It’s a habit among some cats and dogs: chasing their own tail.

The image is not surprising: your four-legged friend, running around in circles to try to catch his tail. If you have ever observed such a scene, do you know what it means? This behavior, sometimes intriguing – often amusing – is particularly common in young dogs and cats. For them, chasing their tail is often a simple game, serving in particular to expend their boundless energy. Because our excited young companions love one thing more than anything: having fun.

“We also observe it in cats, and again it is a very juvenile behavior. However, it is not over-represented compared to another type of play,” explains Jessica Zoccoli, veterinarian on the Island. -de-France, interviewed by Geo magazine. But this behavior, in other circumstances, must question the owner of the animal. Because adults, unlike younger dogs and cats, show much less interest in this type of play. Normally, an adult animal runs after its tail much more rarely and if this is the case, it could be the a sign of something more serious.

When this behavior is sudden, or even intensifies in an animal that has never or rarely done it, it may mean that it is suffering from a health problem. There are then several explanations, according to different specialists. The first of these can be parasites – notably fleas, which can cause itching in the animal, particularly at the base of the tail, an area that is difficult for them to reach.

Another common cause of an animal chasing its tail is inflammation of the anal glands. Located on the hindquarters of our four-legged friends, they can become infected and become annoying. The pain causes the animal to try to lick itself to soothe the affected area, causing it to spin around. In addition to physical problems, tail chasing can also be a sign of behavioral disorders, comparable to OCD – obsessive compulsive disorders – in humans, but also of stress or boredom in your animal, which must discharge its excess energy in one way or another.

Lack of mental and physical stimulation can lead animals to develop abnormal behaviors. Dogs and cats suffering from anxiety may, for example when their owner is away, adopt this habit to comfort and occupy themselves. Overall stress, such as overstimulation or the presence of another disruptive animal, can also trigger this behavior.

We must therefore differentiate between two situations: habitual play or sudden practice. If your pet chases its tail from time to time while playing, there is usually no cause for concern. If this behavior is sudden, becomes obsessive and/or is accompanied by other behaviors that you find abnormal, a veterinary consultation is necessary to rule out any medical or behavioral problems.