Why Is a Cat Chasing Its Tail?

Felines have fun chasing their tails.

Felines have fun chasing their tails.

Kitties are curious creatures, so it’s natural for them be to intrigued by their tails. This anatomical appendage is akin to a fascinating feather boa to Kitty as she swishes it from side to side -- a gesture that often functions as a leisurely prelude to a well-time pounce!

Play Activity

Kittens -- and grown kitties who are young at heart -- usually chase their tails because it’s fun. This playful activity helps Fluff to hone his hunting skills, keeping him fit and healthy. He is pretending that his tail is a fascinating mouse. Naturally, he knows that his tail isn’t really a mouse, and healthy well-adjusted felines won’t inflict any real damage on their tails. It’s akin to a play fight between two frisky kitties. As the evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin noted, happy cats frequently chase their tails.

Lack of Stimulation

It’s natural for kittens to chase their tails, but in adult cats excessive tail-chasing might mean that Kitty, particularly if she is an indoor cat, is bored and chases her tail because she has nothing better to do. The California Veterinary Specialists website notes that tail-chasing is rarely a problem behavior in felines, but if you are concerned that your pet has developed something of a tail fetish, taking the time to engage in interactive play sessions with your pet and giving her stimulating toys, such as cat trees and kitty condos, will make her appreciate that there’s more to life than chasing her tail.

Tail-Chasing In Kittens

Aggressive play is a normal part of a kitten’s development. Kittens, from 4 months upward, pounce on just about anything that catches their eyes, including their tails, and sometimes your poor fingers and toes! It helps to remember that Mittens is only playing and that this youthful enthusiasm will settle down eventually. Try diverting Muffins with other toys if you are concerned that his little tail is taking too much of a battering.

Warning Signs

Obsessive tail-chasing can indicate an underlying medical problem known as feline hyperesthesia, or cat schizophrenia. This is characterized by “fixation with the tail, often manifested as swishing of the tail, chasing of the tail or attacking the tail,” the VeIinfo website notes. Other symptoms of this condition include hallucinations, dilated pupils, sensitivity to touch in the spine area and loud meowing. Of course, all kitties act a little crazy sometimes, but if your pet is manifesting some of these symptoms, it’s best to have her checked out by a vet. Vets usually prescribe anti-anxiety medication, anti-depressants, and in some cases, anticonvulsant medication for this condition.

 

About the Author

Based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Elizabeth Burns began writing professionally in 1988. She has worked as a feature writer for various Irish newspapers, including the "Irish News," "Belfast News Letter" and "Sunday Life." Burns has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ulster as well as a Master of Research in arts.

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