Is it necessary to deworm an indoor cat?

How often do you need to deworm your indoor cat? Do indoor cats get worms at all? There is a popular myth that indoor cats are never exposed to parasites and, therefore, there is no need to deworm them, but that is not true. Here is a list of the four most probable ways your indoor cat can get worms.

an indoor cat getting his worm medicine - not happy about it
Indoor cats need to get worming medicine too — no matter how much they don’t want it. Photo by Erik Newth, creative commons

Ways your indoor cat can get worms

  1. Fleas. Fleas are parasites, but they can also have parasites of their own. Isn’t nature just too beautiful? In fact, fleas are a common carrier of cat, dog and human internal parasite larvae. When a cat or a dog ingests a flea, the larvae travels to their next host—your pet. It is also a common for a dog to lick their owner’s face or for a cat to take food from their owner’s dish (without permission), in which case the larvae can travel to the human, but that’s another story. Where does an indoor cat get fleas? Fleas are often carried indoors on our shoes or clothes, and it does not matter if your house is generally clean (or even spotless). You would not likely notice a single flea (it might not even bite you), but flea would make a beeline straight for your cat once it came inside.
  2. Worm eggs. Several parasite species propagate by having host animals ingest their eggs, which are found in the environment. Worm eggs are often brought indoors on our shoes and clothes. Is your cat sniffing around your outdoor wear to check where you’ve been? Most cats do, as they are curious animals. And we all know what curiosity does to the cat; it gets them worms, at the very least. To help prevent this, keep your house clean and store outdoor wear out of your cat’s reach.
  3. Other pets. Do you have other pets that go in and out? Maybe a dog who you take for a regular walks? Even if he isn’t infested himself, that pet can transmit parasites to your indoor cats, regardless of whether they come into contact or not. They share the same environment and parasites are experts at infiltrating a new environment and finding viable hosts. In practicality, this means that when one of your pets has worms, others are possibly susceptible. When you deworm one of your cats, it is best that you simultaneously do the same for all the other animals in your home. Remember, deworming is purging, it does not provide immunity against future contact with worms, therefore it’s best to minimize future cases by taking preventative measures to ensure that none of your pets get worms.
  4. Food. Are you feeding your cat a raw diet? We do not actively discourage this. If you do it right, it can be a premium nutritional balance for cats. If you like to give snacks to your cat, raw meat is typically the best option; however, raw meat is also a way for indoor cats to get worms. It’s not that common, but still possible. The good thing is, the risks are negligible if you select sources of ingredients carefully and comply with hygiene guidelines during the preparation process.

Do you need to deworm an indoor cat?

Indoor cats have smaller smaller risk to get parasites compared to that of outdoor cats; however, most veterinarians suggest to deworm indoor cats as frequently as outdoor cats. Why?

This is because it’s not possible to tell when your cat will be exposed to worm eggs or larvae again; therefore, you must provide preventive medicine on a regular basis.

How often should you deworm an indoor cat? This depends on several factors, such as where you live, how clean you keep your home, what other pets live in your household, what medicine do you give them, etc. Most commonly, cats require deworming anywhere between every three to twelve months (note: one deworming consists of two medications, usually administered two weeks apart). Talk to your veterinarian about the schedule that suits you best.

Remember, keeping your cat indoors does not eliminate the risk of getting parasites. Although indoor cats have reduced risk, the risk is still here, and plausibly high. Therefore, regular deworming is the best preventative option if you want to keep your indoor cat free of parasites.