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5 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Acting Weird When You Scratch the Base of Their Tail

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

By Rachael Gerkensmeyer

owner scratching cat's tail

Cats are independent creatures that can act weird at any time. They might meow when you don’t expect them to or drop on the floor and roll around for seemingly no reason at all. They might even act weird when you scratch their tail! Here are a few reasons for this behavior.

The 5 Reasons Why Your Cat Act’s Weird When You Scratch the Base of Their Tail

1. You’re Getting on Their Nerves

One big reason your cat might be acting weird when you scratch their tail is that you’re literally touching their nerves. A cat’s spinal cord extends to the base of the tail, where a host of nerves protrude from the end of the spinal cord into the tail. When you rub the base of your cat’s tail, they are likely feeling all those nerves go to work.

These nerves control things like the bladder and the hind legs and are extremely sensitive. Some cats love the feeling of their nerves being stimulated, but others do not. For either of these reasons, your kitty could act giddy or freaked out when you scratch their tail.

Hand pulling a cat's tail
Image Credit: Maliflower73, Shutterstock

2. It Reminds Them of Mating

This is most common with female felines, but the experience of having the base of their tail rubbed can remind a cat of mating. When mating happens, a male cat mounts a female from behind, near where the base of her tail is located. Therefore, you may mimic the same experience as mating when you rub the base of your cat’s tail. Mating is not always pleasurable for female cats, though, so they may not enjoy being reminded of the experience.

3. They Want to “Mark” You With Their Pheromone Scents

Have you ever noticed that your cat rubs their body up against furniture and your legs? They do this to spread their pheromone scents and “mark” the territory as theirs or as a place where they have been to warn other cats of their presence. Cats have scent glands all over their body, but the glands in their tails happen to be rich in pheromones. If your cat acts weird by raising their bottom toward your hand while you’re scratching their tail, chances are that they are trying to spread their pheromone scents onto you.

Cat rubbing against owner's legs
Image Credit: Evan Abram McGinnis, Shutterstock

4. They’re Trying to Get Clean (or Stay Dirty)

One interesting reason your cat might start to act weird when you scratch their tail is that they are trying to get clean. If they feel like their coat is not as clean as they’d like it to be, they may vigorously rub against you in an attempt to clean their coat. Their attempt probably won’t do much good, but they will think that they are being productive!

Conversely, your cat might be acting weird when you scratch their tail because they don’t want you rubbing their “dirtiness” off, which is just the scents that they have picked up while exploring throughout the day. This doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy the feeling of the scratches, but they’re not ready to give up whatever their coat has recently picked up.

5. They Might Have a Skin Condition

A skin condition could contribute to your cat’s weird behavior while you are scratching their tail and back end. An occasional itch is nothing to worry about, but if your cat seems to be obsessed with getting scratched, they may have a skin infection or parasites. It could be something as simple as dry skin, but if you suspect that your cat has a problem, it’s a good idea to schedule a checkup with your veterinarian.

vet checking cat's skin
Image Credit: lev.studio, Shutterstock

Signs That Your Cat Likes Tail Scratching

Cats that like their tails being scratched typically indicate that they want you to keep doing it. Here are a few signs to look for that let you know that your cat is enjoying their tail scratch session:

white cat purring
Image Credit: AleksDaria, Shutterstock

Signs That Your Cat Doesn’t Like Tail Scratching

Sometimes, a cat doesn’t want to have their tail scratched, or they might like it for a while but then think that “enough is enough!” Either way, if your cat doesn’t want to be scratched at all or anymore, they should show signs like:

  • Twitching tail
  • Tensed-up body
  • Ears flattened forward
  • Hissing and/or growling


Now you know why your cat might act weird whenever you scratch their tail or the base of it. If your kitty shows signs of not enjoying the practice, it’s important to respect their wishes and to avoid scratching them in that area. Doing otherwise might risk the trust and bond that you have built with them.

Featured Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

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