Most cats will contract roundworms at some time during their lives—it’s a common parasite that can be easily treated.

Cats contract roundworms by eating another animal that is infected—like an insect or mouse—or from another cat via feces, typically in a shared litterbox. Kittens contract it from the milk of an infected mother and are particularly vulnerable to the effects. If you suspect your kitten has been exposed, have him or her seen by your vet immediately.

Once the roundworm parasite is ingested, it resides in the cat’s digestive system, then passes through the intestines and emerges in the feces. The worms will be visible in the feces and have a noodle-like appearance. Other symptoms of a roundworm infection include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss or a distended belly.

Although roundworm is deposited in a cat’s stomach, it can spread to other organs. And infections left untreated can be fatal. Fortunately, testing for and treating roundworm is fairly simple: Your vet will use a fecal test to determine the presence of the parasite, and if the test is positive, your cat will be given an oral deworming pill. Two or three rounds of deworming medication may be required.

Clean litterboxes can help prevent a recurrence of roundworm. Monthly flea medications can also help—some are created to kill roundworm larvae in addition to preventing fleas. Kittens should be given deworming medication until they are a year old, so talk to your vet about what to use and how often.

Want to learn more about our fascinating feline friends and how to care for them? Check out Cat Chow’s Catipedia website!