6 reasons a cat chasing its tail should worry you

While you might expect to see a dog chase her tail in play, in cats, this behavior is a little less common. Still, plenty of cats do chase their tails, and there are many potential reasons behind this behavior. In some cases, chasing their tails is completely fun and harmless — plus, it can be fun for you to watch. But in other cases, a cat might be chasing his tail out of discomfort. You should know the different reasons why your cat might chase his tail so you can keep an eye out for some of those more troublesome causes behind this behavior.

Why do cats chase their tails?

Entertainment

Some cats do chase their tails for entertainment. Although it’s less common for cats to do this than it is for dogs to chase their tails, fun might be the motive behind this behavior. If your cat tends to chase his tail only when he’s wound up and running around the house, it might just be part of a game for him.

Young kitten playing with the tip of a cat's tail

Fleas

Fleabites can cause your cat’s tail to itch, and he might chase it in an attempt to relieve that itchiness. Look for signs that your cat has fleas, like the presence of flea dirt — which resembles coffee grounds — under his coat. Try using a flea comb along your cat’s tail. Comb the area repeatedly, then pull the hair out of the comb directly onto a white piece of paper. You may be able to see flea dirt or even fleas.

To treat fleas, you’ll need to treat not only your cat but also your house. Washing your cat’s bedding, thoroughly vacuuming your carpets, and vacuuming any furniture where your cat spends time is important to breaking the flea life cycle and bringing an end to the infestation.

Allergies

Like fleas, allergies also can make your cat’s tail itch. Food allergies or allergies to medications can leave your cat’s skin flaky, dry, and irritated. If you suspect your cat has allergies, your vet can test him to determine what he’s allergic to. If you think a food ingredient might be to blame, your vet might recommend an elimination diet to help pinpoint the exact food that’s the problem. Once you know what your cat is allergic to, you can take steps to avoid it and keep your cat more comfortable.

Stud tail

Stud tail is a gland infection that sometimes occurs in male cats. Your cat has many glands at the base of his tail, and if they get infected, they can get irritated and painful. You might also notice a waxy buildup at the base of your cat’s tail, indicating that these glands are overproducing oils and may already be or might be becoming infected. Your cat will need veterinary treatment to address the infection.

Infection

While stud tail often affects male cats, both males and females can be affected by plenty of other infections in their tail area. Anal glands can become infected, and a scrape or injury to your cat’s tail is another potential source of infection. Infections tend to itch, causing your cat to chase his tail and lick at the infection. Your vet can help determine whether an infection is present and can prescribe antibiotics to help treat it.

Cat with a long tail walking through a yard

Hyperesthesia syndrome

Some cats are affected by a rare disease called hyperesthesia syndrome. These cats have hyperactive nerve endings in their tail that create a tingly feeling that can be irritating. Cats may seem to panic when these nerve endings are aggravated, and they may chase their tails widely for a few minutes before settling down and seeming fine again. If you notice this behavior, contact your vet.

So, why do cats chase their tails? One of these six causes might be the reason. Since there are so many health issues that can make your cat chase his tail because he’s uncomfortable, it’s important to try to tell if your kitty is happy or uncomfortable. Watch your cat’s body language as he chases his tail. If his ears are flattened, his body’s tense, and he bites at his tail angrily once he does catch it, chances are his tail is irritating him and this isn’t a game. A trip to the vet can help you narrow down the potential causes and hopefully make your cat more comfortable.

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