Domestic cat bites off the end of her tail. Why?

The owner of this cat, Cleo, suggests that she plays with her tail because she was raised with dogs. The problem has deteriorated to the point where she growls and is more aggressive with her tail. She actually bit off the end off, which is self-mutilation and this cannot be normal. 

Kitten plays with tail
Kitten plays with tail. Photo: Warren Photographic published her with his express permission.



Perhaps a domestic cat might get into a habit of playing with their tail more often than normal and it may go wrong but I don't think a domestic cat can bite off the end of her tail unless something is wrong. I would suggest, therefore, that she has a mental health problem or she feels pain in her tail.

MENTAL CONFLICT

Firstly, she is in mental conflict or in a state of anxiety and is engaged in displacement activity. Displacement activity is when a cat does something which displaces their emotional state which is uncomfortable. The classic example of it is when a cat licks their nose. Humans do it when they bite their fingernails. Over grooming is also a form of displacement activity.

Sometimes the cat's owner may intervene in the wrong way, perhaps in an indelicate way which exacerbates the situation. And if a tail has been damaged in this way it may also exacerbate the situation because there would be pain. The tail may have to be amputated. The underlying mental condition would remain, however. They would need to be an assessment of the cat's mental state i.e. mental conflict causing this 'compulsive disorder'. And the pain would have to be managed. 

A barrier to biting the tail would have to be introduced e.g. a collar.

A veterinarian might prescribe mind altering drugs to calm the cat and also the owner can do a lot by creating regular routines and providing daily interactions. I think a lot of this sort of problem is due to anxieties which are difficult to detect.

BEHAVIOURAL

A second possibility but one which is probably much less likely would be that a cat has become too aggressive when playing with their tail. It is commonplace for a cat to play with their tail. I think that it can often be due to boredom and they have this natural hunting instinct so they hunt their own tail. It might develop into something which is too aggressive causing self-mutilation. If this is the cause then it is relatively harmless but once again a way out of it would be for the human guardian to engage with their cat more often in play and to ensure that their cat was fully stimulated.

PAIN

A third possibility would be pain in her tail. There should be an attempt to alleviate it. There would have to be a full veterinary assessment to look for conditions such as neurologic diseases and dermatologic disorders. Animals do try and resolve pain by nibbling and biting and when it gets worse, they may end up self-mutilating. Along that way of thinking, there appears to be three overall possibilities. 

CONCLUSION

In conclusion the three possibilities are (1) mental conflict (2) overaggressive play (3) disease causing pain and discomfort.

P.S. I am not a vet just a concerned cat owner.

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