Are Cat Tapeworms Contagious to Humans?

Cat tapeworms require the presence of fleas. Typically, pet owners only know about the tapeworm infection because they see sections of the cat tapeworms when they're cleaning the litter boxes.

The Life Cycle of Cat Tapeworms

When a cat has fleas, it's in their nature to groom themselves to remove the itchy parasites. During this time, the cat may ingest some fleas. This is where the life cycle of a tapeworm begins. Tapeworm eggs cannot hatch within a mammal, they need a flea as a host. By the time a flea reaches adulthood, the tapeworm has hatched and becomes problematic for mammals.

While grooming itself to get rid of fleas and soothe the itchy bites, the cat ingests an adult flea and the tapeworm larva. Once the tapeworm latches onto the lining of the intestines, it begins to grow. With each stage of development, the last few segments of the tapeworm's tail break off. These segments contain egg sacs that then exit through the cat's rectum. If a flea is around and ingests that egg sac, the cycle continues.

It's Rare for Humans to Contract Cat Tapeworms

Because a tapeworm requires consumption of a flea in order to enter a mammal's intestines, it's unlikely that humans will contract tapeworm from their pet.

However, it isn't impossible. If a flea jumps onto your dinner plate and you don't notice it when you take a bite of food, you could theoretically develop cat tapeworms. The odds of this happening are slim, however. Most people loathe fleas and work hard to keep fleas off of their pets and out of their homes.

Flea Prevention Is Key

The only way to completely eliminate the risk of contracting cat tapeworms is by keeping your pets flea free. Ask your veterinarian about prescription flea prevention. These medications are effective at ending current flea infestations and preventing new infestation from happening.

If your pet has fleas, sprinkling carpets with Borax powder, which is found with laundry detergents, and then waiting ten minutes before vacuuming completely. Some people worry about the use of Borax in their home because they have young children or small pets. If you are among them, a small amount of diatomaceous earth is also effective. During this process, keep your pets quarantined to another room.

Don't allow your cat to go outside. Most flea infestations start outdoors where a cat picks up a flea from another animal or the land. If you keep your cats inside, a flea infestation is unlikely.

Medications to Kill Cat Tapeworms

Your veterinarian will prescribe a medication to kill any tapeworms within the cat's intestines. Make sure you follow the dosing instructions. It's also helpful to change the cat litter often to remove any tapeworm eggs. Once the cat is done with the medication, wash any bedding the cat uses and vacuum the house thoroughly. Also, wash the kitty litter trays and put in new litter. This way, if there are additional fleas hiding in your home, they won't be able to ingest any tapeworm eggs.