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Tail-chasing in a cat could be sign of health issue
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Tail-chasing in a cat could be sign of health issue

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Anytime a pet starts exhibiting a strange, unexplained behavior, it's time for a visit with the vet.

DEAR JOAN — What do you know about cats chasing their tails?

Our cat, who found us and said "I live here now, feed me," has chased his tail (before), although only one or two times. Within the last week he seems to be aggressively going after his tail.

I know this is worrisome. Obviously, I need to take him to the vet. To be sure I get the right diagnosis, what questions should the vet be looking at?

Joan, Palo Cedro, California

DEAR JOAN: It's normal for kittens to chase their tails, but less common in adult cats. Anytime a pet starts exhibiting a strange, unexplained behavior, it's time for a visit with the vet.

Your regular vet should be able to handle it. If you don't have a vet, look for one that specializes in small animals or cats. It's possible — not likely, but possible — that you'll need a specialist, but this is a good starting point.

The tail chasing could be something benign, such as the cat being bored. He might also have a flea problem. Fleas are known to congregate at the base of the tail, causing itching and irritation. Your cat could be trying to get to the itchy spot.

Your cat might also have an anal infection or an infection on the tail that is causing itching and discomfort.

A less likely reason could be allergies, either from food or something in the environment. They can cause itchy or sensitive skin throughout the body. You'd most likely see a rash or ear infection if your cat is suffering from an allergic reaction.

You didn't say whether your cat has been neutered, but if he hasn't, the tail-chasing could be a sign of a supracaudal gland infection. Sebaceous glands secrete oils that help keep your cat's coat nice and silky, but they can lead to an accumulation of waxy material usually at the base of the tail, which is more common in intact males. Check for matted, crusty hair there.

Some cats have a rare disease called hyperesthesia syndrome, which is overactive nerve endings that can cause tingling and discomfort when touched.

Otherwise, tail chasing shouldn't be a significant issue, although it can cause injuries if the cat is too aggressive.

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