Cat looking backward chasing or showing his tail or butt.
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Is Your Cat Chasing His Tail? Should You Ever Worry About It?

A cat chasing his tail might look silly, but should you ever worry about it? Here's what to know — and what to do — about cat tail-chasing behaviors.
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I’ve seen plenty of dogs chasing their tails before, so I was caught off guard when I saw a cat chasing his tail. My friend’s cat, Jax, started to chase his own tail, and it made me wonder if Jax was copying the behavior of my friend’s Golden Retriever.

Later, I found out that Jax wasn’t being a copycat. Unfortunately, he had an infection on his tail. So, is it ever a problem when you see a cat chasing his tail? What should you do about a cat chasing his tail? Let’s take a look.

Related: 5 Cool Cat Tail Facts

cat chasing tail
Is a cat chasing his tail normal — or is something serious at play? Photography © debibishop | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

First, is it normal to see a cat chasing his tail?

Some cats, like dogs, do chase their tails just for fun. “Some cats will chase their tails for entertainment, but it is less common in cats than dogs,” says Dr. Sasha Gibbons of Just Cats Veterinary Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut.

But, sometimes, a cat chasing his tail means a little something more in cat tail language. And, unfortunately, there are times when a cat chasing his tail signals the opposite of fun.

“Cats can also chase their tails for a number of medical reasons,” Dr. Gibbons explains. “Cats will chase their tails if there is an infection and the tail is uncomfortable, or if it is itchy from allergies. Cats can also have a condition called hyperesthesia syndrome, which is caused by overactive nerve endings, and cats feel a tingly sensation on the tail.”

Stud tail, which is a cat skin condition, is another issue that might be at play and calls for vet attention.

It is important to know your cat’s normal body and tail language to make sure he is not acting out because of a medical reason.

What if a cat is chasing his tail — and biting it in the process?

Make sure you have a plan of action if you notice a cat chasing his tail — and biting it! “Cat tails can get infected very easily, and it can be hard to resolve a tail infection, so any injury to the tail (self-inflicted) or from another cat, should be evaluated by a veterinarian,” says Dr. Gibbons.

cat chasing tail
Can you stop a cat from chasing his tail? Photography © GlobalP | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

How do you a stop a cat from chasing his tail?

If your cat is chasing his tail and you suspect infection, hyperesthesia, stud tail or any injury, get your cat to the vet ASAP.

But, should you ever be concerned about a cat chasing his tail playfully?

“If a cat is simply chasing his tail, but not biting or doing damage to the tail, it may be from boredom,” Dr. Gibbons explains. “If an owner witnesses their cat doing it, they can try to redirect the cat to chase a toy on a string or laser pointer.”

If you’re worried that your cat is bored because you’re out of the house for long periods of time, Dr. Gibbons suggests using interactive toys such as Frolicat or Panic Mouse. This will help your cat focus more on the toys and less on playing with his tail.

What about cats who swat their cat siblings’ tails?

Sometimes, a cat chasing his own tail isn’t the issue — it’s a cat chasing another cat’s tail! It is important to recognize a cat’s body language when this is happening. “Attacking another cat’s tail can be playful or aggressive,” says Dr. Gibbons. “It all depends on the attacker’s body language during the act — and the extent of damage done to the victim.”

Separate cats who are behaving aggressively toward each other. Even if your cat is chasing or swatting at another cats’ tail playfully, redirect the cats’ attention to interactive toys.

The bottom line on a cat chasing his tail

Remember that a cat chasing his tail isn’t always playful or fun. Seek vet care any time your cat is causing damage to his tail or you suspect that he’s chasing his tail out of discomfort. If the issue seems behavioral and not medical, search for a veterinary behaviorist in your area by checking out the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB). These experts will evaluate your cat’s specific situation and help you decide what to do next.

Tell us: Does your cat chase his tail? Is your cat chasing his tail for fun — or has your cat ever chased his tail due to a more serious issue?

Thumbnail: Photography © GlobalP | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Read Next: Cat Tail Wagging: The Meaning of Your Cat’s Different Tail Wags

 

19 thoughts on “Is Your Cat Chasing His Tail? Should You Ever Worry About It?”

  1. Chrissie O’Dell

    Did you ever find out why she was acting like that? Sounds like the same thing a friend is going through with her cat.

  2. My moon goddess, Artemis, loves to chase her tail. The first time I caught my little black short-haired tabby doing it, I laughed and praised her for being so cute. Now when does it, she makes sure I’m watching, even though she pretends she couldn’t care less if I see her.
    She doesn’t just run in circle. She does somersaults and little pounces. She has a short tail for her body size so she doesn’t ever catch it. I know she’s probably just burning off energy but she would rather play the tail game than play with toys.

  3. A few years ago my buddy started to ‘freeze’ and then suddenly go after his tail. After thinking he had hyperesthesia or some other problem we found that he actually had fleas biting him at his tail and that the top line flea treatment we bought was expired. Never thought to check for expiration dates on the medicine. We have since switched brands and once the flea problem was taken care of he was back to normal and has been since. It was a stressful time because we care so much for him and it was difficult to see him act that way.

  4. My Moon was badly abused before I found him at five weeks and his tail had been broken in two places. Now he doesn’t seem to know when it is moving and my three rescue kittems often attack it so he just swats them.

  5. my cat keeps growling and going after her tail. she stopped for a few months . now she does it everyday , well most of the day now. She acts very scared and doesn’t want to go around the other cats anymore. She acts like she’s in pain. she also growls at me.

    1. one of our cats did the same and got to where she would aggressively twitch and then bite her tail ultimately biting off a chunk and causing it to bleed – which mad her even more agitated. ultimately it became so bad that she had to have surgery on her tail (including amputation of part of her tail) and had to wear a cone for a long time. previously at times she would also hiss at her tail and us and sometimes became very aggressive towards our other cats. after a lot of testing including looking for fleas (none were found), x-ray of spine, and testing for various skin conditions (none), it was determined that she has feline hyperesthesia syndrome and as been on gabapentin (for nerve pain) and fluoxetine (prozac) now for several years. fortunately we were able to get both prescribed transdermally (apply as cream inside her ear daily) and she is much better and no longer attacks her tail. we tried to reduce and eliminate the meds but she began to restart tail twitching and staring at her tail again so had to stick with the meds and she is doing fine. wishing you the best of luck with your kittie

  6. my cat keeps growling and going after her tail. she stopped for a few months . now she does it everyday , well most of the day now. She acts very scared and doesn’t want to go around the other cats anymore. She acts like she’s in pain. she also growls at me.

    1. My cat has been swishing his tail for over a year. Several times a day. Then he growels and bites it and yells and runs away. No hair missing and tail looks normal.

  7. Pingback: Why do Cats Chase their Tails? – katyscat.com

  8. My Callie chases her tail quite often but never catches it. There are no signs of injury or infection so I guess she’s bored. She has plenty of toys and the only time she does it is when she sits on her “scratcher”

  9. My kitten Oreo chaces her tail, it is for fun but she attacks our older cat paw’s tail, playful but Paws isn’t a playful kind of cat, so we remove Oreo from the situation. Oreo is also a bitter but when she tries to bite me , I meow at her and she stops.

  10. my one and a half year old Princess swishes, and twitches her tail, sometimes it seems for no reason, but I believe that its typically because she’s annoyed or irritated. should I be concerned though?

    1. Hi Jamie,

      Check out these pieces on cat tail language:
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/cat-tail-language-what-your-cats-tail-is-telling-you
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/cat-tail-wagging-the-meaning-of-different-cat-tail-wags
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-facts-body-language-tail

  11. We adopted a mom cat who had been homeless (lived in an apartment parking lot) and 2 of her very young kittens a few years ago. The mom cat would sit on a chair or low table and wag the end of her tail. The kittens loved to swat at it. We though she was doing it just to amuse the boys, but now they are 7 years old and she still tends to wag her tail.

  12. Ritz was diagnosed with FHS around six years ago.
    I video-taped an episode, showed it to the vet, and based upon that, it was FHS. Ritz was clearly disturbed chasing her tail, no fun.
    Another symptom of FHS: running up and down the hall as though something is chasing her. And biting the flank area. Ritz never actually bite her tail, just chased it.
    She was on Prozac for a while, didn’t like the side effects. The worst of her symptoms have dissipated somewhat, but she is still chasing her tail and running.

  13. Our cat Sky will occasionally chase his tail for fun if he’s feeling frisky, especially if the weather’s a bit rough, and he’s decided to stay indoors. He’ll usually finish up giving it a groom to restore it to perfection. He’s just as likely to chase a leaf, or ‘kill’ one of his toys. He likes having his tail brushed as well, but just for a short while, and prefers to ‘brush himself ‘ by walking back and forward under the brush while we hold it steady, rather than have one of us brush him.
    Alice.

  14. I’ve seen a cat chase their tail a handful of times… and then I adopted a kitten who did it frequently! I had no idea there could ever be a medical cause behind it, but given that she’s been chasing her tail since she was about 3 months old (and has had 2 regular exams since adoption day a year ago) I think she views her tail as an attached toy.

  15. Catster.com always has some great info! Who knew that there could be an underlying medical condition for a cat to chase their tail?
    I always just figured it was like one of those built in sticks with the feather on it for them :)

    1. My cat wakes and lies there moving his tail and then paws it and then bites it. He will then get up and chase it round and round. The vet has given him Loxartan because she touched his tail and thought it was painful and now he is on steroids but still doing it. I am really worried. He has to go back to vet but his overall health seems ok and blood tests are clear what next?

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