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Why Does My Cat Chase Its Own Tail?

Jul 21, 2018 · ·
  1. Anne
    Why Does My Cat Chase Its Own Tail?
    Is your kitten going round and round in circles, trying to catch its own tail? Wondering what's going on? Is he or she physically ok? And how about mentally?

    Many cats can be observed chasing their own tails, leaving owners baffled about this strange behavior. After all, cats are supposed to be smarter than that, right?

    Actually, there's more than one type of tail-chasing behavior in cats.

    What might at first seem like a funny quirk could have more sinister implications. As a cat owner, you should try and understand why your cat is chasing his or her tail and act accordingly.

    Chasing your tail is fun!

    Yup. In most cases, Kitty should put up a disclaimer saying "This tail is being chased for entertainment purposes only". Why is chasing one's tail so much fun? There's actually a good reason.

    When cats play, they're in fact practicing their hunting skills. This behavior starts at a very young age, with kittens chasing and hunting down any moving object of the right size, and some immobile objects or those of the wrong size, too.

    This tendency to chase moving objects usually decreases as the cat gets older, but with some cats it lasts a lifetime. These cats are particularly playful and may react to the enticing wiggling tip of a tail - even their own.

    This is what typical playful tail chasing looks like -

    There's not a whole lot you need to do in the case of playful tail chasing. Keep your own hands away so Kitty doesn't accidentally grab your fingers instead of that fluffy tail. Think that your cat is too old for so much tail chasing? Does your cat seem to hurt its tail? It's time to consider a different explanation.

    When pain sends your cat on a wild tail hunt

    When a certain place itches or hurts, your cat is likely to be paying extra attention to that spot. The attention is often in the form of licking, scratching or biting. Injury or disease affecting the tail could make your cat take a special interest in that appendage. Since the tail tends to move around when touched, your cat may need to grab it to hold it down, creating the impression of tail chasing.

    What to do? If your cat suddenly begins to focus on its tail, talk to your vet. Kitty may be in pain or discomfort due to an abscess, Stud's Tail Syndrome or some other medical condition of the tail.

    Stress and boredom leading to tail chasing

    When a cat is stressed or bored, it may resort to all kinds of strange behaviors, one of them being chasing and attacking the tail. Some cats can become obsessed with their tail and exhibit excessive tail licking, biting and chasing.

    What to do? First, you must make absolutely sure that the cat is healthy. Any change in behavior can indicate a medical problem. Even if you're sure that the tail itself is fine, you should still consult your veterinarian to rule out other more systemic conditions.

    Once medical issues have been ruled out, try to assess whether your cat is stressed out. Then apply these Six Strategies To Reduce Stress In Cats. It won't happen overnight, but once you find the right way to address the problem of stress, your cat will be less likely to attack its own tail.

    If stress isn't the problem, boredom may be. Environmental enrichment is the key phrase here. Provide your cat with a more stimulating home environment where he or she can find forms of entertainment that do not involve the tail. You can find some great ideas in our article: Beating Boredom - What Indoor Cat Owners Need To Know.

    So, how to tell why your cat is chasing its own tail?

    Figuring out whether the tail chasing is just harmless playfulness or an actual problem isn't always easy. Here are a few questions to ask yourself -
    1. How old is the cat? A kitten chasing his or her own tail is perfectly normal. In an older cat, consider the cat's personality, including the tendency to play-chase objects. A playful cat may keep chasing its own tail occasionally even when no longer a kitten.

    2. Has this behavior started recently or changed in frequency? Any change in your cat's behavior can indicate a medical problem. Changes in behavior patterns can also mean your cat is suffering from stress. You know your cat best - if you notice a change in behavior, it's time to call your vet.

    3. What's your cat like when he or she is playing with its tail? Does the cat seem relaxed and playful? Is there actual biting involved? Does the cat growl, hiss or otherwise show signs of real aggression? While playtime excitement can get out of control to the point of the cat being agitated, signs of real aggression indicate that the behavior goes beyond a playful chase.
    As always, if you're not sure, talk to us about it! Post about your tail-chasing cat in the cat behavior forums. Try to capture the behavior on video or in pictures and share those as well. It would help those of our members who are more experienced with cats to assess what's going on.

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    PushPurrCatPaws and dustydiamond1 purraised this.


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  1. BestCatMom
    Why would you ever want this to stop, it’s so adorable. I wish my cats would chase there tails again. I remember walking downstairs to just see them spinning to their hearts content. Those were the days. ☺️

    But definitely good tips though.
  2. Brettlaw

  3. 1 bruce 1
    Oh man, our hyperesthesia cat does all the "bad" stuff and none of the good.
    When he flares up, he gets completely weird acting. He'll stare at our knees/shins and kind of "look through them" and then let out a scream and turn and attack his tail. If he's in the before, during, or after part of an attack, when we walk in the room this super friendly cat will slink off at a fast trot, turn, and hiss.
    99% of the time he's so loving, but during attacks, it's like we're living with a wild animal.
    Few nights ago he did this and left bloody splats on the wall, then turned on another cat and attacked her.
    When he starts in attacking himself, isolation in a quiet (silent) dark room helps.
    This is not the typical "cat is chasing her tail, isn't that cute" stuff. If it happens, you'll know!!! Odds are most cats chasing their tails are being silly and cute, but if it becomes a case of aggression and blood shed/self mutilation, please call your vet ASAP.
    I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy.
    1. dustydiamond1
      oh! your poor baby! And poor you too!
    2. BestCatMom
      I remember my cat hitting my knees when I would eat food at a table. But what tourcher have you gone through. That’s so sad for both you and your pets.
    3. tarasgirl06
      Though Baby Su (my current avatar) never harmed herself or anyone else during her hyperesthesia phase, I know all too well how frightening it is, and I empathize so much with you, @1 bruce 1.
  4. Wolfsbane
    My older cat will chase his tail as long as nobody but me is in the room with me, he runs all over the places and acts like a complete goof. He's done this since he was a kitten.
  5. Annimation
    Cats just love to chase anything that catches their eye, even their own tail.
  6. tarasgirl06
    Thanks for yet another informative article. Tail chasing can certainly expend pent-up energy and in a kitten, this is very desirable. Our Baby Su, however, developed a short-lived obsession with chasing her tail that also morphed into hissing at, and even biting, it! Fortunately this did not last long and I know of no cause for it, but am so relieved it did not turn into this: Why does my cat hiss at her tail?
  7. misty8723
    Cricket was just chasing her tail - while sitting on top of the cat tree! She can be a very silly kitty.
      1 bruce 1 and tarasgirl06 purraised this.
  8. dustydiamond1
    :lol2: Gypsy will occasionally chase her tail. It's hilarious:crackup: I have videos & photos but the photos are blurry and I don't know how to load the videos :(
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