Parallel adaptations enabling the use of plant cells as the primary food source have occurred multiple times in distinct nematode clades. The hallmark of all extant obligate and facultative plant-feeding nematodes is the presence of an oral stylet, which is required for penetration of plant cell walls, delivery of pharyngeal gland secretions into host cells and selective uptake of plant assimilates. Plant parasites from different clades, and even within a single clade, display a large diversity in feeding behaviours ranging from short feeding cycles on single cells to prolonged feeding on highly sophisticated host cell complexes. Despite these differences, feeding of nematodes frequently (but certainly not always) induces common responses in host cells (e.g. endopolyploidization and cellular hypertrophy). It is thought that these host cell responses are brought about by the interplay of effectors and other biological active compounds in stylet secretions of feeding nematodes, but this has only been studied for the most advanced sedentary plant parasites. In fact, these responses are thought to be fundamental for prolonged feeding of sedentary plant parasites on host cells. However, as we discuss in this review, some of these common plant responses to independent lineages of plant parasitic nematodes might also be generic reactions to cell stress and as such their onset may not require specific inputs from plant parasitic nematodes. Sedentary plant parasitic nematodes may utilize effectors and their ability to synthesize other biologically active compounds to tailor these common responses for prolonged feeding on host cells.