Have you noticed that your cat is pulling the fur at the base of their tail? Well, naturally, you are going to be concerned. Especially if they have caused some damage and it looks sore and painful. Why would a cat harm itself in such a way? How can you stop them from doing it, and how can you support localized recovery? Well, here is everything you’ll want to know and consider.
So, why does a cat pull out the fur at the base of her tail? Cats may pull out the fur at the base of their tails if they have fleas, a yeast or fungal infection, or are stressed. Some cats can also suffer from a wound or an allergy.
As you can see, there can be multiple underlying causes.
Either way, something has gone awry.
And you will need to identify the underlying cause if you truly want your cat to stop doing this for good. Oh, and that the area can successfully heal.
So, let us take a closer look at those underlying causes so you can get a better understanding o why your cat may be doing this.
Then we will be turning to an appropriate response in each context.
So stick around!
Why Does A Cat Pull Out Fur At Thee Base Of Their Tail
The most common cause of cats pulling out fur at the base of their tails is flea infestation. However, yeast infections, fungal infections, stress, wounds, or allergies can also cause this behavior.
A flea infestation is the most common reason for cats pulling out fur at the base of their tails.
Cats are expert groomers who want to stay clean, but fleas are smart creatures.
Fleas will burrow in parts of your cat that she’ll find hard to reach, such as at her spine or the base of her tail.
Contrary to popular opinion, you may not see the fleas in your cat’s fur if they have burrowed deep enough.
Cats are good at getting rid of the fleas on the surface, but once they’ve dug in, they’re harder for your cat to scratch off.
Here’s how to check if your cat has fleas:
Check your cat’s fur for signs of movement. Part the fur to look towards your cat’s skin, as some fleas may be harder to spot. If you see small bugs leaping off of your cat’s fur, she has fleas.
Comb your cat’s fur.
Using a fine-toothed metal flea comb, brush your cat from head to tail. If you see little dark dots in the teeth of the comb, your cat has fleas.
It’s essential to spot fleas on your cat before they become a serious problem.
Once fleas have settled in, they will trigger compulsive itching. Some cats can even experience an intense reaction to fleas known as flea allergic dermatitis (FAD).
FAD can happen when flea saliva comes into contact with a cat’s sensitive skin.
Symptoms of FAD include:
- A rash
- Skin infections
- Hair loss
- Intense itching
Note: Your kitty doesn’t have to be an outdoor cat to get fleas. Indoor cats can pick up fleas if they go out on a balcony or interact with dogs.
A Yeast or Fungal Infection
Although less common than fleas, sometimes a yeast infection can be the reason your cat is pulling at the fur at the base of her tail.
Symptoms of a yeast skin infection in cats can be:
- Thickened skin
- Dark pigmentation
- Greasy skin
- Skin becomes red
- Bad smell
- Fur becomes discolored (often reddish-brown)
Ringworm (also called feline dermatophytosis) can be another culprit of cats pulling their fur.
Despite its name, ringworm doesn’t involve a worm: it’s a fungal infection that causes circular patches of itchy skin. Your cat then grooms herself to try and relieve the itching.
The fungi in ringworm consume keratin from your cat’s hair (and nails). Some cats’ claws can start shredding easily or develop a whitish color as a result.
Other signs of ringworm are similar to those of a yeast infection, although without the bad smell (see above).
Ringworm can go away on its own, though it can last for months and cause your cat significant discomfort. In addition, other pets (and humans) can become infected if ringworm is left untreated.
Ringworm is highly contagious because, in addition to living on skin and hair, it can live on blankets, towels, and grooming tools.
You’re less likely to spog ringworm in your long-haired cat: it’s harder to see the skin under all that fur.
Note: Cats with compromised immune systems are more likely to get ringworm, although any cat can get it. Some cats get ringworm but don’t show any symptoms, making it even more difficult to detect.
Cats enjoy routines, as knowing what’s coming gives them a sense of security. If your cat becomes stressed, she may:
- Bite or chew her tail or other parts of her body
- Groom herself excessively
- Become less tolerant of company
- Eat or drink less than usual
- Scratch furniture
- Meow more often
- Growl or hiss
- Hide or withdraw
- Not want to use the litter tray
If you think your cat could be stressed, ask yourself if any of these situations might apply:
- You’ve moved to a new home
- A new pet or person has joined your family
- Someone your cat cares about is ill or absent
- Your female cat is in heat
- There is construction, a new dog in the neighborhood who barks, or other loud noises
Pain from an Injury or Wound
It could be that your cat has a wound at the base of her tail, and she’s grooming it to soothe herself. She may have caught her tail underneath something and caused an injury.
Cats sometimes pull out their fur at the site of an injury to have easy licking access.
Cats, like humans, can have environmental or food allergies. These allergies can cause them to pull at their fur to even cause bald spots.
Cats can be allergic to:
- Laundry detergents
- Air freshener (these are usually toxic for all cats)
- Certain foods (like wheat, beef, fish, chicken, and dairy, to name a few)
It can be difficult to know yourself if your cat suffers from an allergy. Common signs your cat may have an allergy include:
- Pulling or biting out fur
- Excessive grooming or licking
- Chewing at her body or paws
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Flaky, dry, or red skin
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Ear infections
How Do I Stop My Cat From Pulling Out Fur At The Base Of Their Tail
The ways to stop your cat from pulling out fur from the base of her tail depend on the reason for her doing this. At home/veterinary prescribed treatments and lifestyle changes may be required.
In Case of a Flea Problem
If your cat has problems with fleas, you will need to implement an effective treatment to kill them.
However, as most fleas live in your home, you’ll need to clean thoroughly and perhaps consider using a flea control service.
Before Going to the Vet
Before you go to the vet, here’s how to give your cat some temporary relief until she gets treatment:
- Comb her fur with a fine-toothed metal flea comb to skim off adult fleas and their eggs.
- Dip the comb in a mixture of warm (not too hot) water and liquid dish soap to kill the fleas on the comb.
Note: Be sure to use a flea comb, as these have tines that are very close together. Fleas are tiny, so standard hair combs won’t work.
If Your Cat Has FAD
If your cat has FAD, your vet will prescribe the best treatment, as it can vary greatly from one cat to another:
- Some cats need corticosteroids to block the allergic reaction and give them some relief from the intense itching. The idea is to give your cat the smallest amount of steroid necessary to keep her comfortable.
- Other cats respond better to long-acting injections (such as glucocorticoids) or oral medication (like prednisone).
- Some cats do best with a combination of corticosteroids and antihistamines and/or fatty acid supplements.
- There are cats who have scratched themselves so much that they can develop a skin infection (pyoderma). In these cases, antibiotics may be needed, as well as topical treatments with sprays or shampoos.
Preventing Future Flea Problems
To prevent future flea problems, use a flea repellent such as a spot-on treatment. Ask your vet about which one to use for your cat and how much to apply, and how often.
Here are some common ingredients in the most popular flea spot-on treatment products:
- Imidacloprid (Advantage brand)
- Fluralaner (Bravecto brand)
- Selamectin (Stronghold/Revolution brand)
- Fipronil (Frontline Plus brand)
Some people choose to use other options, such as:
- A flea collar
- Oral tablets
The nitenpyram pill (Capstar brand) kills adult fleas on your cat within 30 minutes, but it doesn’t have any lasting impact.
The fast-acting chewable Spinosad (Comfortis brand) starts killing fleas before they lay eggs and provides a full month of flea protection.
Given that one female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day, you’ll want to clean your house thoroughly before they get a chance to hatch.
Here’s what to do:
- Vacuum your home daily. Get into the carpets, cracks in the floor, behind and under the cushions, and any other nooks and crannies. Remember to throw away the vacuum bag or, if it’s a canister, wash it out with warm, soapy water afterward.
- Wash bedding and fabrics once a week (at least). Strip beds and remove sofa covers and other fabrics and machine wash them with hot water to make sure fleas don’t survive.
- Treat all pets in your home. Dogs and cats must all get the treatment at the same time.
After a few weeks of this treatment, your home should be flea-free. Bear in mind, though, that serious infestations can take as long as 3 months to be eradicated.
In Case of a Yeast Infection or Ringworm
For Yeast Infections
If you suspect your cat may have a yeast infection, get your cat to the vet for the correct diagnosis.
Yeast infections have many causes, some of them quite serious.
The treatment required will depend on the type of infection your cat has and how serious the symptoms are.
Treatment options could include:
- Antifungal medications. These may be administered orally or topically
- Removal of lesions. Any lesions must be removed before your vet provides further treatment
- Medicated shampoos
- IV fluids
Note: Your cat may need to be hospitalized to reduce the risk of the infection spreading to other family members.
If you are treating your cat at home, your vet will most likely give you precautions to prevent the infection from spreading, such as:
- Wearing gloves and a mask when handling your cat or changing his litter tray
- Washing your hands frequently
- Washing your cat’s food bowls, toys, and bedding often
If your cat has ringworm, your vet will usually apply topical and systemic antifungals. Different treatments and medications are available, depending on the fungus causing your cat’s ringworm.
The most common oral medication is itraconazole, while miconazole is the most common topical medication.
You’ll need to:
- Prevent your cat from licking off any topical creams (this can make her sick). Apply the medication while she eats or while you play with her to keep her distracted and busy. You may need to use treats!
- Give your cat regular baths. Your vet may prescribe regular dips or baths with an antifungal shampoo, usually twice a week. These treatments will help disinfect your cat’s fur.
Once treatment begins, ringworm usually goes away within a few weeks.
If Your Cat Suffers From Stress
If your cat has been dealing with stress, the most important thing to do is eliminate the cause of the stress, where possible.
If you can’t eliminate it (e.g., if you’ve just moved to a new home), mitigate the impact as much as possible.
Things you can do to help your cat recover from stress include:
- Providing a spot at a window to watch the world
- Having vertical spaces where your cat can be high up to feel safe
- Having enclosed, comfortable spaces for your cat to be alone when she needs to recharge
- Safe outdoor access (like a catio)
- Food puzzles or other engagement activities
- Scratching posts or pads
- Playing with her favorite person
- Providing opportunities for physical exercise
- Having calming music in the background
You will want to address the causes of your cat’s stress while attending to her physical needs if she has injured the base of her tail (see below).
In Case of an Allergy
If your vet has diagnosed your cat with an allergy, common treatments include:
- Ear drops
- Eye drops
- Ointments or lotions
- Cortisone pills (to help with itching)
Your vet will advise you on the best way to help your cat.
Note: If your cat has asthma, she is more susceptible to allergies. For cats suffering from both, vets often prescribe medications that temporarily help open the airways. Some cats need long-term treatments with medications, such as corticosteroids.
Some ways you can help your cat at home include:
- Using dust-free cat litter
- Not smoking around your pets (this is good practice even if your cat has no allergies)
- Giving your cat a healthy diet (ask your vet for advice)
- Washing your cat’s bedding regularly
- Vacuuming your home regularly to keep it clean from dirt or dust
- Bathing your cat occasionally to relieve itching (speak to your vet about the frequency and best products to use)
- Using flea and tick control products (approved by your vet)
Note: Some cats may require daily prescription medication and/or dietary supplements.
How To Support Your Cat’s Recovery from Any Trauma to the Base of Their Tail
What to do in order to support your cat’s recovery from trauma to the base of her tail depends on whether you’re dealing with abrasions or lacerations.
If your cat has abrasions or scrapes, here’s what to do:
- Clean the area with warm soapy water (use a mild, cat-friendly soap)
- Apply some antibiotic ointment
- Bandage your cat’s tail lightly (use a self-adhering wrap rather than adhesive tape). Be sure to wrap the bandage loosely so that you aren’t restricting blood flow to your cat’s tail
- Change the bandage and reapply the ointment once a day
- If your cat wants to chew at the bandage, get an Elizabethan collar (a cone) to help her avoid access
Get your cat to your vet if you notice any of the following:
- Changed skin color
Note: Depending on the amount of damage to your cat’s tail, your vet may need to prescribe antibiotics and pain medication. Surgery can be required in some cases where there is severe damage to the skin or muscle tissue.
Lacerations are more serious than abrasions because they can be deep cuts where muscle and bone are exposed.
Lacerations require a vet visit to avoid infection, and in some cases, stitches may be needed.
Wrap your cat’s tail in a clean towel to control the bleeding while you make your way to the vet or emergency vet clinic.
If your cat pulls out fur, specifically at the base of their tail, something is going on. And it’s not likely good.
Thankfully, if you have read this far, you not only have identified that your cat has a problem, but you may even be able to identify exactly what the issue is and how to respond accordingly.
However, if you still not sure, want a second opinion, or just want some medical advice, so speak with a vet here.
Besides, they will likely be able to prescribe a course of treatment that stops the behavior altogether, and perhaps even some additional medications for adequate healing.
Associated guides you may want to read:
- My Cats Fur Looks Separated [Why & What To Do]
- Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails While Sleeping?
- Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails While Lying Down? [Is It Normal?]
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.