There are lots of reasons why cats chase their tails, depending on the age and health of the cat, and the environment, says Clare Hemmings...
Q) My cat has started acting strangely. She chases her tail like a dog. She doesn’t do it all the time but has had the odd moment where she does it. Is this something I should be concerned about? Your Cat reader
There are lots of reasons why cats chase their tails, depending on the age and health of the cat, and the environment. In very early life, kittens, when they start to play and learn to hunt, and generally being obsessed with anything that moves, may view their tail as prey and fair game for chasing! The fact that it’s attached to their body is neither here nor there. It’s harmless fun, even if they do catch it.
As cats mature, they grow out of this behaviour, so it’s important to figure out what they are trying to tell us when they do it. Some under-stimulated cats might chase their tails out of boredom or stress. So, it’s important that you make sure your cat has plenty of environmental enrichment including high places, hiding places, scratching posts, and quiet places for her to rest. Playing with your cat regularly and providing her toys for solo play will help focus her attention on the toys rather than on her tail. If your cat shares your home with other cats watch how they interact — it’s possible they could be making her anxious. Cats are creatures of habit and any changes to their routine or environment, such as a house move, building works or redecoration, can also cause stress related behaviour changes.
There are also physical reasons why your cat might have suddenly started chasing her tail. It’s possible that she is reacting either to pain from an injury or to an itch brought about by a skin allergy or infection. In rare cases, cats chase their tail in response to a condition called Feline Hyperaesthesia syndrome. In these cases, owners might also notice symptoms such as their cat’s skin ‘rippling’, twitching muscles, tail swishing, intense episodes of running and jumping, and a sensitivity to touch.
I can’t tell you exactly why your cat is chasing her tail, but if she is an adult, it could just be her way of telling you she needs more stimulation within her environment or she could be using this as a coping mechanism for something that’s causing her emotional distress. However, if her tail chasing is a new behaviour there could be a physical cause. In either case, I would absolutely advise taking her to your vet to be checked over.