Did you know our cats speak a language, and that most cat parents are not even aware of it? There are subtle clues to be found in body language, and by deciphering the messages you can get a very good indication of an animals’ thoughts.
For instance, if you know what to look for, you can learn a great deal about your cat’s intentions and their state of mind, just by carefuly observing what they do with their tail.
So, do you want to become a real cat whisperer by understanding tail communication? Here are some common tail signals that you’ve probably seen before. From now on, you will know what they mean and how to give an appropriate response:
Cat tail positions explained
Sweeping/Whipping: Have you ever seen your cat suddenly sweep her tail back and forth violently? This is actually a sign that something is not right in kitty land, and a lot of cat parents sadly tend to miss this entirely. When the warning is ignored, a sweeping tail will usually result in agressive outbursts like biting your hand or scratching.
Why? Because a tail that’s sweeping side to side is a sign that your cat is over-stimulated (aka: she is starting to feel nervous or even fearful). If you want build up respect with a cat, make an effort to respect her boundaries by withdrawing your hand(s) immidiately after you see the tail sweep. Doing so gives her some space to unwind.
Straight up: An upright standing tail is good! It is a sign of friendliness and/or confidence. She’s happy to see you, and open for interaction. If you come home after a long day at work and your cat approaches you with an upright tail, it usually means she’s trying to give you a friendly welcome. Feel free to reciprocate the gesture!
PS: You might be able to spot a little twitch or curl towards you at the very top of a straight tail. If you do, congrats! This is a sure sign of her affection for you.
Curved: A curved tail (resembling the ?-symbol) is another positive message that indicates your cat wants to play. This is a great opportunity to pick up one of her toys and play some games with her!
Did you know that most indoor cats are bored because they don’t get enough stimulation throughout the day? If you do not have enough time to play with your cat, consider picking up one of these automatic ball toys.
Tucked: When the tail is tucked away between the legs or tightly wrapped around the body, the cat is not open to interaction. This tail position can correlate to any the following emotions: fear, anxiety, submissiveness and tiredness. A cat that feels threatened is also likely to tuck her tail. Cats that are experiencing these kinds of emotions usually don’t want to interact with their surroundings. And that probably includes you!
A fearful cat may also show some other physical signs: dilated pupils and flattened ears & whiskers. Try to minimize any sudden movements, as this could make her even more uncomfortable.
“Hugging”: All animals need some form of connection, even the more reserved ones. When a cat briefly wraps her tail around you, this is the equivalent of a human hug: she’s sending you signals of friendship or love. Take it as proof that the two of you are definitely getting along!
Puffy: Have you ever seen a blowfish? This animal deals with threats in a very interesting way. When blowfish face a threat, they blow themselves up (hence the name) and become covered in spikes. In this way, predators are discouraged from attacking the scared animal.
This mechanism is not unique in nature. Cats have adopted a similar defense mechanism, where they make their entire body (including the tail) thicker and taller in moments of extreme stress or fear. The idea is that a big and angry posture could help scare off any perceived threat.
If you see a cat doing this, she’s likely scared of something. It is probably best to back off for a bit.
Swishing: A tail position that most people are familiar with is the swish. There is a good chance that you saw a cat do this at some point. Swishing tails are almost always seen when a cat is super focused on a moving object.
Just before she jumps in and pounces on the toy or live prey, there is a brief moment of high excitement which is often accompanied by a swishing tail.
Straight down: Be careful when you see a tail that’s hanging straight down; this correlates to a very serious demeanor or potentially even agression. It’s probably best to keep your distance and let her be.
Note that there are exceptions; certain breeds position their tail straight down in the default state, so interpreting this sign is not always straight-forward.. which leads us to the final paragraph:
Remember.. this is not an exact science!
Getting to know the types of signals your cat is sending out into the world through body language is a great way to become better at reading their intentions and acting accordingly. But you have to remember that none of these are set in stone; many tail movements look very similar and are thus easy to misinterpret. The best possible way to read these is by combining them with other subtle signs.
You will get a greater understanding of your cat’s mood and emotions by observing her tail movements alongside her entire body language and the environment she’s in.https://www.petplan.co.uk/pet-information/cat/advice/tail/