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What Different Cat Tail Movements Mean

24th Apr 2022

Domestic cats have dozens of different meows that they use to communicate with humans and other animals, but a cat’s tail can also reveal much about what they’re thinking and feeling. Join us as we decode some common cat tail language.

Do Cats Really Have Control of Their Tails?

Although you may not think so, your cat most often does have complete control over their tail. When they move this expressive appendage voluntarily, they do so to communicate and interact with animals, humans, and their environment.

A cat’s tail movements can also be involuntary, the equivalent to eye-blinking in humans. These movements occur in response to certain environmental triggers.

Tricks of the Tail

If you’ve ever been curious about how your cat is really feeling, keep an eye out for these tail positions:

Quivering

A quivering tail indicates high excitement and happiness. If your kitty quivers their tail around other cats or you, count yourself an important member of their inner circle. If they happen to be backing up while their tail is quivering, they might be getting ready to scent mark.

Swishing

If you notice your cat swishing their tail from one side to another, you’ll want to find out what they’re so focused on. Swishing indicates intense interest, and it may also be a precursor to pouncing, depending on what’s gotten their attention. Either way, this predatory cat behavior should be encouraged.

Tail Up

A cat whose tail is straight up when they see you or walk around the house is a sure sign that they are happy and content. It also communicates that they are friendly and willing to be interacted with. Bonus points for extra contentment if the tip of their tail twitches a bit or curls like a question mark.

Thrashing

Dogs wag their tails and thump them on the ground out of happiness or excitement, but when cats wag their tails, they are anything but happy. Cats thrash their tails when they are angry, annoyed or irritated. If what—or who—is bothering them doesn’t stop, a bite, swat, growl, or hiss may soon follow. So, even if you’re petting them when their tails start thrashing, this movement means “stop—or else.”

Twitching

Depending on what’s happening around them, cats may twitch the tip of their tail for many reasons. If playing with you or another household animal or hunting, tail twitching will be a typical reaction. If there’s nothing obvious going on, in terms of stalking or playing, a twitch can indicate they are somewhat irritated.

Wrapping or Tucking

A cat who wraps his tail around himself is either feeling slightly nervous or submissive. Once again, it’s a good idea to observe the environment to see if there are any obvious reasons for this tail position. Things like noise or other animals may be the cause, but any time your cat decides to wrap their tail around themselves, it’s a sign that they want to be left in peace.

A cat that tucks her tail tightly around her body or between her legs is likely experiencing high stress or pain. Either way, a visit to your vet is likely the next best step if you observe this behavior happening increasingly often, or if this seems to be the only position your cat prefers.

Other Behaviors

Along with your cat’s tail signals, it’s always a good idea to look at other areas of their bodies that can offer clues about their thoughts and feelings, such as:

  • Ears
  • Eyes
  • Body language
  • Vocalizations

Ears that pointing upward or forward indicate relaxation. Backward or down means aggression, anger, or feeling unwell. Wide or staring eyes can indicate aggression, fear, or intense alertness.

A cat’s body language can be as varied as their tail positions. Upright means confidence, where a raised back end can mean a pounce is imminent. Crouching can mean pain or discomfort as well as fear.

Although a classic sign of contentment, purring is also a sign of heightened emotion where stress or illness is concerned. Growling is an unmistakable sign of aggression, as is “talk meowing,” where your cat’s meow sounds much like a baby crying.

Cats are notorious for masking their pain and discomfort; often, by the time cats express themselves with obvious aggression or lethargy, this can indicate advanced illness. This is why it’s so important that pet parents understand their cat’s tails, body language, and other indicators of overall wellness.

Support Feline Health with Cat-Friendly Spaces

When a cat’s basic needs for physical and emotional health are met, the result is happiness and health. Along with nutrition and a litter box, your cat needs plenty of opportunities to be themselves through play, self-care, and exploration.

One of the best ways to help your cat feel secure and develop their confidence is by giving them a cat tree. Cat trees give your cat plenty of places to scratch and climb, not to mention nap and perch—all far away from the human world.

Armarkat cat furniture has over 180 amazing cat tree models to help your cat exercise, relieve stress, and much more. Stop by our online store to browse our cat tree collections.