Just like dogs, cats move their tails to express their emotions. But what does it mean when a cat wags its tail? Our Citrus County vets are here to tell you all about what your cat's tail language means.
Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails?
Your cat's tail can tell you about what's going on inside their head. Tails are excellent indicators of mood. Take some time and watch your cat's behavior and you will start to get the idea of what their tail is telling you.
Cat Tail Positions and What They Mean
Cats will hold their tails at different positions which indicates different emotions, here's what they mean.
Upright or held high
When a cat’s tail is upright, they are feeling social, confident and friendly. This cat tail language indicates a friendly greeting between cats, and it’s how kittens greet their mothers. If your cat approaches you with their tail up, this is a good time to pet them or play with them.
If your cat's tail is straight down, watch out. This can signal stress or aggression. A lower tail is a very serious mood.
However, be aware that certain breeds, such as Persians, tend to carry their tails low for no particular reason.
Curled at the top like a question mark
You may notice that sometimes your cat’s tail looks like a question mark—it stands upright and curls at the end. This cat tail language indicates that your cat is happy and approaching amicably.
Seeing your cat’s tail in this position is an invitation to interact with your cat. However, while it is tempting to pet that curly-tipped tail, most cats prefer to be pet around their face, cheeks, under their chin, and next to their ears.
Curled around their body
If your cat is sitting or lying down with their tail wrapped around their body, then they are frightened, defensive, in pain, or feeling unwell. When you see this, end your interaction with your cat and ensure that your cat’s environment is free of stressors. consider contacting your vet if they are showing other signs of discomfort or pain.
Cat Tail Movement Meanings
Cats move their tails to express their emotions. Let’s take a look at the different “wagging” tail movements and what they mean.
Thrashing Tail Movements
When your cat thrashes their tail, or is thumping it on the ground, they are irritated, annoyed, or angry. This tells you that something is bothering your cat.
If you are petting your cat and they start thrashing their tail, they are trying to tell you to stop. If you don’t, then the thrashing tail may turn into hissing, growling, swatting, or biting.
Twitching the End of the Tail
Cats twitch the end of their tails when they are hunting and playing, as well as when they are mildly irritated and frustrated. In this case, read the scene and look for other clues to their mood. If they’re not playing or stalking something, then the twitching tail movement probably means that they are annoyed.
When your cat slowly swishes their tail from side to side, they may be intently focused on something like a toy, another animal in the home, or something outside. They may be about to pounce.
Engaging in predatory behavior like stalking and pouncing is good enrichment for your cat, so let them continue to engage in whatever is captivating their attention.
Your cat may quiver their tail when they are especially excited to see you or another cat. Sometimes, when a cat quivers his tail while holding it straight up and backing up against a vertical surface, they may be urine marking.
Whipping back and forth
A tail that slaps back and forth rapidly indicates both fear and aggression. Consider it a warning to stay away.
Why Do Cats Puff Up Their Tails
If your cat assumes the classic angry cat posture with a puffed tail and arched back, then they are startled or frightened by a sudden, severe threat.
Your cat’s hair stands on end so that they can appear to be bigger than they are. This defensive reaction indicates that your cat wishes to be left alone.
This tail position is often triggered by feeling threatened by other animals in the yard, dogs approaching, visitors in the home, or sudden noises. Remove the inciting triggers to decrease your cat’s stress. If you try to interact with your cat when their hair is standing up, they may perceive your approach as a threat and become aggressive.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.