What Does It Mean When a Cat Flicks Its Tail?

If youve ever owned a cat, youve probably noticed that they sometimes thump their tail while laying down. Usually, this is nothing to be concerned with, as cats can wag their tails while laying down for all sorts of different reasons.

However, dont always assume that a wagging tail means the cat is content when you pet him or her. The tail wagging could easily mean that your cat is frustrated or not interested in the current attention they are receiving.

Either way, youll need to pay attention to other body signals your cat is displaying to determine why theyre wagging the tail. If a cats tail is swishing around widely while theyre lying down, its a sign that they may be a bit frustrated. Cats are very good at hiding their pain and diseases, as they dont want anyone to notice that they are vulnerable to attack.

Alternatively, if your cat appears to be asleep except for its wagging tail, it could be completely unconscious. Truthfully, tail thumping is a pretty standard thing cats do, so it isnt always the most accurate way to tell what your feline is feeling.

Why do cats flick their tails while lying down?

They’re Feeling Frustrated. If a cat’s tail is swishing around widely while they’re lying down, it’s a sign that they may be a bit frustrated. Petting them now could result in an unhappy scratch or your cat fleeing from the scene. They’re not much in the mood to cuddle.

Are cats happy when they flick their tail?

For dogs, tail wagging is a clear signal of happiness, excitement or maybe a little nervousness. Some cats may wag their tails when happy, but for most felines, it’s an entirely different story. For starters, cats don’t simply wag their tails.

Flick flick flick. Your cat is up to something. See his tail? Flick flick flick. It could mean he’s feeling playful. Or maybe he’s agitated. Flick flick flick. Cats twitch their tails for lots of reasons. Sometimes they just do that. Flick flick flick. It‘s about body language and excitement.

Other signs of playful cat posture include eye contact, forward-facing ears, and lying down perpendicular to a target and extending paws, possibly with claws out. Other signs of agitated cat posture include eyes wide with pupils dilated, slightly turned ears and a crouched or tense body, possibly with paws raised.

Other signs of aggressive cat posture include narrow pupils, turned ears, standing with body directly at a target, bared teeth and hissing.

To deepen our bond with our cats and provide for their quality of life, we pet parents must become multilingual by learning cat tail language so we may chat with our cats.

The tail is a continuation of the spine, comprising between 18 to 20 caudal vertebrae in most domestic cat species. A cats tail anatomy is made up of fur, skin, bones, blood vessels, nerves, and a small amount of muscle.

Evaluating the behavior of these cat breeds is trickier since relying on tail positioning is not possible. They vocalize by meowing and hissing, and they display non-verbal cues through body posture as well as eye and ear positioning. You may also notice that the tip of the tail may rapidly quiver or buzz while in this upright posture, indicating that your cat is particularly joyful.

Depending on their surroundings, cats with a hooked or bent tail resembling a question mark may be feeling either playful or otherwise doubtful. You may also notice that your cat may gently swish his tail when napping, meaning that this kitty is resting yet is remaining alert to whats happening in the environment. Depending on the circumstances, a cat holding its tail straight back may be either relaxed, slightly concerned, or else interested in something.

However, for other kitties (particularly long-haired cat breeds such as Persians), a tail held back or down can be interpreted as a relaxed, neutral expression. Your cat may attempt to shrink to the smallest possible size, lowering his head and crouching his body. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian to ensure your feline companion does not have an illness or injury causing this behavior.

In an attempt to look as large as possible to ward off a predator or other threat, your cat may bluff by bristling its hair through a smooth muscle action known as piloerection, causing the tail to puff up. Feline body and tail language is complex, but with a bit of practice, youll be on your way to becoming quite the pet interpreter.

Cats use their tail to communicate. Different tail wags mean very different things in cat language. Cat tail wags are used with a complex sequence of body language and postures to express their intentions.

An elevated vertical tail (in an upright position) is used as a greeting and often precedes face rubbing and purring. A pilo erect tail with hair standing upright on your cats spine is a response to fear and is a sign of defensive aggression.

Your cat may rapidly shake its tail from the base up holding it upwards when he is urinating or marking his territory, positioned in the litter tray, or against a wall or a bush. Its important to take into consideration his posture, his facial expression (eyes, ears, whiskers, mouth, visibility of teeth) and vocalizations to get a clear picture.

1. They’re Saying Hello

If you’ve just walked into the room and your cat started wagging its tail, it could be a greeting – without your cat needing to get up. There are several ways your cat can greet you, but most of them require getting up. For example, head rubbing is often a “hello” signal, as is an elevated tail.However, while laying down, your cat can do none of these things. Therefore, they begin to wag their tail. The can may not decide to get up for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps they are entirely comfortable, or they may not assume that you aren’t going to stay around for long. Or, in typical cat fashion, they are expecting you to come to them.If your cat is looking at you and seems relaxed, this is likely why they are thumping their tail on the ground.

2. They’re Relaxed

Tail thumping may be a sign of contentedness, especially if the cat doesn’t seem interested in anything in particular. If you’re petting the cat and they’re gently thumping their tail against the ground, it’s a sign of their enjoyment.However, don’t always assume that a wagging tail means the cat is content when you pet him or her. As we’ll discuss, tail thumping can also be a sign of aggression and frustration. The tail wagging could easily mean that your cat is frustrated or not interested in the current attention they are receiving. Purring can also be a confusing signal since it can also signal that your cat is agitated or in pain.Either way, you’ll need to pay attention to other body signals your cat is displaying to determine why they’re wagging the tail.

3. They’re Feeling Frustrated

If a cat’s tail is swishing around widely while they’re lying down, it’s a sign that they may be a bit frustrated. Petting them now could result in an unhappy scratch or your cat fleeing from the scene. They’re not much in the mood to cuddle.Cats can feel frustrated for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps you woke them up, or maybe they’re just a bit grumpy today. Sometimes, we can locate the source of our cat’s frustration and help fix it, but other times we cannot.This isn’t necessarily a sign that our cats are frustrated with us. Just like people, all cats are going to get frustrated at some point. Their tail thumping is simply a way for them to show it.

4. They Want to Play

If the cat is laying on its stomach and wagging its tail, it could be about to pounce. Many cats will wag their tail as a sign that they want to play, and sometimes this causes their tail to thump on the ground. Don’t be surprised if your cat leaps a few moments later – or doesn’t, sometimes it’s all about stalking, and the cats never actually leap.Usually, you can tell a cat wants to play because its pupils will enlarge, and they will be too concentrated on whatever they’re “stalking.” They may even chatter. Cats will also wiggle their bottom and shift their weight around as they try to find their balance before leaping.Now is the time to break out the cat toys.

5. They are in Pain

Tail wagging can also be a sign that your cat is in pain. Cats are very good at hiding their pain and diseases, as they don’t want anyone to notice that they are vulnerable to attack. Typically, this sort of tail movement is sudden and doesn’t appear to be related to anything that’s going on. It’s an involuntary, reflex action – like a jerk a person might do when in pain.You’ll want to begin looking for other signs that your cat may be in pain. These include lethargy, struggling to get comfortable, hiding, aggression, and a change in appetite. All of these are signs that something is off and that you may want to take your feline to the vet.Be aware that playing tail movements can also seem quite jerky and random. However, in these situations, the cat is concentrated on something. If they are in pain, they may or may not be looking at anything in particular.

6. They’re Asleep

Alternatively, if your cat appears to be asleep except for its wagging tail, it could be completely unconscious. Cats can sometimes move in their sleep. Usually, it isn’t any large movements. Instead, it is only small things, like their tail. If your cat seems to be zonked out and then suddenly starts moving its tail, they are likely just dreaming.

A Playful Cat

Cats swish and flick their tails languidly when they’re excited.A playful cat‘s tail often waves smoothly. Some biologists think that, in the wild, this motion mesmerizes or distracts potential prey. These motions can include the entire tail, but often involve a bent or articulated tip. Note that this flicking can quickly escalate or change to that of an annoyed cat.Other signs of playful cat posture include eye contact, forward-facing ears, and lying down perpendicular to a target and extending paws, possibly with claws out.

An Agitated Cat

Cats thump and flick their tails intermittently when they’re agitated.An agitated cat‘s tail may wave like a playful cat‘s tail, but the motion tends to come in bursts. It‘s a warning that your cat is annoyed—some suggest the word “stimulated” is more accurate. If you continue certain activities like, say, petting him, he may bat at you with a paw.Other signs of agitated cat posture include eyes wide with pupils dilated, slightly turned ears and a crouched or tense body, possibly with paws raised.

An Aggresive Cat

Cats wag and flick their tails vigorously when they’re on the offensive.An aggressive cat‘s tail wag starts at the tail‘s base, fulling engaging the roughly 20 vertebrae in his tail. The tail is generally held fairly low, and sometimes it‘s flexed or puffed up. Proceed in whatever you’re doing with caution, as your cat is in a tizzy and may strike or dash out of the room.Other signs of aggressive cat posture include narrow pupils, turned ears, standing with body directly at a target, bared teeth and hissing.

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People who do not understand cats falsely assume our feline friends are overly aloof. However, true cat lovers know just how expressive cats are.Cats want to be understood, yet they speak an entirely different language than us humans, and their language is complex.To deepen our bond with our cats and provide for their quality of life, we pet parents must become multilingual by learning cat tail language so we may “chat” with our cats.

Understanding Your Cat’s Tail: The Basics

A cat’s tail position is one way a cat communicates with humans as well as other cats and animals.The long swishy tail of a feline is an important structure. The tail is a continuation of the spine, comprising between 18 to 20 caudal vertebrae in most domestic cat species. A cat’s tail anatomy is made up of fur, skin, bones, blood vessels, nerves, and a small amount of muscle. The nerve supply of a cat’s tail controls it in response to stimuli.Some cat breeds are born with a shortened or absent tail (such as the Manx). Evaluating the behavior of these cat breeds is trickier since relying on tail positioning is not possible.A cat’s tail does not function solely in communication. It is also important in balancing when running or jumping or as a counterbalance when a cat is walking on a narrow surface or suddenly changing direction when running or tracking prey. After all, cats are vertically-inclined creatures. When they’re not sleeping up to 18-20 hours per day, they’re often jumping and climbing, whether they’re in the wild or at home.

Cat Tail Health

A healthy tail is important to a cat’s overall wellbeing, and tail injuries can cause severe pain, discomfort, and stress for our cats.Though the spinal cord itself ends before the tail, nerve damage to the tail (such as damage caused by tail pulling) can cause traumatic spinal injuries in cats. Tail fractures can also occur.Severe or non-healing injuries to the tail may require amputation by a veterinarian. Fortunately, this surgical procedure is well-tolerated by the majority of cats.

Cat Tail Positions and What They Mean

Cats communicate in many ways. They vocalize by meowing and hissing, and they display non-verbal cues through body posture as well as eye and ear positioning.Additionally, cat tails are very expressive, and the position of your cat’s tail is another method by which your kitty can “speak” to you—communicating his preferences, emotions, and even signs of illness or injury.So what exactly are all your domestic cat’s different tail positions trying to tell you? Here’s a helpful breakdown.

Standing Straight Up

A cat with an upright tail pointing towards the sky is a happy feline. This tail position is similar to a human smile. A tail that stands straight up is a common greeting display, revealing that a cat is confident, content, and willing to interact with other cats or humans.Amicable cats with this tail posture show other felines they are non-confrontational, reducing the possibility of a conflict.You may also notice that the tip of the tail may rapidly quiver or buzz while in this upright posture, indicating that your cat is particularly joyful. Pet parents should reward these happy kitties with attention and praise.

The Curled Question Mark

Depending on their surroundings, cats with a hooked or bent tail resembling a question mark may be feeling either playful or otherwise doubtful. If something stressful is occurring, give your cat some time to gauge the situation. If your cat seems comfortable, try to encourage play with a dangly feather toy.

Curled Around the Body

If your cat’s tail is curled around itself while seated, your cat may be feeling submissive or a bit nervous. Give your cat some space to act on his own accord when ready. If your cat’s tail is curled around itself while he is sleeping, your cat needs a break and prefers to be left alone.

Wrapped Around You or Another Pet

Cats may also curl their tails around the body or tail of another cat as a sign of friendship and affection. You may notice that when your cat is especially relaxed in your presence, he may wrap a tail around your arm. This is your cat’s way of saying, “I love you.”

A Loose, Wagging Tail

If your cat’s tail is loosely and slowly swaying from side to side, your kitty is focusing intently on something, is bored, or is otherwise feeling playful and feisty. He may be preparing to stalk or pounce on prey, a toy, or a bit of food. Cat parents should allow their cats to continue to focus on whatever is holding their attention.You may also notice that your cat may gently swish his tail when napping, meaning that this kitty is resting yet is remaining alert to what’s happening in the environment. Sometimes, a feline in a deep sleep may swish his tail when dreaming.

The Quick Flick

While a loosely wagging tail can be a sign of focus or playfulness, a rapidly whipping tail that is lashing from side to side more forcefully is a clear indicator that your feline friend is feeling fearful or aggressive.A quick flick of the tail is a warning to other cats and humans to back off. These cats are agitated and may become aggressive if stressed further. The stronger the movement, the stronger the emotion. Pet moms and dads should back off and allow their cats to retreat. Avoid petting your cat to prevent petting-induced aggression.

Tail Held Straight Back

Depending on the circumstances, a cat holding its tail straight back may be either relaxed, slightly concerned, or else interested in something. Some cats that hold their tails down, especially at a 45-degree angle, may be feeling serious, somber, and slightly suspicious. However, for other kitties (particularly long-haired cat breeds such as Persians), a tail held back or down can be interpreted as a relaxed, neutral expression.Always look for context based on your cat’s surroundings, body posture, eyes, and ear position to determine what your cat is sensing.

Tucked Tail

When your cat is frightened or submissive, he may tuck his tail tightly around the body or between the legs. Your cat may attempt to shrink to the smallest possible size, lowering his head and crouching his body. Cat guardians should try to reduce the source of their cat’s stress or insecurity and avoid upsetting the situation further.Furthermore, a cat with a tucked tail may be experiencing pain. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian to ensure your feline companion does not have an illness or injury causing this behavior.

Puffed-Up Tail

While some cats may act submissive in the face of danger, other situations may require a cat to defend itself. In an attempt to look as large as possible to ward off a predator or other threat, your cat may bluff by bristling its hair through a smooth muscle action known as piloerection, causing the tail to puff up.When your cat is this agitated or frightened, his back may also arch up to resemble a “Halloween cat” or “scaredy cat” posture—another means of appearing larger.When your cat is afraid enough to be bristling his fur, you should carefully try to diffuse the distressing situation and avoid triggering your cat further, allowing your cat to retreat to avoid escalating the situation.

The elevated vertical tail

An elevated vertical tail (in an upright position) is used as a greeting and often precedes face rubbing and purring. It’s often accompanied by a little tail quiver, where the tip of the tail is making quick quivering movements, a bit like a rattlesnake’s tail. If your cat has an upright tail with little quivering motions when he sees you, then he is happy and content.

The downwards tail flick

Unlike the upright quivering tail, the tail flick is a tail with an arch at the base but held downwards, that flaps back rapidly back and forth. It means that your cat is indicating displeasure. He could be fearful and feeling aggressive so stay away. If your cat starts flicking its tail when you are petting him, stop giving him a fuss.

The question mark tail

A tail with an upward hook-shape, like a question mark, means that your cat is in a playful mood. This is a friendly gesture and also shows curiosity. It can be accompanied by a gentle, slow, side to side swish that can be seen while your cat is playing with a feather duster or toys.

Swishing tail

A tail that sways slowly from side to side means that your cat is deeply concentrating. You might notice you cat swishing its tail while “window hunting”, looking outside at a bird.

A bottle-brush, pilo erect tail

A pilo erect tail with hair standing upright on your cat’s spine is a response to fear and is a sign of defensive aggression. It is a threatening behavior so it’s definitely best to stay away. This is usually a final warning for another cat to keep his distance or else an imminent strike will follow. The puffed up tail makes your cat to look bigger than he is and should act as a deterrent.

Tucked away tail

The tucked away tail means that your cat’s tail is curved beneath the body and signals fear or submission.

Tail wrapped

Tail wrapped around your arm or leg means that your cat loves you and wants to show you affection. They can also wrap their tail around another cat which is overtly showing that they are friends.

Waving tail and lying down

If your cat is waving its tail while lying down, it may indicate that he is unwell or in pain. Cats are very good at hiding their pain, but if you see this behavior from your cat, look out for other signs of pain such as if he stops eating or behaving oddly. If unsure, call your veterinarian professional for advice.