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Worms and Hair Balls

[On Grooming a Cat]  [Things an Indoor Cat Needs]  [Colds and What They Lead To]  [More about Respiratory Diseases]  [Distemper, Tuberculosis, and Infectious Enteritis]  [Troubles of the Digestive Tract]  [Worms and Hair Balls]  [Diseases of the Nerves and Brain]  [The Soul of the Cat]  [More Cat Articles] 

( Originally Published 1936 )



WORMS ARE NOT GOOD THINGS for cats to have inside them, but I do believe they are less harmful, by and large, than are some of the remedies used to expel them. The mistaken notion that all kittens have worms and must be wormed as a matter of routine has brought a great deal of suffering to our pets.

It never occurred to me to worm my cats, and so far as I knew they never needed it. I think worms do not often trouble cats that are born under sanitary conditions, that are kept clean and free of lice and fleas, and that do not eat mice or the offal of animals. Filth, vermin, and body pests are great breeders of intestinal parasites that can be communicated to cats. Of course if yours is an outdoor cat you can hardly guard it against all contamination, but fortunately cats are dainty, and the wellfed ones especially so.

But if you buy a kitten from a careless breeder or a badly kept pet shop, look out for worms. There was a bargain-hunter who bought a Siamese kitten "cheap" at a pet shop, only to find when she got it home that it was infested with worms. Kittens are not born with worms, as some people think, but sometimes a few are imbedded in the fur under the mother's tail, and her babies pick them up. The bargain-hunter did not deem it necessary to call a veterinary; a bottle of vermifuge that she had used to worm her police dog had been standing on her bathroom shelf ever since its death, and she gave the wee Siamese a generous dose.

She was afraid that the stuff had lost its strength, standing so long, but it had not. It was the kitten that lost its strength, and in a fortnight it was dead from enteritis. For worming is not a business for amateurs, and worm remedies that are all right for dogs may be entirely too drastic for cats. Their inner machinery is more delicate than that of dogs, and some drugs which are used with excellent results on dogs have been known to poison cats.

Cats are subject to several kinds of worms, and sometimes a laboratory test is needed to determine the kind and what the treatment ought to be. The two sorts from which they commonly suffer are the round worm and the tape worm.

The round worm is a threadlike pest, from two to five inches in length,, white or cream-colored. Its eggs are spherical and very tiny, and very numerous in an infected cat's intestines. Sometimes the cat throws up worms; almost always the appetite is capricious, now abnormally keen, now failing; and most significant of all, the cat loses all pride in its personal appearance. Its coat looks rough and untidy, and it does not care. That is when there is a really serious invasion; if the invasion is not checked, diarrhea is likely to set in, and catarrh of the intestines or something equally bad.

Tape worms are diabolical creatures, for their hideous heads are capable of sprouting segments indefinitely, so no matter how many segments are gotten rid of there will be more as long as the head remains. Though the taenia peculiar to cats may be eight inches long, the segments measure only a tiny fraction of an inch, and are hard to identify.

There are vegetable treatments, I am told, that clear out worms effectually. Pumpkin seeds are one. The lady who recommends them says that her tiger cat, a martyr to worms, was cured by pumpkin seeds, which she shelled, broke into small pieces, and mixed with his food for several days. Miss Elsie G. Hydon believes in dosing the animal with tomato_ juice and carrots. She gives about a tablespoonful of the seedless juice to each cat once a day, poured over its food. If there are worms, this is almost sure to take them away, she says, and in any case tomatoes, with the seeds eliminated, are wholesome for cats. The cooked carrots she mixes with their meat, and she boils carrots in the meat stock she gives them.

Hair balls are the cat's most insidious enemy. You can prevent them by regular grooming, but once a hair ball forms it is difficult to remove.

Long-haired cats are in the greatest danger; about ten years ago The Yeterinary journal, an English publication, reported the case of a Persian who had to be chloroformed because it was choking; a post-mortem revealed a hair ball as big as a walnut in the esophagus. The poor thing had been ailing for over a month, but the owner thought it was only off its feed.

It is amazing how these obstructions, growing hair by hair, can clog the stomach and bowels. Sometimes you can detect them with your fingers by the spongy feel of the parts. Then it is best to have the veterinary, for he knows how to give effective emetics and the high enemas that are so good for clearing out. Sometimes it is necessary to use a small stomach pump or even to operate.

Cats can be relieved of small amounts of hair by a pinch of bicarbonate of soda in water, followed in twenty minutes by a teaspoonful of mineral oil. White vaseline is good too; most cats will lick it down from your finger.

Cats will launder their coats with their tongues, but keep the loose hairs brushed out and provide them with growing grass for an emetic, and you give the ounce of prevention that excels a pound of cure.