Surprising things you didn’t know your cat's tail was telling you

Are you fluent in cat tail language? Learning the meaning behind the tail movements can help you understand what your feline family member is trying to tell you.

Tail talk: surprising things you didn’t know your cat's tail was telling you
© Photo by Hasan Albari on
Tail talk: surprising things you didn’t know your cat's tail was telling you

Some people think enigmatic cats are less expressive than dogs, but this is far from true. While dogs bark, wag their tails or lick your face to show affection, the cat language is much more sophisticated. Gracious tails are cats' best communication tool, and you have to watch them diligently to crack the code.

Discover our latest podcast

Tail up or in a question mark position: ‘I am in a good mood’

Photo by Cats Coming on

According to International Cat Care, the ‘tail up’ position signals friendly intent when the cat approaches another cat, animal or human. This is a perfect time for petting, playing and treats.

Tail straight down: ‘Something is bothering me'

A cat may lower its tail below the level of its back if they are frightened or anxious. If your cat’s tail is tucked between its legs, it is really scared or may be experiencing pain.

Thrashing tail: ‘I'm done with your petting'

When your cat thrashes its tail or thumps it on the ground, it is irritated, annoyed, or angry. Something is bothering it. You have to stop petting, or it can start hissing, growling, swatting, or biting.

Swishing tail: ‘I'm about to pounce!’

Photo by Kevin Bidwell on

Your cat slowly swishes its tail from side to side when it is trying to focus and is preparing for action. It can be having fun with a toy, engaging in a playful fight or be on a hunt for a spider. In any case, it is ready to pounce!

Wrapping its tail around you: 'Hi, I like you'

Just as we greet one another with handshakes or hugs, cats say hello by curling their tails around us . Tail wrapping shows that your cat is open for interaction.

Wrapping the tail around the body while awake: ‘Check on me’

If your cat is sitting or lying down with its tail wrapped around its body, it may be frightened, defensive, in pain, or feeling unwell. Make sure the environment around your sassy friend is stress-free.

Frequently crouching with the tail curled tightly around the body can also mean your cat needs to be checked by a vet.

Puffed-out tail: ‘I have a threat to deal with, leave me alone’

Photo by Maximilian Oeverhaus on

A 'fluffy' tail with its hairs up makes you cat look bigger...or so it thinks. This defensive behaviour means your cat feels threatened, is frightened by something, or is engaged in a fight. It can’t care less about you at this moment!

Twitching the end of the tail: 'Don’t come close'

Your cat twitches the end of its tail when it is busy hunting or playing, or when it is annoyed with someone or something. Read the room and let it be.

Tapping tail while sleeping: ‘I’m watching you’

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on

According to Carlo Siracusa, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, the napping cat with the tapping tail is 'relaxed overall but paying attention'. It is peaceful but vigilant. If your cat is really sleeping, a moving tail could mean dreaming.

Shall I pet my cat’s tail?

Cats are careful about their precious communication tool, and you should be too. Make sure all the spaces in your house are tail-safe, and avoid injury at any cost. According to the animal behaviourist Kelly C. Ballantyne, of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana-Champaign, petting both the base and the tail itself is not appreciated by most cats. Stick to the area around the chin and ears.

Every cat is unique. There are plenty of cat 'dialects’ too. You have to watch closely to master your sassy furball's tail language. It will help you bond like never before and make their life happier.

Read more:

47 cats were found trapped in a car that was parked right under the sun

This could be how your cat actually sees you

This cat has become an internet sensation because it looks like Zorro

Did you know your cat's ears are telling you something? Did you know your cat's ears are telling you something?