What your cat's tail is telling you

Ever wondered why your cat swishes their tail? Noticed it flicking from side to side? We’re investigating all the different body language messages our cats can communicate with their tails, and what those typical tail movements might mean. 


Decoding your cats tail

A cat’s tail has both physical and emotional purposes. As well as providing cats with their excellent sense of balance, and helping them when they jump, it also allows them to communicate their emotional state. Our cats might not be able to talk, but they can tell us a lot with their tails - think of their tails as mood indicators.

Unlike our pet dogs, when our cats wag their tails it doesn’t usually mean they’re happy to see us. In fact, it can have a whole host of different meanings and not all of them are positive, but the context - and the cat’s other body language - can often help us to decipher what their tail movements really mean.


a grey shorthair cats walks along a path outside with its tail in the air


The little tail twitch

A quick little tail twitch can often be a sign that your cat is paying attention to something! If they’re concentrating on something, like a bird on the other side of the window, then you might spot some quick small twitches from their tails as they stare out the window. If they’re not hunting or playing with their toys, it might mean they’re a bit annoyed or frustrated with something.


The slow tail sway 

Similar to the twitch, this tail movement is often seen if your cat is acting out their natural hunting instinct and engaged with a toy or some other prey - and it can be a sign that they’re about to pounce!


An orange cat stands near its owner with its tail in the air as the owner pets it


The happy tail wiggle

You might be familiar with this one: if your cat comes up to greet you when you get home, they’ve most probably got their tail sticking up in the air, and you might notice a tiny little quiver at the end of their tail. This one’s a sign that they’re happy to see you!


The sleepy tail swish

If your cat’s tail is moving while they’re asleep, they might be dreaming! It’s impossible for scientists to know for sure whether cats dream while they’re sleeping, but it’s thought cats may dream like us humans when they’re in the REM sleep stage.

Alternatively, if their tail does a little flick or tap while they’re snoozing away, they’re probably listening to something around them and are a lot more alert than they look.


a black cat's tail lays relaxed as it sits on a wooden floor


The dramatic tail wag

Big tail swishes can be a sign of overstimulation or excitement - your cat might be feeling frustrated or overwhelmed by something. If their tail is moving like this when you’re close to them or interacting with them, it’s best to give them their space.


The fluffy danger tail

If your cat’s tail fluffs up and gets really big and puffy, it’s because they feel in danger. It’s often a response to some kind of confrontation (maybe a neighbourhood cat, or something in your home) and experts think it’s most likely a cat’s way of trying to make themselves seem as big and scary as possible to this potential threat.

If you're an expert in what your cat's tail is telling you, why not discover more about understanding your cat's body language

As always, these articles are intended as a guide, and if you’ve noticed a change in your cat’s behaviour and you’re worried about them, it’s best to speak to their vet.




07/07/2023 by NatuTeam

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