PET HEALTH

Tapeworms in Cats: Causes and How To Treat Them

Four minutes
Jun 18, 2024

Parasites, like tapeworms, can be an uncomfortable situation for both your cat and you. Knowing how to get rid of tapeworms in cats and prevent possible reinfection is important for their health. Learn more about what causes tapeworms in cats, the symptoms of an infection, and how you can help prevent them in the first place.

MetLife Pet Insurance can help reimburse vet bills for tapeworm tests and treatments. Our Preventive Care plan add-on can help keep them healthy with coverage for parasite prevention. Get your free pet insurance quote.

What Are Tapeworms?

Tapeworms are intestinal parasites — a type of cestode that looks like white, flat ribbons with egg-filled segments (proglottids).1 Adult tapeworms can be 4 – 28 inches long and are usually found in an infected animal’s intestines with their head attached to the mucous membrane, absorbing nutrients.1,2 When segments mature, they break off from the main body in lengths of approximately 0.25 inches and can be passed through the rectum on feces. They may look like small grains of rice.1

How Do Cats Get Tapeworms?

The most common tapeworm is the Dipylidium caninum, which is typically transmitted by ingesting fleas during grooming that are infected with tapeworm larvae.3 The larvae then develop into adult tapeworms in the cat’s intestines.2

Less commonly, cats who eat infected rats or mice may also become infected with the Taenia taeniaeformis tapeworm.3

It’s also possible for humans to be infected with Dipylidium tapeworm by accidentally ingesting infected fleas or tapeworm eggs from proglottids that may come from cleaning your cat’s feces or body.1,2

Are certain cats more prone to infection?

Because tapeworm infections are mainly caused by ingesting infected fleas, cats who have fleas or are exposed to flea-infested environments may be at a higher risk of a tapeworm infection.4

Since tapeworms can also be transmitted through infected hosts (like rodents, rabbits, and birds) cats who spend time outside, hunt or eat these animals, or live in an indoor environment with access to these animals, may be at a higher risk for a tapeworm infection.4

Cat Tapeworm Symptoms

Cats may not always show apparent symptoms of a tapeworm infection — and even if they are infected, it’s uncommon for significant disease to develop.1 If a cat has tapeworms, you may notice the following signs:1,3,4

  • Dragging their butt across the floor (less common in cats than dogs)
  • Small segments of the adult tapeworms on the surface of feces or around the anus
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Poor coat quality
  • Variable appetite
  • General discomfort
  • Weight loss (if infection is severe)

Diagnosing Cat Tapeworms

Typically, diagnosing tapeworms in cats is based on finding tapeworm segments or eggs on feces or around the anus. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests may be required to identify the type of tapeworm.3 However, if segments haven’t broken off from the main body to be passed on feces, it can be harder to diagnose.

Cat Tapeworm Treatment

The good news is treating tapeworms in cats is fairly easy and has a great prognosis. Removal of the parasites requires giving cats medication to kill the tapeworms in the intestines, where they’re then digested and pass through normal digestive means. You may know this type of medication to be called dewormer.3,4

If your cat has tapeworms, MetLife Pet cat insurance policies can typically provide coverage for expenses related to diagnostics and treatment. Take a look at how we helped these real-life policyholders.

Juniper, a young tabby cat from Oklahoma, loves spending time outdoors with her pet parents, but their yard is full of places fleas call home. One day, when Juniper’s parents were cleaning her litter box, they noticed a few white segments on her feces. They took her — and her poop — to the vet to get checked out. After a physical exam and diagnostic tests, she was diagnosed with tapeworms. The vet bill totaled around $150, but MetLife Pet reimbursed Juniper’s parents over $120.5

Then you have Chip, a young cat from California, who needed deworming medication after being diagnosed with tapeworms. The medicine cost more than $50, but with their MetLife Pet Insurance policy, Chip’s pet parents were reimbursed over $45.6

Can my cat get tapeworms again?

Reinfection can occur with both types of tapeworms, especially if cats are still exposed to environments where infected fleas or infected prey animals are prevalent. Controlling the population of fleas and rodents can help prevent reinfection.1,3

It may also help to regularly clean your cat’s litter box if they’re being treated for tapeworms to reduce the likelihood of reinfection through contact with proglottids that may still pass on their feces.

Preventing Tapeworms in Cats

While it’s not always possible to prevent a tapeworm infection, you can control your cat’s access to factors that cause the infection in the first place — fleas and rodents. In general, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your pet’s whereabouts and check them for fleas often. It’s also important to deworm kittens to help prevent parasite infections.7

Cats who might be at a higher risk of eating infected rodents and becoming infected with Taenia tapeworms may benefit from deworming medication given as a preventive measure.3 Chat with your vet to see if this is appropriate for your cat, and keep them on a regular flea and tick prevention medication to help prevent a Dipylidium tapeworm infection.

MetLife Pet offers a Preventive Care plan add-on that can help cover the cost of parasite prevention — including flea and tick medication. Take Mucho, for example. This 7-year-old domestic short-hair cat from Georgia received a reimbursement for nearly $270 of the $300 prescription flea and tick preventive medication because of his MetLife Pet policy.8

MetLife Pet Insurance Offers Illness and Preventive Coverage

Cats might get tapeworms at some point in their lives, but you can take the necessary steps to protect them by helping to prevent an infection. One of these steps can include enrolling them in a MetLife Pet policy. We provide coverage for illnesses and even have a Preventive Care plan add-on to help cover routine wellness expenses — like flea and tick prevention.

Make it easier to ensure your pet gets the care they need, while worrying less about the cost, by purchasing a MetLife Pet Insurance policy. Explore more reasons why having pet insurance may be worth it for you, and check your personalized rates with a free quote today.

A MetLife Pet Policy May Help Cover Tapeworm Costs 

See What's Covered

**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Gastrointestinal Parasites of Cats,” Cornell Feline Health Center

2 “About Dog or Cat Tapeworm Infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

3 “Tapeworms in Dogs and Cats,” Merck Veterinary Manual

4 “Tapeworm Infection in Cats,” VCA Animal Hospitals, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/tapeworm-infection-in-cats

5 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife Pet internal claims data from September 2023. This example is for illustrative purposes only. This is based on a policy with a $250 deductible and 80% reimbursement. The pet policy issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company is the governing document with respect to all matters of insurance. The specific facts of each claim must be evaluated in conjunction with the provisions of the applicable Policy to determine coverage in each individual case.

6 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife Pet internal claims data from September 2023. This example is for illustrative purposes only. This is based on a policy with a $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement. The pet policy issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company is the governing document with respect to all matters of insurance. The specific facts of each claim must be evaluated in conjunction with the provisions of the applicable Policy to determine coverage in each individual case.

7 “How to Deworm Kittens and Cats,” WebMD

8 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife Pet internal claims data from September 2023. This example is for illustrative purposes only. This is based on a policy with a $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement. The pet policy issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company is the governing document with respect to all matters of insurance. The specific facts of each claim must be evaluated in conjunction with the provisions of the applicable Policy to determine coverage in each individual case.

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886. Availability is subject to regulatory approval. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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