The most common species of tapeworm that our cats carry are Dipylidium caninum and Taenia. Although Dipylidium caninum is relatively short, usually maxing out at around 50cm, some tapeworm species can become incredible large – the longest species of tapeworm affects whales and can be over 100ft from end to end!
Tapeworms match their name, and look like long ribbons or pieces of tape. They are divided into lots of small segments, which can be up to 1cm each in length in cats, depending on the tapeworm species.
Adult tapeworms live in the small intestine, and attach to the lining with specialised mouthparts. Here, they sit and absorb nutrients from the gut. Tapeworms reproduce when some of their segments break off. These segments are full of tapeworm eggs, and are passed out in the faeces of your cat. They are often described as looking like moving grains of rice.
Other tapeworms found in our UK cats include Echinococcus granulosus, which does not cause illness in cats but can cause serious disease in humans.