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My Cat Is Chasing Their Tail

 
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. December 17, 2020
My Cat Is Chasing Their Tail

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One of the joys of having a cat is watching them play. One of the minor issues is that they will play with almost anything, regardless of whose property it is. This includes their own tail. It can be very entertaining for us to see our cat play around and chase their tail as if it were independent of their body. It often appears as if they don't even know what a tail is. However, if a cat chases their tail a lot, it might lead us to ask if they are OK?

At AnimalWised, we discuss my cat is chasing their tail. We understand why cats enact this behavior and whether or not there is any cause for concern.

You may also be interested in: Why Is My Cat’s Tail Lifted Up?

My kitten is chasing their tail

As you may have seen, cats can be distracted by almost anything. Even a shadow crossing the floor or some small movement outside the window can be like sounding an alarm to a cat. This kind of behavior is even more pronounced in kittens. As they age, we often see the cat is more assured in their surroundings and won't be as easily distracted.

There is good reason for this in kittens. As the young cat develops, they need to learn everything they can about their surroundings and the people and animals within them. Although they are given much information by their mother, every cat will need to learn certain skills to allow them to survive into adulthood. The feline hunting instinct is a big part of this.

We provide cats with their food in domestic environments. They don't have to hunt to sustain themselves. However, the hunting instinct in cats remains because not all cats are so lucky. if the cat is abandoned, lost or is feral, they will need to find food to fend for themselves. This is why we see cats chasing lasers, pieces of fluff or the toys we use to stimulate them cognitively.

Cats exercise this instinct through play. Kittens play with their siblings, their mother, their human guardians and even other pets. You will often see kittens grab another animals tail, much to the chagrin of their ‘prey’. When a kitten rolls over, it is common for them to grab their own tail and attack as if it were a plaything.

It might be hard to know whether some kittens are aware this is their own tail to begin with. Even after they learn, they will often chase their tail as an expression of this play. If we see kittens chasing their tails, in the majority of cases it will be due to playing. It won't be something we need to concern ourselves about.

My adult cat chases their tail

It is very possible your cat will retain much of their kittenish playfulness as they grow into adulthood. Some cats will be chasing string until the very end. However, most will have learned that their own tail is not a toy and will stop chasing it. They will often hold it to groom themselves, but it is rare for adult cats to chase their tails for play, even if there are many exceptions.

A cat's tail reveals a lot about their state of well-being. Even the act of lifting up their tail can reveal a lot. When we see our adult cat chases their tail for a few moments or as part of a happy play period, it shouldn't cause us concern. Unfortunately, a cat chasing their tail compulsively is likely a sign of a problem.

Stereotypies are repeated behaviors which serve no obvious purpose and are a sign of compulsive behavior. They can occur for many reasons, but are the result of stress and anxiety. A cat chasing their tail is a common example of a stereotypy. Others include biting themselves or even eating plastic or other inedible objects. Causes of stereotypies include:

  • Lack of socialization
  • Changes to their routine
  • Being under-stimulated
  • Fear
  • Stress
  • Trauma

Playing is a behavioral aspect of the cat's well-being and stereotypies are related to their psychological issues. However, there are rare occasions when a physical problem may cause a cat to chase their tail.

My Cat Is Chasing Their Tail - My adult cat chases their tail

Physical reasons why cats chase their tail

If the cat is not chasing their tail due to any of these above reasons or they are simply playing, it is also possible they have a physical problem. Although an appendage, a cat's tail has skin and fue just like most other parts of their body. They can be affected by many of the medical conditions which can also affect their parts.

External parasites are a possible cause for a cat to chase their tail. If a parasite is boring into their skin, it will cause serious agitating. The cat will try to relieve this itching by chasing their tail and biting the skin. When the agitation is acute, the cat might even break the skin and cause wounds. Unless the cat is unfortunate to get a single parasite, such as a tick on their tail, we should see they spread to other parts of the body.

Dermatitis in cats is a term for various diseases which result in the inflammation of the skin. This could be due to the aforementioned parasites, an allergic reaction or even the adverse side effects of medication. If this dermatitis is localized to the tail, the cat will likely chase it to relieve the agitation.

If a cat's tail is broken, then it is unlikely they will be chasing it. However, we should look out for signs to determine if a cat has a broken tail.

How to stop a cat chasing their tail

For the physical reasons a cat chases their tail we need to address the problem directly. The first thing we need to do is to go to the veterinarian. They will examine the cat and carry out any necessary diagnostic tests.

If the cat is chasing their tail due to parasites, they will need to be treated. This may require various treatment options. Antiparasitics can be found in the form of medicated shampoo. The cat may meed to be washed until the parasites are gone. In the case of a tick, we need to remove the tick properly to avoid infection. Even after the tick is removed, we will need to take them to the veterinarian to determine if they need any follow up treatment.

We also need to avoid cats getting parasites in the first place. Along with vaccinations, deworming schedules are essential to prevent disease in cats. Speak to your vet about which deworming treatment is required in your area.

For allergic reactions or other dermatitis problems, the veterinarian will need to diagnose the underlying cause. This may require you to remove the allergen from their environment. If the problem is a reaction or a symptom of disease, the vet will do their best to find out what is wrong and treat it.

My Cat Is Chasing Their Tail - How to stop a cat chasing their tail

Help your cat relax

Since psychological stress or trauma may be causing your cat to chase their tail, we need to address their mental health. There are various ways we can do this, but we first need to work out the reasons why they are stressed and chasing their tail compulsively.

Since a cat can be easily upset by changes in their routine, we should do what we can to reinforce it. When a cat's mealtimes are sporadic, this can cause them stress. In this case, we need to ensure we provide the cat with food at regular intervals. We should also provide quality food which meets their nutritional needs.

If another cat, pet or even human is causing them to be stressed, we need to ensure they are able to get along. Some cats don't like other cats and may never be able to share a home, but our article here provides the best ways you can try to create domestic harmony.

In general, we need to find ways to keep the anxious cat calm. We can't be around them all the time, but we can set in place environmental enrichment, training and reassurance when we are. Hopefully, this will allow the cat to be more relaxed and stop problematic behaviors such as chasing their tail.

Many of the reasons a cat chases their tail are very similar to why a dog does the same. To learn more, check out our video below:

If you want to read similar articles to My Cat Is Chasing Their Tail, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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