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Why Is My Cat Chasing Their Tail? 8 Vet Approved Reasons

Cat chasing tail on horizontal scratching post
Image Credit: CarruthersCat, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Chantelle Fowler

Vet approved

	Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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It’s normal to see a dog chasing its tail, but you might wonder why if your cat starts doing it. While many kittens and adult cats chase their tails for entertainment (both for themselves and for you), sometimes this behavior can be indicative of an underlying health condition.

If your cat has started chasing its tail suddenly, you might wonder why it’s doing so when it has never done it before. Keep reading to find all the potential reasons your kitty might be chasing its tail.

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The 8 Reasons Your Cat is Chasing Their Tail

1. For Entertainment

Your cat might be chasing its tail simply because tail chasing is fun. While this behavior is more common to see in dogs when they’re playing, many cats will chase their tail when they’re in a silly mood.

Cats love to chase moving items, even if it means it’s their own tail. Your kitty is a natural hunter, so it might be running in circles “on the hunt” for its tail. If your cat is exhibiting this behavior when in a playful mood, there is likely no need for concern.

2. To Beat Boredom or Cure Stress

If your cat suddenly starts attacking its own tail, it could be bored or stressed. If this behavior is new, you might want to look at your pet’s environment as it may lack stimulation.

Is there enough enrichment in their environment for them to stay happy and busy? For example, do you have plenty of toys and spend time playing with your cat daily? If not, you might want to consider splurging on some new toys, a cat tree, or wall-mounted climbing shelves to spice things up.

Alternatively, if you want to surprise your cat with something cool, check out the Hepper Hi-Lo Cat Scratcher. It's not just a scratcher; it's a piece of modern furniture that your cat can play on. It's got a curvy design that's perfect for stretching and moving, and it's built tough with strong birch plywood and thick B-flute cardboard. You can adjust it to three different heights, which keeps cats entertained. Plus, it won't break the bank! Our cats love it, and we do too.

Tony and Cheetah playing on Hepper Hi Lo Cat Scratcher

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3. To Relieve Pain

When a cat is in pain, it sometimes focuses its attention on the area that’s hurting by licking, biting, or scratching. As a result, you may believe your cat is chasing or attacking its own tail when it could actually be biting or licking at a lesion on the tail.

Many health issues could cause licking in the area of the tail and hind end in general, such as impacted anal glands, skin allergies, a tail wound, or even worms in the stool.

Pay extra close attention to see if your cat is biting its tail, as it can cause wounds that can lead to painful infections. Tail infections can be challenging to treat, so if there are any wounds near the area, you’ll need to see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

4. Fleas

Flea bites can cause extreme itchiness. Adult fleas like to bite at the base of a cat’s tail, so what you may be interpreting as your cat trying to catch its tail may very well be your cat trying to relieve itself of the itch from fleas.

Fleas will produce other signs aside from itchiness. If you see some of the following symptoms in your cat, a visit to your vet is in order:

  • Bumps on the skin
  • Excessive grooming
  • Excessive scratching
  • Spots of hair loss
  • Skin irritation
  • Lethargy
  • Black specks in the fur
cat cough
Image Credit: Ada K, Pixabay

5. Allergies

Environmental or food-related allergies can leave your cat’s skin itchy and dry. An itchy cat will try anything to relieve itself of the discomfort, and that includes behavior that you may interpret as tail chasing. For example, it may spin in circles to find a comfortable position to ease the itch.

As with fleas, allergies typically don’t only present in one way. You are likely to notice your cat displaying other signs of an allergy, which can include:

  • Rashes in other areas
  • Itchiness in other areas
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swollen paws
  • Snoring
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing

Allergies can be treated by avoiding the allergen if you can determine what that is. Your vet may also suggest using antihistamines or, in more severe cases, steroids.

6. Stud Tail

Stud tail is a relatively rare skin condition that can occur on the base of a cat’s tail. It is similar to human acne and results from excess oil production. It is most often seen in young and unneutered males as they begin to go through puberty. Stud tail is believed to be caused by raised hormone levels.

Cats with stud tails may appear to have blackheads in between the hairs on their tails. The hair in the area can also become greasy, and the entire area can become raw and sore. Other symptoms to be on the lookout for include:

  • Pus on or near the tail
  • Red bumps near the tail
  • Yellowing tail fur
  • Loss of fur near the tail

If you believe your cat has a stud tail, veterinary intervention is necessary to address it.

cat showing tail lying down
Photo credit: christels, Pixabay

7. Infection

Stud tail typically only affects young and unneutered males, but cats of any gender or age can contract many other types of infections that affect the tail area.

Anal glands can become impacted and infected and can even develop abscesses. This can cause your cat to scoot its bum across the floor and the area to become visually swollen. In addition, your pet may be paying more attention to its tail than usual and may exhibit behaviors you misinterpret as tail chasing. You will need to get your pet examined by a vet to determine the root cause of its behavior.

Secondary infections can occur after tail injuries. If your cat has injured its tail, keep a close eye on it to ensure it’s healing as it should be.

8. Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome

Feline hyperesthesia syndrome (FHS) is a neurological condition that results in extreme skin sensitivity. It occurs most often on the back and in front of the tail. Cats with FHS have hyperactive nerve endings that cause an irritating tingly feeling. When the nerve endings become aggravated, the cat may begin to panic and chase its tail wildly.

Some vets believe that FHS is an obsessive-compulsive disorder, while others feel it could represent a seizure disorder. Siamese cats seem to have a genetic predisposition to the condition.

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Final Thoughts

While tail chasing can be a completely innocuous behavior that your kitty exhibits when feeling hyper and playful, it can also indicate a health condition. If your cat is chasing its tail during playtime, chances are it’s playing. But if other symptoms accompany the tail chasing, you might wish to have your kitty examined by a vet to rule out any health conditions.

Featured Image Credit: CarruthersCat, Shutterstock

About the Author

Chantelle Fowler
Chantelle Fowler
Chantelle is passionate about two things in her life – writing and animals. She grew up on the prairies in Canada surrounded by animals. As an adult, she chooses to share her home with five cats, two guinea pigs, and a bearded dragon. Chantelle, her husband, and their child take great pride in being THOSE kind of animal parents - the ones who spend a thousand dollars on wall-mounted cat shelves so that their cats can have an indoor jungle gym all year round. When Chantelle isn’t snuggling her cats on the couch or taking pictures of them being hilarious, she’s outside exploring in the Rocky Mountains, binging the same shows on Netflix over and over, and reading about whatever random topic pops into her brain. 

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