My cat bites his own tail.
May 2, 2009 10:48 AM   Subscribe

My stupid cat keeps biting his own tail to the point where he's drawing blood.

He's a male neutered DSH around 2.5 years old. He's (knock on wood) been healthy and seems fine other than this. He doesn't seem to realize his tail is attached to him and chases it. He acts as if it's threatening him. I have found trails of blood on the floor and a scab on the very tip of his tail (about 1 cm in length). It does not look infected. Today when I came home he was actively bleeding so I put styptic powder on the wound to heal it. He's sleeping now and not acting strangely (well, more strangely than usual).

We do have another cat (and 2 dogs) in the household but I am sure they are not doing this to him. The cats do play-fight but bite each other on the neck, not the tails. The dogs ignore the cats.

Anyway, how do I stop him?
posted by desjardins to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
do the plastic cone on neck thing for a while and hope he forgets about it? bonus: amusement for others in the house.
posted by genmonster at 11:06 AM on May 2, 2009

You might want to make a quick call to the vet's office to see if this warrants more attention.

Also, are pictures of your animals necessary for answering this question ?
posted by special-k at 11:16 AM on May 2, 2009

I don't think the plastic cone would prevent a cat from getting to its own tail. At least not one that would also allow it to eat.
posted by FuManchu at 11:21 AM on May 2, 2009

I would try to distract him when he starts to chase his tail with a laser pointer or cat toy.

Also, are pictures of your animals necessary for answering this question ?

No, but they're always a nice addition. Cute kitties!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:30 AM on May 2, 2009 [6 favorites]

Beautiful cats.

Could you put some bitter apple spray on his tail? Also, this question made me giggle!
posted by sickinthehead at 11:34 AM on May 2, 2009

Also, are pictures of your animals necessary for answering this question ?
God yes. Those matching dogs are delightful.

Could you distract the tail-biter with extra fun toys? I like to keep some toy mice (the furry kind with feather tails) in a jar of catnip and swap them out every day. I rub the catnip into them so it gets stuck in their fur and the cat takes forever to lick it all out. Also, take a handful of cat treats and hide them all over the place (maybe higher up so the dogs don't eat them). On windowsills, dressers, desk, etc, like a cat-treat safari.

Finally, get a cat-dancer, teach the cat to love it, then tie a little crinkly ribbon and maybe a jingle bell to one end and leave it on the floor. My cat picks up the cardboard end and then turns to chase the ribbon end- like chasing her own tail, but the bright bit of crinkly ribbon catches her attention and she chases that.
Maybe you can distract the tail-biter enough that he'll forget to bite himself.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:51 AM on May 2, 2009

My guy had mites and he was tearing out chunks of fur on his side (oddly, my other two cats had no such problems). Application of an antiparasitic (Revolution) cleared it up in a couple of days.

One way or another, definitely worth a vet visit.

Also, are pictures of your animals necessary for answering this question ?

Necessary? No. Welcome? Most definitely.
posted by hangashore at 11:59 AM on May 2, 2009

I also recommend the cat dancer (I own 3). My last cat, after a lifetime of giving his tail no notice at all, started to attack it when he was around 13 years old. He'd had several impacts with automobiles when younger, and this resulted in arthritis (which was offered as an explanation).

He would yell at his tail, because it would bother him (after he'd attacked it), and it would ramp up in seriousness. BITE->YELL->REVENGE BITE->LOUD YOWL, etc...

My vet said it was a nervous condition, that may not even be solved by removing the tail altogether. The bandage she put on it made him more aware of it, and more crazy, but his soon responded to a regimen of some chinese herbal nerve tonic and acupuncture.

I hope yours is more easily distracted, and doesn't escalate.

also, yay for pix
posted by Busithoth at 12:07 PM on May 2, 2009

My story doesn't seem to be similar, but I will mention it anyway in case it helps you out at all.

My mom's cat used to bite and suck on her tail such that the last inch would be soaking wet, it was really gross. Turns out that she had some sort of a sore or growth in her mouth: the vet drained the fluid, it healed, and she stopped doing this.
posted by teragram at 2:19 PM on May 2, 2009

I'd be worried he doesn't have proper feeling in the end of his tail. One of my cats (Wolfy) had a tail separation injury (basically a break in the spine at the top of the tail) which killed the nerves into his tail. Afterwards he use to bite it occasionally, he couldn't feel what he was doing. In his case it was a traumatic injury due to a car accident (he eventually had it removed) which obviously isn't the case with Ninja. But maybe he has less sensation in his tail tip than he should since this doesn't seem to be upsetting him?

The other cat in my photo (Mandy) has been known to lick the back of her ankles to the point they're bald and raw, and sometimes there are scabs there too. In her case it's a combination of stress or boredom and arthritis (she's 14), it bugs her, licking feels good, she gets carried away. We don't do anything about this besides treat the arthritis and be nice to her, but it started a couple of years before the arthritis became noticeable so I wish we'd done something about that sooner. You could have something similar to this going on (boredom biting?) assuming his tail is working properly.

I'm sure there are lots of other valid reasons too. This is just weird enough that I'd give the vet a ring and see if they're concerned. It may just be his weirdness, cats are weird after all, but a quick check to make sure it's not warning of something else is probably in order.
posted by shelleycat at 2:48 PM on May 2, 2009

He needs to see the vet, and may very well need medication for this.
posted by biscotti at 3:25 PM on May 2, 2009

when my cat had ringworm on his ankle he would bite it to the point of bleeding. Has the affected area grown at all?
posted by chelseagirl at 3:58 PM on May 2, 2009

The word you should probably be googling is overgrooming.
posted by hermitosis at 4:10 PM on May 2, 2009

I can't remember where I read this (maybe here on MeFi) but you can try randomly wrapping his paw or arm with vetwrap. The idea is that he will be so distracted trying to get that off that he won't chew his tail (or other irritated area.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:03 PM on May 2, 2009

This is potentially quite serious. You should see a vet.

I don't want to be alarming, but I've read the story of a woman online whose cat had Feline Hyperethesia. It got put on medication, but kept gnawing its tail down to the bone. Eventually they amputated the tail, but even that didn't stop the biting. They had to put it down in the end. That's a very extreme case, but it means you shouldn't dismiss the behavior lightly.

And your pets are adorable
posted by emyd at 5:16 PM on May 2, 2009

Another vote for a visit to your vet. If it turns out that it's not a medical problem, you'll need to redirect his attention. The suggestions upthread are great.
posted by deborah at 7:48 PM on May 2, 2009

Yowza, your story is my story. I still to this day find blood trails on the baseboards. From the moment we brought Moya home, she spun and spun to catch her tail. That's when she wasn't hissing at it or running from it. The vet deemed it an "inappropriate reaction to stress" that was likely caused when at some point Moya was terribly upset and was unable to, for whatever reason, blow off steam in the usual ways.

Long story short, we spent four years trying behavioral therapies, toys, things like Feliway, medicines including Prozac and clomipramine among others, and even spraying her with the squirt bottle. In the end, I was pregnant and not looking forward to having a crying baby and a screaming, bloody cat, so I asked the vet to cut off Moya's tail.

Well lo and behold, I came home from that particular vet visit with an entirely different cat. Sweet, happy... you name it. The fur snake that tormented her was finally gone, and she started doing things like, oh, playing and purring.

So I'd say you can try treating the problem behaviorally and if that doesn't work, medicinally, but don't be quick to dismiss amputation. I only wish we'd done it years ago!

Before / After
posted by Never teh Bride at 4:26 PM on May 3, 2009

Made vet appointment. Will update afterwards. Thanks all.
posted by desjardins at 2:40 PM on May 5, 2009

Turns out he had a cut on his tail that was hidden by the hair. It was about an inch long and went down to the bone. It almost looked like a knife cut, it was so straight and clean, but I have no idea where he could have gotten that from. Fortunately, it was not infected. The vet said it might have severed a nerve, so that he couldn't feel the tip of his tail (and thought his tail was "attacking" him). He stitched it up, put a bandage on it and sent me home with antibiotics. Ninja's doing well and he'll have the stitches out next week.
posted by desjardins at 8:14 AM on May 14, 2009

How's he doing now?
posted by =^^= at 3:08 AM on May 30, 2009

He's fine, thanks for asking! He had the stitches out and he's running around being cute & annoying as usual.
posted by desjardins at 9:31 AM on May 30, 2009

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