Why Do Cats Chase Their Tails?

Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not the only household pet that will chase their tails.  Cats do this too, though it is less common!  You might think it is pretty funny to watch, and for the most part it is.

But if tail chasing becomes a consistent activity then your cat may be telling you she needs medical attention. On the other hand, if your cat chases her tail here and there then she may just be a bored kitty looking for entertainment.

This is a video of my cat Beast. She chases her tail for fun and attention! She’s been checked out at the vet to ensure nothing is wrong, she’s just a silly fur ball that gets a kick out of chasing her tail then falling asleep!

So let’s get right into the meat of it. Let’s answer the question “why do cats chase their tails?” and whether or not you should be concerned if your cat is chasing her tail.


How Old Is Your Cat?

First and foremost we should discuss age. Kittens exhibit a lot of interesting behavior while they are learning. Tail chasing is one of the more common behaviors kittens show.

a kitten sleeping in a wooden bowlKittens are notorious for attacking anything and everything that gets near them, especially anything that moves. This includes shoe laces, long hair, wand toys and of course their own tail. Being an aspiring hunter this is no surprise, pouncing on moving prey is a natural instinct.

This kind of behavior helps your kitten practice skills that she’d normally use in the wild. Kittens slowly phase out this behavior as they get older. Tail chasing should become uncommon by the time they are about a year old.

If your kitten is attacking her own tail constantly and it is looking beat up then do your best to redirect her to other toys. There are an unlimited number of toys that look like a cat tail, but the most common (and often the cheapest) are wand toys.

If your cat is under a year old and chasing her tail often then you’ve probably got nothing to worry about, but it is certainly worth noting to your vet at the next check up! If your cat is older than a year and still chasing then read on for more information.


a cat asleep on the bedBoredom Is the Biggest Culprit

If your cat is now fully grown and is still chasing her tail the most likely reason is she’s bored.  Cats need stimulation and exercise to maintain mental and physical health.

Cats, especially cats without a feline friend in the house, are often left at home for long periods of time while their family is at work or at school. This means they build up a lot of energy that needs to be spent doing something, anything. Even chasing their tail.

If you’ve ever gotten an ache in your legs and you feel the need to go running then you know exactly what I mean! Without structured play sessions or a playmate cats will go after their toys or potentially chase their tail.

There are lots of toys and methods you can use to tire your cat out, even when you’re not at home. Check out this article on tips to get your cat to sleep at night. It is full of methods to keep your cat awake and alert when you’re not around!


a human ignoring their cat and playing on their laptopCats Desire Attention And Treats Too

You can certainly train your cat to perform tricks, lots of people have. So it should come as no surprise that cats can learn new tricks on their own too!

Any long term cat owner knows that cats typically desire interaction on their terms. Cats sometimes realize they can get attention, interaction, or even rewards if they chase their tail. We humans tend to find the behavior cute & funny after all.

When your cat chases her tail then you might laugh, pet her or even give her a treat. If you do then she may associate tail chasing with good things. This is basic positive reinforcement and may encourage your cat to keep chasing her tail. Be sure to consider your own behavior to see if you may be impacting your fluffy friend.


veterinarian visit

When To Seek Medical Attention

Tail chasing is usually a simple pass time or way to alleviate boredom, but it can also be an indicator of a medical concern. Dr. Richard Goldstein says “when an animal is pointing to a certain body part, consider all the body parts in the area that could be the source of a problem.”

Medical issues that can cause a cat to chase her tail can range far and wide, but the there are a few more common reasons:

  • Skin/Food Allergies: If your cat touched something (a new fabric) or has been exposed to something (a new food) she is allergic to her tail may be itching or otherwise in discomfort which may cause her to chase it.
  • Feline Hyperesthesia: While the cause isn’t known, VetInfo and PetPlace indicate it can be thought of as a form of Cat Schizophrenia. It sometimes results in a fixation with the tail, often manifested as swishing of the tail, chasing of the tail or attacking the tail. It can also cause frantic grooming of the flank and tail, often leading to hair loss.
  • Impacted Anal Glands: If the glands get impacted it may be painful to poop and your cat may be more likely to go after her own tail according to PetMD.
  • Fleas: Fleas often live on just above the base of the tail and on the butt of pets. Even if your pet isn’t allergic flea bites can be very painful. If your cat so happens to be allergic a single bite can cause quite an episode.

The above are a subset of potential medical concerns that can cause cats to chase their tails. If tail chasing is a new and constant behavior then get your cat to the Vet as soon as possible for a checkup as it may be a symptom of something more serious.


Wrapping It Up on Cats Chasing Tails

Your cat chasing her tail is typically not something to be worried about, especially if your cat is young and still learning how to hunt and pounce. If your cat is an adult and chases her tail occasionally then she’s probably just bored or has learned she gets treats or attention after doing so.

If tail chasing is a brand new behavior and is a constant occurrence then it may indicate a medical problem that needs attention. Be sure to get your cat to the Vet as soon as possible for a full checkup!

Have you had a cat that likes to chase her tail or was chasing it for a medical reason? Please leave a comment below or email me directly at Craig@StuffCatsWant.com if you have any thoughts or experiences with cats chasing their tails.

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