Cats have many weird behaviors—up to the point that you don’t understand nearly half of them. Some cats headbutt their owners, others rub their bodies against other pets, while some of them leave dead animals at your door. But maybe the most abnormal behavior is chasing their tails.
Why would any creature chase their tail?
That’s what I’m here to unveil!
Cat Attitudes is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Why Does My Cat Chase Her Tail? For 6 Reasons!
Tail chasing is mostly a normal behavior—a sign of boredom, stress, or playtime. However, if it’s not a familiar behavior your cat does, it may be a sign of an underlying health issue. Monitoring your cat and knowing what she normally does or doesn’t comes in handy in these cases.
Here are six reasons your cat may be chasing her tail.
As humans, when we’re bored, we may start picking at our nails or even braid our hair. For cats, chasing their tails falls in the same category. They treat it as a built-in toy they can use anytime. Kittens, in particular, are fascinated with everything that moves when they’re still exploring their surroundings. It’s no wonder they constantly pounce on their tails.
Older cats will probably opt for something else to play with.
She Has Fleas
If your car has a hairy tail, there’s a high chance she’s chasing it because she’s trying to scratch away at the fleas. Fleas target many places in the cats’ bodies; the tail’s base is one of the primary targets, along with the lower back.
The cats will then chase their tails in a futile attempt to get rid of the itchy feeling.
You’ll know if the reason is fleas because of the small red bumps they leave on the cat’s skin when they bite. You may also notice the cat scratching at her body more than usual or grooming more than often. If you’re not sure, try parting the cat’s hair down to her skin. Your eye will probably catch some adult fleas moving around.
If the cat is chasing her tail because of fleas, she’ll stop doing it once you treat it.
A lot of allergies leave the cat’s skin dry and itchy, which urges the cat to scratch away at it, trying to relieve the pain. If the dry skin is at the tail, the cat will keep spinning in circles and chasing its tail.
Allergies are easily diagnosable because they show plenty of symptoms—not just itchy tails and dry skin. The symptoms include skin rashes, itchy skin throughout the body, and chronic ear infection in some cases.
Some allergies are easily treated by avoiding the substance that causes them, and some other types need steroids to control the symptoms. If you notice your cat is scratching her skin too hard, it’s time to visit the vet before the matter escalates.
She Has an Infection
If your cat isn’t chasing her tail merely out of boredom, there’s a chance it may be because of an underlying infection. Infections can stem from past injuries that have been reopened, and it may be a result of vigorous scratching to the skin.
In other cases, some body glands may be causing the infection, such as the anal glands. They’re the closest body part to the tail, so they may be the reason your cat is spinning in circles.
Infections are usually treated easily by giving the cat antibiotics or treating their source.
He Has a Stud Tail
Some cats suffer a condition called Supracaudal gland infection. It’s exclusive to male cats who aren’t neutered, but there are very rare exceptions.
The Supracaudal gland infection occurs when the sebaceous glands are overactive. They’re positioned at the base of the cat’s tail.
The sebaceous glands are mainly responsible for secreting oils to keep the cat’s hair soft and shiny. When they’re overactive, they secrete too much oil, leading to an accumulation of wax at the tail’s base. As a result, the hair will start to mat, and the oil will form a crusty buildup that itches. If the condition is left for long without treatment, it may cause a skin infection.
Treating Supracaudal gland infection is often neutering the male cat and keeping the area clean.
She Has Hyperesthesia Syndrome
Hyperesthesia syndrome is a rare disease, which is one reason why most vets don’t diagnose it at a glance. It can affect cats of all ages, and it’s a result of overactive nerve endings.
When the endings get more active than normal, they cause a tingling sensation around the cat’s tail, and the skin becomes sensitive to the touch. The cats may then resort to running for their tail, trying to curb the tingly feeling.
The syndrome has other abnormal symptoms, which may make it easier for your vet to identify. For example, some cats will have episodes where their eyes get wide and run around like crazy. They’ll do it for 20–30 seconds before falling back asleep. If you notice any abnormal behavior accompanying the cat chasing its tail, visiting the vet may be a good idea.
Is It Normal for My Cat to Chase Her Tail?
In most situations, cats chasing their tails is completely normal behavior, especially among younger kittens. They mostly do it out of boredom or as one of the many activities they do during playtime.
If your cat is old and isn’t used to showing this kind of behavior, it may be because of an underlying condition. On the other hand, a cat that chases her tail when she’s a kitten will continue to do it when she’s mature. So, no need to worry about the behavior.
When Is It Not Normal for My Cat to Chase Her Tail?
When a cat adopts a new behavior suddenly, and without obvious reasons, it may be time to get concerned and consider a visit to the vet. In the case of chasing tails, it’s a reason of concern when your cat has never done it before and starts doing it out of nowhere. That’s what I’d call a red flag.
However, the good news is, most underlying conditions will have other symptoms, so you’ll be easily able to know there's a problem. The first thing you should look for when you notice your cat is chasing her tail is fleas. That’s the most common reason, and it’s easy to diagnose at home without going to the vet.
All you have to do is check the cat’s skin for small bumps or adult fleas.
If you rule out the possibility of fleas, start looking for injuries, signs of infections, or anything unusual happening with the cat. You may also start checking for a loss of appetite, a sudden change of behavior, and any variation in the energy level.
Furthermore, it’s not normal for your cat to chase her tail when she’s also trying to bite it. Self-inflicted injuries may be a signal of a psychological condition, such as anxiety or stress. The cat may also have a hidden wound in her tail that needs to be checked by the vet.
How Do I Stop My Cat From Chasing Her Tail?
Stopping your cat from chasing her tail is only necessary if it’s because of a medical condition. If it’s an injury, stud tail, infection, or hyperesthesia, it’s time to call a vet.
If fleas are the reason for your cat’s discomfort, you should start treating it with the proper medicine or home remedies.
Other than that, there isn’t really a reason to stop the cat from chasing her tail. She’s probably doing it for fun.
Why Does My Cat Chase Other Cats’ Tails?
Some cats may not chase their own tails, but they’ll chase other cats’ tails instead, which isn’t any better. However, it's normal behavior, so there isn’t anything to worry about.
Kittens get attracted to anything moving around them, even if it’s the tail of another animal. If they trust the other cat, or they’re already familiar with it, they may try to chase her tail in their playing time. If both cats are on the same page, you have nothing to worry about.
It’s time to worry when your cat is chasing another cat’s tail out of aggressive tendencies. She may get too aggressive, biting or scratching the other cat, which can break out into a full-on catfight!
If you can’t determine whether the cats are playing or fighting, their body language will give them away. When playing, their eyes will be perked forward, and they may roll around and bounce when they catch the tail.
On the other hand, if the cats are fighting, you’ll find their ears pinned back. Plus, they’ll probably be snarling at each other and trying to bite each others’ tails.
Why Does My Cat Hit Me With Her Tail?
Chasing and biting aren’t the only two weird things cats do with their tails. Sometimes, they’ll hit you with it! More than often, she’s trying to show interest. Some other times, she’s just in the mood to hit you.
There are plenty of explanations for your cat hitting you with her tail. For starters, your cat may be interested in the activity you’re currently doing. If you’re cleaning around, she may have taken a liking to what you’re doing, and she wants to participate. Hitting you with her tail is a sign of showing interest.
Alternatively, the cat may be concerned about something. If that’s the case, you’ll find her wrapping her tail around your legs, not hitting you with it. That mostly happens when cats get introduced to new environments or strangers.
There’s also one less common reason, which is the cat being angry with you. She may be hitting you with her tail trying to deliver the message. She’ll probably try to knock down a couple of items, too, if that’s the case.
The possible causes of a cat chasing her tail are limited, and they aren’t hard to figure out. You’ll be able to catch fleas easily, and medical conditions will have other symptoms that’ll give them away.
So, I recommend not giving much thought to the matter if it’s a normal occurrence. Cats have weird ways of having fun!