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Why does my cat have a skinny tail?

In answer to why a cat’s tail becomes thin, you must know that a cat’s tail has definite reasons for being there in the first place. All body parts of your cat are uniquely made, and no cat is the same, just as with humans. 

Cat tails vary in length and thickness. Variations in cat tails have much to do with the breed and the cat’s size. Please know that some cats do not have tails, such as the following breeds.

  • Hylander Cat
  • Cymric
  • Pix Bob Cat
  • Marx Cat
  • Japanese Bobtail Cat
  • Kurilian Bobtail
  • American Bobtail Cat

Those cats with tails have about 20 vertebrae with muscles surrounding these vertebrae—the ligaments and tendons in a cat’s tail help to hold the vertebrae together. The cat’s tail serves a few different purposes, such as the tail helping the cat balance its body. The tail helps the cat to express its present attitude and mood. 

Skinny cat tails or fat and sassy cat tails all tell a story several times during the life of the cat. The tail’s position is how your cat communicates with you and other animals. For example, cat experts who studied cat behaviors found the following to be valid through the years.  

A High Tail Position indicates the cat is secure in its surroundings. It is content and confident—the taller the tail, the happier and more friendly the cat. If the cat’s tail at the tip is straight up, the cat experiences a moment of absolute bliss. 

A Low Tail Position of the tail indicates stress or aggression. The cat is in a serious mood. However, this position depends on the breed of the cat. Some cats, such as the Persian, usually carry their tails low, and they have no reason for doing so. 

A Puffed-up Tail indicates that the cat is stressed, agitated, or frightened. I have two cats that I allow outside within the confines of a private fence. If it is frigid outside, my cats’ fur becomes exceedingly puffy. I believe this gives the cats extra added warmth. When they come inside and warm up, the puffy fur goes away. 

The Wrapped Position of the tail around another person or pet says that there is a bond of friendship between the two. 

The Question Mark Tail represents or says, come and play with me. Let us have some fun.

The Whipping Tail slapping back and forth means the cat is fearful and thinking about acting aggressively; when your cat does this, allow your cat room and keep your distance.

The Swish, Swish Tail means your cat has its focus on something. Your cat is studying and deciding on its next move. Your cat is about to pounce on something, another pet, a treat, a toy, or you. This tail position signifies hunting, playing, and fun in general. 

The Tucked Tail means that your cat is fearful or in submission to someone or something and means your cat is nervous about what is going on at that moment. 

Cats take care of most of their hygiene, but you have to help a bit. You may have to do more with your cat’s hygiene if your cat is well into its senior years or is ill, then you may have to intervene and help them meet their personal hygiene needs. Poor tail hygiene means that you may have to cleanse the underside of the tail if the cat is not cleaning after using the litter pan or not grooming its tail due to age, injury, or illness. 

Most cats are excellent primpers, bathing and grooming themselves every day, including their tail. In comparison, some cats are constant groomers. You may discover that other cats do a whole lot less in the grooming process and you may have to do much of the cat’s grooming.

As your cat ages, it may decrease its ability to groom quite as much, and you may have to step up and wash certain areas of your cat and brush its fur daily. Brushing should be a daily routine, no matter what age your cat is. 

Cats generally enjoy a good daily brushing and look forward to this time with you. Please do not wait until your cat is aged to start to brush them. Most cats enjoy brushing at any age. However, some cats detest brushing, and when you try to brush them, they fight back or run away. Never fight with your cat about daily brushing unless its fur is long and silky and tends to matt. Matted cat hair can cause serious skin problems and you will have to take your cat to the vet.

(At about 8:30 pm every evening my cat, Mia, looks forward to her brushing. All I have to do is hold Mia’s brush up and say, “Mia, brush brush?” and she comes immediately. I brush her and count to 100 while she enjoys her cat treats. She is then ready for a short nap. If I do not go to her for her nightly brushing by 8:30 pm, she comes to look for me. She pesters me until I get her brush.)

Those cats that emphasize grooming seem to be obsessive lickers of their fur. If the cat seems to do this a lot, the fur will naturally become much thinner, making its tail look relatively skinny.

Is it Normal for a Cat to have a Skinny Tail?

Some cat breeds typically have skinny tails. These breeds can include, 

  • The Singapura
  • The Toyger
  • The Ocicat
  • The Chausie

Generally, a cat’s tail is the same length as the cat’s body. However, some cats have an extra-long or extra short tail when considering the size of the cat.

Other cats may have an underlying health condition that warrants a visit to your vet. If your cat’s tail seems to be getting thinner, there may be an underlying physical reason. Some conditions causing a cat to have a skinny tail are, 

  • Hyperthyroidism (Cats cannot develop hypothyroidism). Hyperthyroidism sometimes causes their hair to fall out.
  • Environmental allergies
  • Flea infestation
  • Mites
  • Skin diseases

Monitor your cat for a few days and speak to your vet when you notice this happening. Never be the cat parent who takes their cat to the vet for a tail amputation. This act is neither cute nor funny, as some pet owners think. Some pet owners do this and I think it is unnecessarily cruel, as much as having a cat declawed. Please do not do this to your pet. 

Will My Cat’s Tail Get Less skinny as it Gets Older? 

You have probably noticed that as the years pass and you become older, you may begin to develop some physical changes such as, but not limited to, weight loss and constipation, among other things we will not mention. Your cat is no different and I am sure that they feel the same way we do,

“It sure sucks getting old!”

As your cat gets older, it may also lose weight or gain weight and have constipation at times. Its skin and fur take on a different appearance and texture, and if your cat is dark in color, you will notice gray hairs forming. The cat’s fur may begin to thin. Thinning fur on a cat’s tail can make the cat appear as if it has a thinner than normal tail. As your cat ages, it will lose muscle mass, making its tail thinner. Please speak with your vet. 

Another change that affects a cat’s tail is gastrointestinal changes. At this point, the cat cannot absorb nutrients as well as when they were younger. As a cat loses weight, it affects every part of its body, including the tail. The cat may begin to lose weight everywhere, including in its tail. Your vet may recommend some changes to its diet.

Changes in senior cats due to age include changes in their skin. Their skin begins to look thinner and dryer. Skin changes affect the appearance of the tail. Brushing cats at any age helps to stimulate oil glands. The brushing helps to distribute its natural oils, thus lubricating the skin. However, do not massage oils into your cat’s fur, as some are very toxic to their body. As the cat licks its fur, it will be ingesting the oils you applied. Please speak to your vet first to see what oils they recommend you use on your cat. 

An example is Vitamin E oil. While Vitamin E oil is excellent for human skin, it is toxic to cats. Never administer human vitamins, herbs, supplements, oil, lotions, or other human products to or onto your cat. It does not matter how small of a dose you give your cat; many of these products are toxic and could make your cat seriously ill or cause death.  

What Should I Do About My Cat’s Skinny Tail?

  • Is your cat’s breed one that usually has a skinny tail? If it is, then there is not too much you can do to change the size of your cat’s tail. 
  • Please take a good look at the fur and make sure that your cat is not an obsessive licker and licks the hair off its tail, making it look thinner. 
  • Speak to your vet about any possible underlying health problems that could cause your cat’s tail to become thinner, and follow your vet’s recommendations regarding eliminating the health problem. Speak to your vet about higher protein foods and supplements and if your cat lacks essential nutrients. 
  • If you can do something to help your cat, by all means, do so. However, if there is nothing you can do, enjoy your cat and help them, groom themselves. A cat cannot do complete grooming and does require a bit of help with brushing and nail care, especially as they age. Make sure your cat keeps the underside of its tail cleanly groomed. If it is not doing a good job, you will have to help your cat stay clean.