I’m pretty sure that you have seen your cat biting his tail and laughed about this silliness. Is it dangerous or is it perfectly okay when my cat bites his own tail?
Cats Biting Themselves?
It sounds strange when you hear it. Perhaps you have even seen it on a random cat or your own cat. Cats do sometimes bite themselves, but in most cases it is not because they try to punish themselves. In most cases, their biting has a very harmless meaning, but there are times when it can be something unusual.
Cats bite themselves on certain body parts, in particular their tails because of:
- Stress and Anxiety
- Kitten Play
- Hunting Game
The most obvious and also most common reason for a cat biting their tail is because they are grooming themselves. Within grooming, a cat licks their fur with a very rough tongue. The licks in one area is usually in the order of: dry dirt removal, wetting the dirt, dry dirt removal. Their tongue is capable to transport their saliva to the area where difficult to remove dirt is stuck. The next lick the cat might be using the rough property of the tongue to give the area a good rough washing.
Sometimes however, dirt is really stuck and they need to bite and chew with their teeth to loosen the dirt from their fur. They basically use their teeth as a comb to comb the area clean.
You can see them using the same technique on the claws and nails as well as on their tails.
Stress and Anxiety
A cat can also bite in their own tail out of pure stress and/or anxiety. Stress in cats usually comes from environmental changes.
Environmental change can be divided into:
- A new cat (or another animal) in the neighbourhood or family
- A new family member (new child, new partner etc)
- Re-arranged living room or new furniture
- A new apartment/house
- In case of an outdoor cat: a change in the garden
- New cat food, cat litter, equipment etc.
Basically any form of change to your cats’ territory is a change that might cause stress to your cat. Some cats are more affected than others. Even cat families that were thriving before might suddenly get into an argument with one of the families’ other cats and suddenly it becomes a stressful situation for them.
When kittens play with each other they can easily bite each others tail in their play. At other times a kitten can be bored and play with their own tail. In most cases, cats are just trying to reach for their tail, so they can groom it. You can see a cat or kitten run after its tail a couple of rounds, before he captures his own tail with both hands, while laying on their back. The next moment the kitten will bite and nibble on it and start licking their tail.
Sometimes the tail can be part of a hunting game. Not only kittens show this behaviour when they are bored, even adult cats can make their tail be part of it.
I am not always as sure, whether they are having a hunting game going or whether they are just out to groom that tail they neglected all week. We will never know, but at least it is enjoyable to see them finish a task
Obsessive Compulsory Disorder (OCD)
When you see missing patches of fur on your cats body, there are chances that your cat is biting and grooming their fur away. While this can mean there is some sort of illness or itch happening regularly, there is also a chance that your cat is suffering an obsessive compulsory disorder.
A couple of missing patches of fur can grow back if it is left in peace afterwards, but when your cat continues biting and grooming in these areas it can start to bleed and form wounds. Wounds can in turn become infected and at this point it is a lethal condition.
If you see your cat having wounds from over-grooming or you see large area’s of fur missing it is a good idea to visit your vet.
Illness and Parasites
Very close to illness comes the things that itch, such as flea’s and other creatures that irritate the skin. Your cat will start biting his tail and other parts of the body to try to get rid of the itch. Scratching with claws will also happen. While a couple of usual bites is not going to bad, doing this over and over again on one area will cause wounds. In due time can these wounds become scars or bleeding wounds that can easily get infected.
There are also a couple of illnesses that can also result in excessive grooming and biting, such as arthritis and inflammatory diseases. Even certain types of foods can cause allergies with cats that cause them to act strange.
So if you see any form of obsessive grooming or biting of your cat on their tail or other body part it is best to take your cat to the vet as soon as possible to get it treated.
Ever seen a cat or kitten try to grab their tail and bite it? Share your experience below. It is always free to ask questions here as well.