Why Do Cats Chase Their Tails? (8 Surprising Reasons Revealed)

why do catss chase their tails

You can hear your cat growling, meowing, hissing and chattering in the living room while you were in the kitchen. Thinking that it might be in some kind of trouble, you dropped everything and ran to see what is wrong.

To your surprise, all you could see is a wildly spinning cat that’s trying to chase its own tail.

Yes, our cats are capable of chasing their own tails too, just like dogs.

Even though it can be hilarious seeing your poor cat indulge in an afternoon of tail chasing, why do cats do it?

Many cats chase their tails out of boredom or playfulness. It isn’t that much of a problem unless your cat starts biting its tail harshly or losing fur from its tail. That can signify an underlying medical problem that is currently affecting your cat. 

In this article, we will take a closer look at 8 possible reasons that can cause this tail-chasing behavior in your cat.

Do Cats Know That Their Tail Is Theirs?

Yes they do. A cat’s tail isn’t controlled independently by a second brain.

10% of the cat’s bones are in its tail and it consists of muscles, nerves and tendons.

Young kittens might not be too aware of their tail compared to adult cats as their mind-muscle connection is not as developed as older cats.

Why Do Cats Chase Their Tails?

You might have noticed your cat chasing his tail and wondered what’s up.

Well, sometimes it’s just a silly game, but other times it’s a sign that something’s not quite right.

Here are some reasons why your cat might be doing this funky move.

1. Self Entertainment

Cats are naturally playful and curious creatures. Thankfully, when it comes to the hobby of playful tail chasing, it is safe for our cats.

It is one of the many weird behaviors that cats do which we find rather amusing and adorable.

As a general rule of thumb, the younger they are, the more playful and goofy they can get.

You’ll find kittens or young cats doing this more often this adult cats.

To a kitten, it sees its tail as a built-in toy. Coupled with the fact the kittens like chasing things, this is the perfect recipe for some hilarious tail chasing sessions.

Adult cats do indulge in some form of tail chasing every now and then out of boredom but it is only for a brief moment before they get bored of it.

You don’t have to worry if you see your cat chasing its own tail playfully.

It is a form of self-entertainment and they will snap out of it after a while.

Some cats can get so caught up in this activity that these cats start huffing and puffing from exertion.

However, if you see your cat getting too carried away chasing its tail, you can try to distract it with a toy like a feather wand or laser pointers to break its focus.

2. It Is Instinctive For Cats

Cats are natural-born hunters and love to stalk, hunt and play with their prey before eating it.

Therefore for indoor cats who don’t have to hunt for their food like outdoor cats, anything that moves like prey will pique their curiosity.

Try making your finger move like a lizard in front of your cat and you’ll know what I mean. On second thoughts, maybe don’t.

For a kitten that’s new to the world, it will be trying to instinctively hone its hunting skills by chasing its own tail or another cat’s tail.

It might not realize that the tail is part of its body hence the young cat must be wondering why is there something always moving behind me.

An adult cat will usually be chasing other objects that move like its owner’s ankles when walking.

3. Stress

“A cat that has suddenly started this tail-chasing behavior when stressed uses this activity as a coping mechanism.”

Stress can make a cat do funny things.

When a cat is stressed it can groom excessively, do its business outside of the litter box, chew at your plants and chase its own tail.

A cat can get stress due to a number of factors:

  • you have recently adopted a new pet
  • there are feral cats roaming outside your home
  • a wild animal that gets too close to your property
  • a pending visit to the vet
  • moving to a new home
  • loud noises

A cat that has suddenly started this tail-chasing behavior when stressed uses this activity as a coping mechanism.

The same goes for some humans who start to pluck their own eyebrows or hair when under stress.

Tail chasing by itself isn’t a sign of a cat who is stressed. You should also look out for any other abnormal behaviors that your cat is doing.

If possible, try to remove the stress factor away from the cat.

If that is not possible, speak to your vet to see what can be done to reduce your cat’s stress and stop the poor cat from chasing its own tail.

4. Allergies

Cats can get the same type of allergies as humans. This allergy can be brought about by its environment or the food that your cat is eating.

When your cat is having an allergic episode, it can be suffering from skin itchiness and discomfort.

If the itch is coming from the cat’s tail, the cat will start to chase and bite it to alleviate the discomfort.

Sometimes it can be difficult to ascertain what the specific allergen is.

For indoor cats, it could be due to a certain fabric in your home.

For outdoor cats, it might be due to a certain plant or grass that they come in contact with.

If you notice that your cat chases its tail after eating, it could be due to food allergies.

Try observing your cat’s body language closely to see what might be causing his allergic reaction at home.

Don’t forget to take your cat to the vet for bloodwork and medication to help with the symptoms.

5. Flea Infestation


A cat chasing its own tail could be due to a flea infestation.

During an infestation, the adult fleas usually like to build their nest at the bottom of your cat’s tail area.

That area can get inflamed and itchy when they bite your cat hence making the cat chase its own tail.

You can try to spot for fleas on your cat by splitting its fur near the tail area to look for any tiny black specks that are moving.

If the flea infestation isn’t too severe, you can try removing these blood-sucking parasites with a cat flea comb soaked in Dawn washing detergent.

However, the most effective way to remove fleas is to use anti-flea medication from the vet.

Outdoor cats are more prone to catching fleas but indoor cats can get it too if the fleas are stuck on your clothing or on another pet that has outdoor access.

6. Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome

“Cats with this disorder will start to exhibit symptoms between 1-5 years of age.”

This is a rather rare nerve disorder that causes some parts of the poor cat’s skin to be ultra-sensitive and cause a tingling sensation.

These sensitive spots are usually at the back and in the front area of its tail.

It can cause itching and cats will chase their tails to try and bite the itch.

If your cat bites its own tail hard enough, it can cause the tail to bleed and leave tiny blood spots all over the house.

Other symptoms include running and loudly meowing around the house for a brief period.

Cats with this disorder will start to exhibit symptoms between 1-5 years of age.

7. Stud Tail

Stud tail or medically known as Supracaudal Gland Hyperplasia is a condition whereby the cat has excessive oil production at the base of its tail.

This condition is more common in cats that are not sterilized.

Sebum or skin oil is needed to keep the cat’s fur healthy and well-conditioned.

But when there is too much of it, it can cause that area to be itchy and causes tail chasing in cats.

You can notice this issue if the area at the bottom of your cat’s tail is often matted or discolored.

This condition can also make your cat groom its tail area excessively and cause hair loss at the base of its tail.

8. Impacted Anal Glands

When we mention anal glands, we tend to think more about dogs in general. But cats too have a pair of anal glands situated just inside the entrance of their anuses.

The anal glands contain a dark brown oily liquid that the cat uses for marking its territory and stool lubrication.

There can be times when the anal glands can become infected.

When this happens, your cat won’t be able to express its anal glands properly and it becomes impacted.

It can cause a certain amount of discomfort or itching. Your cat will try and chase its tail to bite and lick the infected area.

Some cats will even drag their butts on the floor to try and get some relief.

Should I Be Worried When My Cat Chases Its Tail?

There isn’t a need to start freaking out and pressing the panic button when you notice your cat chasing its own tail.

There are a couple of things to ask yourself first:

  • Has this been happening often?
  • Are there any signs of injury on the tail?
  • Is my cat eating and using the litter box as normal?

It could be that your cat is just chasing its own tail for fun. But any signs of injury or change in your cat’s normal behavior should be looked at by the vet.

It can be hard to tell if your cat is having a medical issue that is causing this behavior.

If that’s the case, medical treatment will be required for your cat.

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