How to Read Your Cat’s Tail Language
Cat tail language has been the focus of study by many animal behaviourists over the years, all done in order to help owners understand their cats better. A cat’s tail is one of the most expressive aspects of feline body language. Learning to interpret your cat’s tail signs will give you greater insight into your kitty cat’s moods and feelings and is sure to improve your bond with your pet. In this blog, we will break down different feline tail positions and explain what your cat is trying to tell you.
An upright tail
When your cats hold their tail straight up it means they are happy and confident. You’ll often see this tail position when you come home after a long day at work or when a kitten greets her mother. Interestingly some of the research found that cats were willing to readily approach a cat-shaped silhouette if it had a raised tail but they were very reluctant to approach the silhouette if it had a lowered tail. Tail-up, therefore, seems to signal the intention that the cat is friendly and wants to interact with you or other cats. If your feline friend approaches you with their tail raised up it’s a good time to pet or play with your kitty.
Wrapping their tails around you
When your cat wraps their tail around you or others they are trying to show love, relaxation and affection. This tail stance essentially symbolises friendship and love, similar to how humans wrap their arms around loved ones for a warm hug. A cat may also wrap their tail around the tail of another cat. This is a sign that the two felines are friendly and have a strong bond. It most often happens among cats who live together and are best friends.
A quivering tail
A quivering is a rapid, tiny cat tail-wagging action. It’s similar to how a rattlesnake shakes their tails. The cat’s tail becomes erect and the whole length seems to be vibrating. More often than not cats quiver their tail when they are very excited like when you open a new can of cat food or when you walk in the door after a long day at work. It is a friendly greeting and indicates your cat is happy. Tail quivering is typically accompanied by purring, head rubbing and sometimes even happy vocalisations. Most cat owners report that their pets vibrate their tails before being fed or receiving treats. But remember, if a cat quivers their tail while holding their tail straight up and backing up against a vertical surface, then the cat is urine marking. Although both female and male cats spray a concentrated mix of urine, unneutered males are more likely to leave their mark to let the opposite sex know they’re available. Urine marking is also a cat’s way to mark their territory.
A puffed-up tail
While some people think a puffed-up tail indicates aggression, it doesn’t. A cat that fluffs up their tail is usually frightened or threatened. By puffing up your cat is trying to appear bigger and more threatening to their opponent. Provoking your cat further may result in an attack. It’s best to back off and give your cat some space until they decide to come to you.
Tail held blow
A lower tail often indicates your cat is frightened, anxious, afraid or defensive. Something in the cat’s environment is making them uneasy. And when the cat tucks their tail all the way under the body and between their legs it is an unmistakable indicator that the cat is feeling nervous, submissive or frightened. Likewise, a tail carried all the way down and held low to the ground, means that a cat is feeling defensive or frightened and that aggressive behaviour might follow. In such cases, it’s best to leave your pets alone and provide them with a clear escape route, allow them to calm down and make sure they feel safe and relaxed in their surroundings before approaching them again.
Twitching the end of the tail
Tail twitching is similar to tail wagging but often involves lots of flicks of the tail at its tip. Cats twitch the end of their tails when they are hunting or actively playing with a toy as well as when they are mildly frustrated or irritated. As there are different reasons why cats twitch their tail tip, read the scene and look for other body language clues. If they’re not playing or stalking something then the twitching tail movement probably indicates that they are annoyed.
The tail swings slowly from side to side
This is when a cat moves, its entire tail as opposed to the tip only slowly from side to side. More often than not a slow swaying tail indicates that the cat is deeply concentrating on something or is engaged in predatory behaviour. The cat is probably enticed by something like an insect, a toy or potential prey and is gearing up to pounce. Unless this will cause harm try not to interfere or distract your feline. Let your cat follow their interests and remember this position often coincides with perky upward pointing ears which is the preferred position for hunting. The cat is totally absorbed with the prey and is alert in case it makes a move.
A thumping tail
You may think cats are as happy as dogs when they wag their tail but they aren’t. A tail that whips quickly back and forth with more ferocity than a graceful swishing or one that thumps loudly against the floor indicates that a cat is unhappy, agitated or fearful. The angrier the cat is the faster they thrash their tail back and forth. This action differs from more gentle wagging in that it’s not inquisitive or playful and will likely lead to aggressive behaviour. The thumping tail often coincides with a crouching posture, flattened ears and averted eyes. So whereas a dog may wag their tail out of excitement or happiness, with cat body language, a tail that thrashes quickly back and forth indicates something quite the opposite.
A question mark tail
You have probably noticed that your cat’s tail sometimes looks like a question mark. It stands upright and curls at the tip. This tail position often indicates that your cat is happy and friendly. Symbolic of the question mark shape that it represents can also mean that your cat is feeling curious about something. You might see this position when your pet sees something or someone that sparks their interest and they are ready to explore. While it may be tempting to pet that curly tip tail, remember that most cats prefer to be stroked where their facial glands are located. This includes the base of their ears under their chin and around their cheeks.
The sleepy flick
Unlike dogs who are more than happy to come when you call their name, cats like to mull over the situation and decide if you’re worth their time at that exact moment. When some treats are involved there’s usually no question all they need to hear is the pop top of a can and they run into the kitchen. Other times if they’re sleeping when you call their names they like to play games. Instead of blatantly acknowledging or coming to you, they choose to meet you with a single subtle flick of a tail. This type of tail wagging is a cat’s way of saying yeah I hear you I’m just choosing to ignore you. It is actually a sign that your cat is content and feels comfortable remaining asleep in your presence. Cats want to do everything on their terms, which is no surprise to anyone who shares their home with a feline. If you’ve come into the room and found your cat’s tail wagging while they’re sleeping then perhaps they heard you come in. If you’ve called your cat’s name and saw only the sleepy flick of their tail then it’s their way of acknowledging you without too much effort.
TAIL UP AT A 45-DEGREE ANGLE
A tail held out behind but angled up may mean your cat is unsure how to feel right now. They’re neither welcoming nor threatening. Talk softly to the cat and offer your relaxed fingertip at the cat’s nose level and you’ll probably make a new friend.
Curling their tails around their bodies
If your cat is sitting or lying down with their tail curled tightly around their body, it means they are fearful, defensive, nervous or feeling uncomfortable. Wrapping their tails around their bodies makes them feel safer and more comfortable. They are protecting themselves and don’t feel happy and at ease at the moment. Cats that are relaxed will appear open and loose, whereas a cat that does not wish to interact will withdraw. When you see your cat in this position and your interaction with them and ensure that your pet’s environment is free of stressors. But remember this position shouldn’t be confused with the way cats curl up with their head tucked towards their chest. Cats sleep in this position to conserve warmth while protecting their vital organs’ tail hanging down with a curve.
TAIL HANGING DOWN WITH A CURVE
If your cat’s tail is hanging down with a dip near the base it’s a sign that your feline friend is mildly afraid or a little defensive. Remember the lower a cat’s tail is the more anxious or afraid they are. A tail below the level of their back indicates some negative feelings. Although the tail is the most expressive part of the cat’s body language, you should look at more than just their tail movements to fully understand their emotional state. Better understanding your cat’s body language will surely improve your bond with your feline.