How to Care for a Healthy Cat: HOOKWORMS

The Classic Comprehensive Handbook of Cat Care: HOOKWORMS


Hookworms (Ancylostoma and Uncinaria species) are small intestinal parasites (about one-fourth to one-half inch long, 0.6 to 1.25 cm) that attach to the wall of the small intestine and suck blood. Cats may become infected by ingesting infective larval worms off the ground, eating a transport host such as a mouse, or by penetration of their skin by infective larvae. Kittens may become infected before birth by larvae migrating through the mother’s body tissues and shortly after birth by larvae passed in colostrum and milk.

Migration of hookworm larvae through the skin can cause itching reflected by scratching, redness, and sometimes bumps and scabs on the skin. Hookworms living in the intestine can cause diarrhea, severe anemia, weakness, and emaciation leading to death. Infection in young animals sometimes causes anemia and death even before hookworm eggs are detectable in the stool.


Hookworms cannot be diagnosed and treated effectively without the aid of a veterinarian. Hookworms are small enough to be overlooked even when they are passed in the stool. Signs of illness caused by hookworm infection can be caused by other diseases as well. The safest and most effective compounds for treatment are available only through veterinarians.

If your cat has to be treated for hookworms your veterinarian will probably use a drug called pyrantel pamoate (9 mg/lb, 20 mg/kg) that you may be able to administer at home. Other kinds of effective drugs include febantel, disophenol, dichlorvos, and ivermectin.


Hookworms are a problem only in areas that provide an environment suitable for the development of infective larvae. The preinfective stages require moderate temperatures (between about 73°F and 86°F, [22.8° to 30°C]) and moisture for development. Prevent reinfection or spread of hookworms by keeping your cat indoors and having him or her use a litter pan that is thoroughly cleaned at least weekly (preferably daily) until your cat is diagnosed as hookworm free.

Cage areas should be washed daily and allowed to dry, and outdoor areas where stool may have been deposited must be kept dry for three weeks to kill larvae. In areas of gravel, dirt, sand, or bark, concentrated sodium chloride solution (irritating to cat’s feet) or sodium borate (borax, 10 pounds per 100 square feet, broadcast dry, raked lightly, and moistened) must be applied to kill the larvae. Repeat the application monthly.