can keep fleas down without any harmful insecticides being deposited on your cat. 

My cat hunts mice and he regularly brings them into the home. He also kills birds occasionally but rarely. In the six years of his life he's only had two fleas. I combed them out and killed them immediately. 

It is possible to manage and eradicate fleas without harmful insecticides but you make your own choice on that. If the infestation is bad you will have to treat the entire home and treat your cat with an insecticide. You might like to consider using diatomaceous earth which destroys the exoskeleton of fleas and kills them that way. Click on the link to see what it is all about.

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