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 to your kitty-cat’s moods and feelings, and is sure to improve your bond with your pet.
In this video, we will break down different feline tail positions and explain what your cat is trying to tell you.
An upright tail When cats hold their tail straight up, it means that 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, a research study conducted by Cameron-Beaumont in 1997 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. 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 symbolizes 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. A quivering tail A “Quiver” is a rapid, tiny cat tail wagging action. More often than not, cats quiver their tail when they are very excited, like when you open a new can of cat food. It is a friendly greeting and indicates your cat is happy. But remember, if a cat quivers their tail while holding their tail straight up and backing up against a vertical surface, then that 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. 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. Tail held low 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. 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 or frustrated or irritated. Tail swaying slowly from side to side This is when a cat moves its entire tail 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 behavior. 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. 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, this position can also mean that your cat is feeling curious about something. 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. 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. 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. And all in all, a tail below the level of their back indicates some negative feelings. Although the tail is the most expressive part of a 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. Be sure to check our other videos to learn more about cat vocalizations, quirks and body language.