Cat glancing at his tail

Instinctual Entertainment: Why Do Cats Chase Their Tails?

Cats are fascinating little creatures, especially when they are curious little kittens. They love to explore and can get into places you would never believe. Some kitties may even get curious enough to climb your Christmas tree!

Just like dogs, chasing their own tails is another activity that cats like to do and it is actually a more common activity than you would think. When a cat is excited and active and notices her swinging or twitching tail, it is normal for her to go after this annoying part of her body.

Most of the time, your cat chases her tail for the fun of it; it is just another moving object she needs to pounce on. Simply, it’s something that kittens and young cats just do.

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Why Does a Cat Chase Its Own Tail?

Instinctual Entertainment: Why Do Cats Chase Their Tails?

Cats are predatory animals by nature and when they are kittens, they tend to pounce on almost anything that moves near them. You can have a lot of fun watching a kitten or a young cat chase a light beam, wrestle with shoelaces or tangle itself up in a ball of yarn.

Their tails are also something nearby that moves, wags and twitches. It’s practically an irresistible object that they need to chase due to their predatory instincts. Indoor cats especially do not have the opportunities that outside cats do to act on their innate instincts, and so they need other ways to expend their energy.

As kittens get older, however, pouncing on and chasing moving objects, including their own tails, may be a less common activity. If you see that your adult cat is still chasing its tail, there are a few good reasons for it and some remedies for curbing the activity.

Is Your Cat Bored? She Needs Exercise and Stimulation!

Indoor cats may get especially bored. Imagine having to live in a box every day and not out in nature hunting mice, birds and other little critters. Domesticated indoor cats actually exist against their predatory nature and that can lead to boredom.

Indoor cats need as much exercise and mental stimulation as do outdoor cats, so it’s up to cat owners to provide that stimulation.

Cats love to play so you should have a variety of toys around the house to keep them busy and distracted from their tail. Cats seem to enjoy long, stringy toys that move around a lot, like wand toys. If you have a scratching post, you can attach a little toy to a heavy string that the cat can take swipes at and chase around.

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Other and probably more stimulating toys for cats to help keep their hunting instincts alive are motorized toys that move by themselves. Pet toy companies are getting innovative and coming out with a variety of hunting type toys for our little predatory hunters.

Wind up one of those toys or press the on button and watch your cat fixate on the toy and get into the position to pounce. Toys like “Catty Whack” or a Hexbug Mouse will provide hours of excitement and exercise for your cat. She’ll feel more like the hunter she was born to be.

Making sure your kitty has enough other things to keep her occupied will keep her away from her tail. If your cat is over a year old, she may just be trying to get your attention by chasing her tail. She would probably much rather have you play with her instead.

Remember, cats need exercise and stimulation for their physical and mental health. If you keep your cat indoors, this is especially important to their overall health and well-being.

Is Your Cat Lonely?

Instinctual Entertainment: Why Do Cats Chase Their Tails?

Cats crave attention and are often the pets that are home alone quite frequently. Unless they have another feline friend or even a dog to keep them company, their pent up energy may induce tail chasing.

Indoor cats do not often have the same activity opportunities of cats that spend most of their time outdoors. Outside they can chase birds, mice, blowing leaves or any number of other fast moving objects. They can also run around more often and expend their energy.

When you leave a cat alone inside the house for excessive periods, they may start showing signs of being lonely and craving attention. Aside from chasing and over-grooming their tails, they may start being more vocal or even start getting into things they’re not supposed to.

Lonely cats can also be clingy cats and start to follow you around everywhere like a puppy. If your cat starts acting like it’s lonely, she’s looking for some much-needed attention and her tail just isn’t going to do the trick.

Do You Have a Stressed out Cat?

Yes, cats can experience stress! Any number of things can cause stress in your cat and you do not want her to start chasing her tail around to show it.

Your cat’s living arrangements may trigger stress reactions like tail chasing. Make sure she has a safe place to rest, secure locations for her food, water, and litter box, and has her own kitty furniture for scratching, climbing and even hiding.

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If you start exposing your cat to a variety of sounds, sights and people as young kittens, they will develop a resistance to chronic stress and be healthier cats. Cats can adapt to change but it is critical to keep everyday items and routines in place to lower the amount of stress she experiences.

For example, if you move to a new house, make sure you set up her favorite food and water bowls in a similar area of the new house. The same with the litter box; make sure she knows exactly where it is when she needs it. Make sure to give your little furry friend some extra attention during the transition and you’ll have a stress-free cat.

That doesn’t mean your kitty won’t ever chase her tail around, but it’ll be more likely it’s just for fun and not stress induced.

Should You Try to Stop Your Cat’s Tail Chasing?

Instinctual Entertainment: Why Do Cats Chase Their Tails?

Whether your cat is lonely or bored, you can do some things to help lessen the activity. If you notice your adult indoor cat chasing and attacking its tail frequently and you cannot bring another pet into the home, you can buy inexpensive toys that will encourage her to run around. Toys that move like a cyclone or a mouse-chasing toy will keep your cat engaged and active and keep her away from her tail.

If you start seeing missing fur, bite marks, deep scratches and bleeding on your cat’s tail, your cat is doing more than simply chasing and pouncing on it. At that point, you do not only want to stop the tail chasing, you need to seek medical attention to find the cause and get treatment.

Does a Cat Know Its Tail Is Part of Its Body?

You might think that a cat chases its tail because it thinks it is an object that just needs chasing. But, if you watch what a cat does after it catches and pounces on its tail, it’s obvious that they know it belongs there.

Most of the time after the cat seems to attack its tail, it will settle down and start grooming it. The cat knows what it is. In fact, a cat’s tail is an extension of its spine and helps to control its bowels among other things. If her tail is injured, the injury can cause damage to her bladder, large intestines or anus.

A Cat’s Tail Helps with Balance

While her tail may be annoying at times, a cat’s tail is an integral part of her balance. You may often see your cat walking on narrow sections of furniture with the utmost grace. Her tail is providing a distance measure and counterbalance to help keep her steady.

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A cat’s tail also helps her maintain her balance when running and pouncing, especially when she’s hunting her prey. Cats often have to stop fast and make sharp turns, all without falling over. That’s done with the help of their tails.

However, a cat can be just as agile and balanced without a tail. For example, Manx cats are born without a tail and if a cat has an unfortunate injury or illness necessitating tail amputation, she will learn to compensate for the loss.

Cat’s Tails Help Keep Them Warm

You may see your cat wrap its tail around itself when it snuggles in to rest. Her tail helps provide a little bit of extra warmth and security.

A Cat’s Visual Acuity May Account for Her Tail Chasing

Cats have unique peripheral and night vision. Since cats are more active from dusk to dawn, their extraordinary vision is critical to night movement. They also have a wider range of vision than do their human friends.

They can literally see what humans cannot, especially in the dark and even the slightest movement, including their own tail, will peak their curiosity.

Tails Tell a Tale

Instinctual Entertainment: Why Do Cats Chase Their Tails?

Your cat’s tail is more than just an appendage for her to chase around, though. It can also tell you a lot about her mood. Cats use their tails to express many emotions and moods. Learning their language will help you help your cat live a long and healthy life.

When your cat’s tail is standing straight up, it means she is a content cat and confident in her environment. It is also a signal that she is happy and friendly. She may even twitch her tail just a bit, indicating she is especially happy.

Did you know that domestic cats are the only felines able to walk while holding their tails straight up?

If your cat seems to shake her tail quickly while it is standing straight up, she may be excited at getting something, for example, she sees you getting her food bowl ready.

But if your cat’s tail is straight down, she is serious and means business. However, some cat breeds, for example Persians, just carry their tails straight down for no reason at all. Wild felines naturally hold their tails down or tucked under while walking.

Does your cat’s tail look almost like a question mark? When your cat curves her tail, she is trying to tell you she wants your attention and is ready to play with you.

If your cat tucks her tail under her body, she is afraid of or nervous about something.

When your cat’s tail puffs up, she is telling you she is very agitated about something. She might be frightened or she feels like she is in danger and trying to puff herself up to seem bigger. She will probably resemble the black cats at Halloween.

If your cat whips her tail back and forth quickly, it is an indication of aggression and fear. It is best to stay clear of a cat when she is whipping her tail like this.

A swishing tail means your cat is fixated on something, like a toy or piece of food that she is getting ready to pounce on.

Does your cat’s tail move when she is sleeping? She may be dreaming or she may be reacting to sounds around her that are not frightening or annoying. She is just letting you know that she is relaxed and resting, but not completely asleep.

A twitching tail can, unfortunately, indicate pain. Cats are naturally adept at hiding pain. It sometimes seems like they have a very high tolerance to pain. If you notice your cat’s tail twitching or swaying while lying down, it could be an indication of pain.

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Does your cat curl her tail flat over the top of her back? This may be a sign of a harmless genetic mutation since most cats are not able to do this with their tales. It isn’t painful for the cat; it’s just how it was born.

A Final Word on Tail-Chasing Cats

However common tail chasing is, it is not normal for adult cats to engage in tail chasing unless they are playing or looking for your attention. If you notice any unusual behavior with your cat aggressively chasing and biting at her tail, make an appointment to see your vet just to be sure she is not suffering from any serious medical conditions.

Product data was last updated on 2019-07-19.