Seeing your gorgeous cat going after its tail in circles with incredible speed is one of the most confusing cat parent moments. Is this normal or is it something to worry about? And why do cats chase their tail anyways?
All cats want to have fun and have loads of energy to waste. Kittens and young cats are the most energetic ones, so tail chasing is something they can do daily. Adult cats are more aware of their surroundings and aren’t as fascinated with their tails. However, this can still happen with older cats as well, and the reason can either be entertainment or a possible health condition.
Below I listed some of the most common reasons, the symptoms you should keep your eyes open for, how to deal with tail chasing depending on the cause. Plus, I’ve got all the answers to a few other tail-chasing questions that are definitely on your mind!
Why Do Cats Chase Their Tails?
1. They’re Having Fun
Tail chasing is entirely normal behavior for kittens and young cats. Kittens will literally pounce on all kinds of things – it doesn’t matter if it’s a toy, a part of their body, or another item. Anything that moves quickly has the potential to grasp their attention. As kitten’s tails are fast-moving, they’re interesting and will attract a kitten’s attention within seconds.
Because of this, they often chase their tails as a form of fun and entertainment. Don’t be afraid if your young cat is aggressive with its tail or other objects they’re chasing. A feline would never hurt its tail, and what you’re seeing is a simple game of catch. However, if you’re worried that your kitten is chasing their tail too often, you can try replacing the tail with many other cat toys.
This chasing activity usually starts around four months, when the feline begins to get interested more in their surroundings and is trying to practice their hunting skills. Having a playful young cat is entirely normal for that age. But, most adult cats will outgrow tail chasing, so you’ll rarely see them doing it. Yes, some playful adult cats will keep tail chasing as a part of their character.
2. It’s an Instinct
The hunting instinct of cats is something that’s written in their DNA. Although many indoor cats have never seen the outdoors or have been triggered by possible prey, they are born with a hunting instinct. It’s something they feel they have to do to survive and is a skill that has been passed on down through the generations.
So, as your kitten starts to become aware of the surroundings and moving objects, they will start to target them and take action. A moving tail is one of those objects, even though it’s a part of their body. Yes, attacking a tail isn’t surviving, but it’s in their nature to hunt moving objects. And even though owners and moms feed kittens, that doesn’t mean the hunting instinct won’t develop.
Kittens nourish this desire to hunt by playing with their tail, rushing towards other cat’s tails, chasing laser lights, flies, and more. You’ll often see young cats thump their tails when lying down, and once they realize their tail is moving, they start chasing it.
There’s no way to tell if they’re aware that this is their tail or not. However, one thing’s for sure. This is expected behavior, and it’s completely normal when it happens. Once a feline gets older though, this hunting instinct will persist, but they’ll rarely chase their tail. Instead, they’ll usually target their hunting skills towards toys and prey.
3. They’re Bored
It’s unlikely for outdoor cats to get bored as they can endlessly entertain themselves by exploring the outside world. However, it is, unfortunately, a regular thing among indoor cats. Felines are hunters filled with energy, and they need an outlet where they can release this. Without an enriched life, your indoor kitty could get bored.
When cats are bored, they will take matters into their own hands to try to entertain themselves, and this includes chasing their tail. Although this is more common with kittens, adult felines will do it too if they have nothing more exciting to keep their attention. If you see your cat chasing their tail, it can be entertaining to watch. This is even more true if you have long tail cats.
Yet, the truth is that cats need physical activity and mental stimulation that will keep them busy and away from the tail. As a responsible owner, you should provide the enrichment a cat needs if you think they could be bored. To do this, invest in some high-quality cat toys and play with your kitty regularly. You should also look at getting scratching posts and a cat tree to keep them entertained.
4. They’re Lonely
A lonely cat will do anything to attract attention and to keep herself busy. If you spend a lot of time away from home and leave your kitty there alone, they can start chasing their tail to lose some of the accumulated energy. This is very similar to boredom, but it also points out that your best friend needs more than three meals a day. They need love and attention to live a happy life.
Many people think that getting a cat is not as big of a commitment as getting a dog, but it does still require some serious dedication. These creatures crave attention, and they want to spend quality time with you at home. Try to schedule sessions with your best friend to show them love and affection and give them the happy life they deserve.
5. They’re Stressed
Stress can also cause your cat to chase its tail. This is an example of them redirecting their aggression. In other words, it is their coping mechanism for dealing with stress. This action is their way to find relief from stress when they’re feeling anxious about a specific situation.
There are numerous reasons why a feline can feel stressed out. One of the most common ones is a new animal or a person in the house. Cats need time to adjust to new conditions, and some felines are much more sensitive than you think. Other reasons include changes in the home, a wild animal outside, hearing dogs barking, and more.
If your kitty is stressed out, you’ll likely notice other symptoms of stress alongside them chasing their tails. For example, there may be changes to their personality, they may stop practicing learned behavior such as using their litter box, and there may be a difference in their appetite or grooming habits.
6. They Have an Allergy
Cats can suffer from allergies and the allergens causing them is pretty broad. Certain foods and environmental factors can lead to allergies, causing our furry friends discomfort. Just as allergies can cause skin irritation and itchiness in humans, the same is true for cats. And, if your cat has an itch on its tail, they may chase it to try to scratch it.
Recognizing that your favorite feline is struggling with allergies is important. If your cat has been acting strange and recently started chasing its tail, that is one of the allergy symptoms to keep your eyes peeled for. But, there are many other symptoms that you can also look out for, including:
- Itching other parts of the body
- Dry red skin and rashes
- Hairless patches on their coat
- Coughing and wheezing
If not treated properly, an allergy can progress and make life difficult for your cat. Take your cat to the vet if you notice any of the above symptoms and ask for diagnosis and treatment. With effective help, your cat will be back to its old self in no time.
7. They Have Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome
Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome is a rare disease that can appear at any age, with tail chasing being a well-known symptom. When cats have this disease, the skin in the front part of the tail will become extremely sensitive. Therefore, the feline will feel the need to chase its tail, attack it, bite it, and run around in circles while chasing it.
Of course, all cats can get crazy sometimes, but Feline Hyperesthesia is a medical condition that should be diagnosed and properly treated. It happens to cats that have very reactive nerve endings, and some triggers will cause them to be hypersensitive. It’s also referred to as cat OCD because of the other symptoms that come together with tail chasing.
Some other symptoms of Feline Hyperesthesia include dilated pupils, hyperactive behavior, constantly looking at their tails, being loud, and running around the house like they’re being chased. If you notice any of these in combination with tail chasing, take your cat to the vet right away.
8. They Have Supracaudal Gland Hyperplasia
Supracaudal Gland Hyperplasia, also known as stud tail, is another reason why your cat could be chasing its tail. These supracaudal glands are present at the base of felines’ tails, and they produce sebum. The role of sebum is to keep the hair hydrated, soft, smooth, and healthy. However, cats with Supracaudal Gland Hyperplasia will create too much sebum.
This excessive amount of sebum builds up on the base of the tail, causing the hair here to become matted and oily. This leads to irritation, which is why your cat will try to chase their tail. They experience itching, discomfort, and feel the need to chase their tail or lick it to make it feel better. It can also lead to more severe infection if not treated timely.
This condition appears in unneutered male cats because they produce more mating hormones, causing the glads to work in overdrive. However, female cats can be affected as well, but this is much rarer.
9. They Have Fleas
One of the reasons why tail chasing can happen is because of flea bites. If these parasites get their way to your feline’s skin and fur, they’ll start biting and making their colonies. Adult fleas usually bite and make a nest right at the base of the tail, in the spot where the tail attaches to the body. This is the part that the feline yearns to scratch so badly, and so they chase after it.
Fleas are common external parasites for cats, and you should be very careful and diligent about preventing infestation. Outdoor cats are exposed to a higher risk of getting fleas, which is why you should do your best to get educated. However, although indoor felines are safer, that doesn’t make them completely safe from fleas.
Aside from tail chasing, there are a few other symptoms of fleas. For example, excessive grooming can mean your cat has a flea infestation. This is the feline’s way to get rid of the fleas and itch the nasty bites. Some cats are also allergic to fleas, and you’ll easily spot a change in their behavior if they have an infestation. Excessive scratching is another noticeable sign to watch for.
The best way to tell whether your cat has fleas or not is by checking their skin and fur. You can do this while grooming your cats, using the comb that you usually use. Try to part the hair in the tail area and see if you can spot any of the fleas hiding in their fur. You should check thoroughly, also paying attention to the neck, belly, and between the legs.
Sometimes, you won’t be able to spot the fleas, but that doesn’t mean that your feline is not infested. Fleas are extremely fast and jump from the body constantly. But, if you manage to get one, place it on a piece of paper or a white sheet to make sure that it’s a bug. Once confirmed, get an effective flea treatment to get rid of these nasty parasites for good.
10. They Have an Infection
If your feline is fighting a tail infection, it can also start chasing its tail to scratch it or because it feels painful. Infections can happen due to several reasons, starting with deep scratches that aren’t treated to inflamed anal glands.
If you think your cat could have an infection on their tail, take them to the vet who will be able to provide effective treatment. Once healed, you’ll notice that your kitty stops chasing their tail and resumes its usual behavior.
Is It Normal That a Cat Chases Its Tail?
Tail chasing is normal depends on the specific situation. If kittens and young cats do it, it’s normal as long as other symptoms do not accompany it. This is just a phase for young felines, and they will eventually outgrow it. Their hunting instinct and inquisitive nature have got them interested in everything around them – including their tails!
However, when tail-chasing happens with an adult cat, there are a few other things to consider. It could be that your kitten kept its tail-chasing habit and took it into adulthood, but this is rare. So, you should also keep a close eye out for other symptoms that could point out to a possible health condition.
Any strange signs outside of the normal pattern can mean that your feline has something else going on that is responsible for them chasing their tails. If you notice that she’s not eating, drinking, or sleeping as usual, or that she’s acting more aggressive and biting other pets in your home, you should call the vet. Depending on the symptoms, the vet will decide whether the tail chasing is innocent or not. If not, they’ll be able to treat the underlying condition.
Why Does a Cat Chase Its Tail and Bite It?
What happens when your cat chases its tail and bites it? When a kitten does it, it’s just a part of the game. You shouldn’t worry unless it’s becoming quite aggressive. But, when an adult cat does it, you should oversee her behavior. If the biting is light and only happens when she’s playing, you should be fine. However, if it turns out to be excessive and aggressive, there is something else going on.
You should examine the underlying reason and get in touch with the vet who will be able to best advise you on what to do next. Another thing you should do is try to get the feline’s attention away from the tail. You can do this with toys that move.
Is It Normal That a Cat Chases Other Cat’s Tails?
Sometimes cats won’t choose if they’re chasing their tail or another cat’s tail. Many owners see this as an attack and are worried about whether it’s normal. However, as long as the two felines are playing and there isn’t aggression, there is no need to be concerned. They are just playing around together and having fun.
However, a completely different story is when a cat attacks another cat’s tail, but it’s accompanied by aggression. In this case, you’ll notice the cat’s ears facing backward, they will growl, and the altercation won’t be fun. This is not normal and could lead to a catfight, so try to separate your felines before things get nasty.
How to Deal With Tail Chasing
There are times when cats chasing their tails will be completely normal and times when you should be worried.
Here are some tips that will help you deal with tail chasing and learn how to stop it:
1. Keep Your Cat Entertained
If your cat is chasing their tail because of boredom, you can help your cat by making an effort to keep them entertained. These days, you can invest in so many interactive toys and make their life so much more enjoyable. Having toys at home will help sway their attention from the tail and your feline will stop chasing it.
You can get any kind of toy, but one that moves will do the best job. For example, feather wands are an excellent way to release energy while strengthening the bond between the two of you. Another great idea is a scratching post that the cat will climb. Also, toys that felines can hunt can be great to keep them from tail chasing.
2. Enjoy Quality Time Together
If you leave your cat alone at home for many hours during the day, they are likely chasing their tail as they feel lonely. You should spend some quality time together when you get back home. This means playing together, cuddling, or taking walks. You shouldn’t let a feline feel lonely and set aside some time for them to feel loved.
3. Create a Stress-Free Environment
As cats can also chase their tails when stressed, you may be able to stop this behavior by creating a stress-free living environment. This means that every new change should be introduced slowly, and you should introduce new pets with caution. If you’re moving to a new house, make sure that your cat has everything she needs, including her own space with water, litter box, food, and toys.
It’s much easier to train kittens than cats. That’s why when your cat is still young, you should introduce her to as many different people, sounds, and stimuli as possible. This way, they will get used to everything around them and feel more able to cope with change.
4. Treat Any Allergies
If you suspect that your feline is allergic to something, you should get in touch with your vet. The symptoms that I listed above should be enough for you to recognize that allergies might be the potential cause of tail chasing. The vet will first start by figuring out what is causing the allergic reaction so that it can then be treated.
For example, if the reason is food, your vet will recommend that you stop using that kind of food. If the factors are environmental, the vet will probably prescribe antihistamines, steroids, dust-free cat litter, a clean home, clean bedding, ear drops, or ointments. When the allergy cause is fleas, you’ll have to deal with the infestation and get the prescribed flea and tick control treatment.
5. Treat Hyperesthesia Syndrome
If your cat has Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrom, it is very important to properly diagnose and treat this condition. This isn’t a condition that you can treat by Googling it online. Instead, it requires a more serious approach and prescriptions for medication. Generally, vets prescribe anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication.
Thankfully, it’s a rare condition, but you should recognize the symptoms and the episode if it happens. Also, make sure that you remember everything that your cat does when it has an attack so that you can share it with the vet.
6 Get Your Cat Neutered & Practice Good Hygiene
As tail chasing can also be caused by Supracaudal Gland Hyperplasia, you could also limit this behavior by having your cat neutered. This will prevent several other possible conditions, including unwanted pregnancies of female cats, fewer stray animals, prostate problems, and testicular tumors.
The other thing you can do is to practice good hygiene. This means grooming your cat at least once or twice a week to prevent mats from forming. Cats with long hair need grooming every single day.
7. Treat Fleas
Tail chasing can also be caused by fleas, and treating this parasitic infection will stop the behavior. Although numerous articles advise how you can get rid of fleas and which medication to use, you should always consult your vet. Some of these anti-flea medications can be pretty harsh and are only recommended if prescribed by a professional.
Aside from treating your cat, you should also focus on cleaning your house to prevent home infestation. You can also use flea preventive medication to help reduce the risk of your kitty contracting fleas again in the future.
8. Treat the Infection
If you suspect a tail infection, you should get in touch with your vet right away. They will examine the tail, do a range of diagnostic tests and figure out the reason behind the infection. It’s usually treated with antibiotics. However, if the cause is an inflamed anal gland, it will probably require to be expressed, then treated with antibiotics.
If the questions “Why do cats chase their tails?” and “Is it normal behavior?” have been on your mind, this article should have cleared things up. And as you can see, tail chasing is not as simple as it sounds! Figuring out the cause and treating it in time can save you from a lot of stress.
In general, a cat chasing its tail is normal, especially if it’s a young kitten. This is nothing to worry about and comes from a cat’s natural hunting instincts and inquisitive behaviors. However, it can also be a sign of allergies, an infection, fleas, or another medical condition, so keep your eyes peeled for other symptoms. If in doubt, take your cat to the vet.