Excited Cats is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

Why Do Cats Play With Their Tails? 7 Likely Reasons

Wondering why your cat chases its tail? Cats may be set in their ways, but they always surprise us from time to time. A cat playing with its tail can be completely normal, or it could be a health concern. It depends on how your cat interacts with its tail.

In this post, we’re sharing seven reasons why your cat remembers it even has a tail. And if it’s a medical concern, we’ll help you figure out the next step.

divider-catclaw1 The 7 Reasons Why Cats Play With Their Tails

1. It’s Fun

Boredom comes easily for the housecat life. But our cats want to have fun, too! The tail is perfect because it slithers back and forth in a snake-like pattern, providing the perfect opportunity for playtime. Older cats may not show interest in their tails, but kittens definitely do.

What to Do:

Playing with the tail isn’t an issue, but it could be a sign your cat needs a toy or cat tree. Offer various toys, scratches, and climbing places to help relieve your cat’s boredom and stress.

cat wagging its tail
Image Credit: Christel SAGNIEZ, Pixabay
thematic break

2. Dry Skin

It may look like your cat is playing with its tail, but it could be itching and scratching due to dry skin. Your cat can have dry skin for several reasons, like weather changes, diet, and humidity levels. Dry skin often comes and goes. Classic signs of dry skin include:

  • Dandruff
  • Red skin
  • Dull coat
  • Fur loss
  • Scabs and sores
  • Excessive grooming

What to Do:

If your cat’s dry skin is mild, you can quickly soothe this with coconut oil or maybe some added fish oil in your cat’s food. Severe dry skin should be seen by a veterinarian.

thematic break

3. Allergies

Dry skin and allergies can go hand in hand, but they’re not always caused by the same thing. Four types of allergies can affect your cat: insect, diet, inhalant (dust, mold, etc.), and contact.

Symptoms vary based on what type of allergy your cat has. Usually, dry skin is the first thing to appear, so you’ll notice your cat itching everywhere, including the tail. Other signs can include eye and nasal discharge, coughing and sneezing, and possibly GI upset if the allergy is severe enough.

What to Do:

Sometimes allergies can subside on their own, but it’s wise to take your cat to the vet for testing. Your vet can help formulate a treatment plan based on your cat’s allergy.

a white cat with collar scratching its ear
Image Credit: socrates471, Shutterstock
thematic break

4. Fleas

Fleas are little insects that like to live, feed, and mate on our cats, including the tail. Indoor cats are just as susceptible to fleas as outdoor cats, but outdoor cats can be more prone to infestations. Still, a few fleas can bother your kitty, causing scratching and itching.

What to Do:

To kill the fleas, over-the-counter flea and tick medication is available at pet stores, or you can pick up stronger medication at your vet’s office. Flea and tick cat shampoo can also help.

For your home, thoroughly sanitize clothing, linens, rugs, and pet items in hot water. Vacuum and shampoo carpets, and don’t forget all the edges around your furnishings.

thematic break

5. Stud Tail

Supracaudal Gland Hyperplasia, also known as stud tail, is typically seen in intact male cats but can occur in female cats. This is when the supracaudal gland at the base of the tail secretes an oily, waxy substance called sebum. This could be why your cat is fixated on its tail.

What to Do:

Stud tail doesn’t cause any major problems unless the area becomes infected. Still, it’s best to have your cat checked out by your vet anyway to ensure no infection. A good cat shampoo can help remove oily residue and prevent future complications.

Mekong Bobtail Male Cat
Image Credit: Seregraff, Shutterstock
thematic break

6. Injury

Cats easily injure their tails, even if they keep them in perfect question mark shapes. A few common tail injuries include skin infections, bite wounds, abrasions, and fractures. Your cat can also develop post-traumatic injuries like spinal arthritis from a previous injury. These injuries can result in your cat messing with its tail more than usual.

What to Do:

If your cat’s tail was recently injured, you might notice signs like redness, heat, pain, and inflammation. Your cat won’t let you touch its tail and may even be aggressive.

Try to look at your cat’s tail and see if you notice any of these symptoms. It’s time to call the vet if you do.

thematic break

7. Hyperesthesia Syndrome

Hyperesthesia Syndrome is a high sensitivity to the skin on the back and base of the tail.

Usually, your cat suddenly reacts if you try to touch this area. Your cat may react intensely when grooming this area and try to scratch and dig when it grooms. Sadly, this can result in serious injury. Other cats chase their own tails from the discomfort.

What to Do:

Thankfully, this health issue can be managed with proper veterinary care. Your veterinarian will want to rule out other causes that we’ve mentioned on this list before starting treatment. If Hyperesthesia Syndrome is the culprit, your vet will prescribe medications to help with pain and mood.

Sick cat in animal hospital
Image Credit: Kachalkina Veronika, Shutterstock

Cat ball divider 1 Does This Mean My Cat Likes Its Tail Touched?

So, you’ve decided that your cat is just bored and likes to play with its tail. Does this mean you can touch the tail whenever you want? Not exactly.

The tail is a sensitive part of the body that doesn’t receive much protection. It’s also a part of a cat’s spine. Most of the time, cats only like the base of the tail touched and occasionally a fast tail stroke.

Withhold from messing with the tail and use a toy instead. Otherwise, your cat can become annoyed and might not want to play with you.

divider-catclaw1 Conclusion

There you have it: seven reasons why cats play with their tails. Sometimes, it’s only out of pure boredom. Other times, it can be a health issue.

Watch out for any itching and scratching and pay attention to how your cat reacts when you touch the base of the tail. If all is well, your cat is probably only having fun.

thematic break

Featured Image Credit: Salomé Guruli, Unsplash