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Cats use their tails to communicate many different emotions, so you’re not alone if you find yourself confused about what your kitty is saying from time to time!
However, cats can sometimes send mixed messages because their tail movements cover a wide range of emotions. In those situations, revealing their emotions might be interpreted as a sign of weakness, so cats use a silent form of communication—their tails. To accurately “read” your cat, DeVoss recommends considering his tail and overall body position, plus his activity and surrounding environment at the time. If two cats wag their tails at one another while their backs are arched and their heads are lowered they may be about to engage in a skirmish. Your cat is excited, marking his territory, or is feeling stressed, anxious, or insecure if his tail shivers or shudders. When your cat is crouched and ready to pounce, his tail goes straight out and rigid so it can be used as a balancing tool when making quick turns or jumping. A flicking tail or side-to-side swish indicates excitement, contemplation, beginning irritation, or that your cat is in pain. When the tip of your cat’s tail forms the shape of a question mark, it means he’s happy or in a playful mood. When your cat is in a relaxed position and tapping the end of his tail, it means he’s slightly annoyed or contemplating something. Like “I’m trying to sleep and that sound is bothering me,” or “My tummy is grumbling,” or “I’m thinking about getting up to go to the litter box, but I’m so sleepy.”
What does a cat's tail movements mean?
“Tails can move quickly or slowly,” she says. “A flicking or lashing tail signals that the cat is agitated, while a slowly waving tail indicates the cat is focused on something (i.e., about to pounce on a toy). … “This posture, witnessed among feline friends, is a common way cats greet their humans.
Do cats wag tail when happy?
Cats Wag Their Tails When They’ re Happy and Confident. When your cat is feeling happy and confident, she’ll walk around your home with her tail held high, pointing straight to the sky. … Cats might also wag their tail more energetically when they’re playing, swishing their tails from side to side.
Why does my cat wag her tail when I pet her?
Cats Wag Their Tails When They’re Feeling Secure. If you’re petting your cat and they acknowledge you by moving their tail a bit or your cat is wagging their tail while they are purring, they’re feeling secure. This is a good sign you’re free to keep petting your beloved cat and showing them that you care.
Is it bad when a cat wags their tail?
Wagging tail = bad : Unlike a dog, a wagging cat tail does not mean they are happy to see you! You can tell a lot by a cat tail, and when it’s moving in a wag, that generally means something or someone is being annoying. … It could be the cat is unsure of something, combined with a little excitement or curiosity.
A familiar phrase claims that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but in cats, it’s their tail position that provides the greatest insight into what a cat is feeling.
Cats use their tail movements, along with their eyes, ears, and body postures, to communicate. Reading the tail language of a cat can also help you identify illness and pain more readily. If you don’t, then the thrashing tail may be a prelude to hissing, growling, swatting, or biting. Cats twitch the end of their tails when they are hunting and playing, as well as when they are mildly irritated and frustrated. Sometimes, when a cat quivers his tail while holding it straight up and backing up against a vertical surface, they may be urine marking. When a cat’s tail is upright, they are feeling social and confident, and approaching in a friendly manner. You may notice that sometimes your cat’s tail looks like a question mark—it stands upright and curls at the end. If your cat assumes the quintessential Halloween-cat posture with a puffed tail and arched back, then they are startled or frightened by a sudden, severe threat. This tail position is often triggered by feeling threatened by other animals in the yard, dogs approaching, visitors in the home, or sudden noises. If your cat is sitting or lying down with their tail wrapped around their body, then they are frightened, defensive, in pain, or feeling unwell. If your cat frequently crouches with their tail curled tightly around their body for more than a few days, then an evaluation by your veterinarian is warranted to rule out pain or illness. Visual and tactile communication in the domestic cat ( Felis silvestris catus ) and undomesticated small felids (Doctoral dissertation, University of Southampton, United Kingdom).
It’s a universally acknowledged truth that your dog is happy when his tail is wagging. But what about your cat? Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do cats wag their tails?” “Most owners and cat sitters are surprised to learn it often is not a sign of a happy kitty,” says Dr. Blain Kennedy, a veterinarian at Florida Veterinary League in Vero Beach, Florida. In fact, there are several reasons why your cat may be moving her tail in this manner. Here’s everything you need to know about your furry friend’s tail wagging.
On the other hand, if your cat has an erect tail, arched back and pushed-back ears, she is showing that she is scared but willing to fight the aggressor in question — whether that be another animal or an innocent object that has spooked her, such as a leaf blowing in the wind. If this is the case, she will typically be backed up against the edge of the litter box, a wall or a piece of furniture. She’s in the Process of Hunting Cats swoosh their tails back and forth when they are in hunter mode as a way to mesmerize prey. She Feels Secure You might notice your sleeping cat’s tail twitches slightly when you pet or talk to her. For example, if your cat exposes her stomach or takes a long blink while looking at you, she’s showing that she feels extremely comfortable with you.
Humans usually associate the action of “tail wagging” with dogs. Canines are fairly straightforward with their tail communication. Cats, however, are way more subtle in their body language and cat tail wagging is very nuanced.
Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? Here’s What Your Feline Is Trying to Tell You
Cats use their tails to communicate many different emotions, so you’re not alone if you find yourself confused about what your kitty is saying from time to time!Cats can seem as mysterious as the Mona Lisa because their faces reveal very little about their emotions. But your cat’s tail is another story. Each swish, shake, and wag reveals how he’s feeling, how to meet his needs, and what to expect next.
Do Cats and Dogs Communicate Differently?
Like dogs, cats use their tails to communicate. However, cats can sometimes send mixed messages because their tail movements cover a wide range of emotions. “A lot of people think cats are mysterious and aloof but, in reality, it’s just in their nature to conceal their emotions,” says Molly DeVoss, Certified Feline Training and Behavior Specialist for Cat Behavior Solutions in Dallas.”Dogs have evolved with a social hierarchy that differs from cats. Dogs view their owners as pack leaders and, thus, try to please them. This often includes mimicking happy expressions that make you smile,” DeVoss says. “But cats have evolved as a solitary species. In the wild they live alone, not with other cats, so they have little need for communication.”DeVoss says that when cats communicate with one another in the wild, it revolves around territorial and mating gestures. In those situations, revealing their emotions might be interpreted as a sign of weakness, so cats use a silent form of communication—their tails. This is true of domestic cats, too, who are known for their “poker face,” especially when compared to dogs who are much more expressive.Cat body language is fascinating to watch, yet complicated to understand. To accurately “read” your cat, DeVoss recommends considering his tail and overall body position, plus his activity and surrounding environment at the time. Put the pieces together—like a puzzle—for the context needed to decode your cat’s language, meet your feline friend’s needs, and strengthen your bond with him.
11 Ways Cats Wag Their Tails and What They’re Trying to Communicate
When your cat talks with their tail, take heed. While you should always look at total body language and the immediate environment your cat is in to get a full picture of what they’re feeling, these are some common emotions your cat could be communicating with their tail.
1. Straight Up Tail
A cat’s tail often pops straight up when they’re walking in an environment where they feel confident. When approaching other cats with whom they have a friendly relationship, it’s also a sign of trust and a desire to engage.
2. Wagging Tail
Dogs wag their tails to show they’re happy, but not cats. In fact, a cat’s wagging tail usually means exactly the opposite. If two cats wag their tails at one another while their backs are arched and their heads are lowered they may be about to engage in a skirmish. However, a constantly wagging tail may also indicate that your cat is in pain.
3. Tail Shiver or Shudder
Your cat is excited, marking his territory, or is feeling stressed, anxious, or insecure if his tail shivers or shudders.
4. Tail Straight Out and Rigid
When your cat is crouched and ready to pounce, his tail goes straight out and rigid so it can be used as a balancing tool when making quick turns or jumping.
5. Flicking or Swishing Tail
A flicking tail or side-to-side swish indicates excitement, contemplation, beginning irritation, or that your cat is in pain. This could also mean your cat is focused, such as when watching a bird outside the window.
6. Tucked Tail
A tucked tail could be a sign of fear or pain.
7. The Tail Wrap
When your cat wraps his tail around you or drags his tail over you, it’s an affectionate, trusting gesture similar to humans holding hands or putting an arm around someone. Bonded cats will frequently walk with their tails entwined or will relax together that way.
8. Puffed Out Tail
If the hair on your cat’s tail puffs out and his body arches (think Halloween cat silhouette), he’s been startled by something and is really scared.
9. Question Mark Tail
When the tip of your cat’s tail forms the shape of a question mark, it means he’s happy or in a playful mood. It is also a way cats who are friends will commonly greet each other.
10. Tapping Tail
When your cat is in a relaxed position and tapping the end of his tail, it means he’s slightly annoyed or contemplating something. Like “I’m trying to sleep and that sound is bothering me,” or “My tummy is grumbling,” or “I’m thinking about getting up to go to the litter box, but I’m so sleepy.”
Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails?
Just like dogs, cats move their tails to express their emotions. So what does it mean when a cat wags its tail? Let’s take a look at the different “wagging” tail movements and what they mean.
Thrashing Tail Movements
When your cat thrashes their tail, or is thumping it on the ground, they are irritated, annoyed, or angry. This tells you that something is bothering your cat.This is a distance-increasing behavior. In other words, if you are petting your cat and they start thrashing their tail, they are trying to tell you to stop. If you don’t, then the thrashing tail may be a prelude to hissing, growling, swatting, or biting.
Twitching the End of the Tail
Cats twitch the end of their tails when they are hunting and playing, as well as when they are mildly irritated and frustrated. In this case, read the scene and look for other clues to their mood. If they’re not playing or stalking something, then the twitching tail movement probably means that they are annoyed.
When your cat slowly swishes their tail from side to side, they may be intently focused on something like a toy, another animal in the home, or something outside. They may be about to pounce!Engaging in predatory behavior like stalking and pouncing is good enrichment for your cat, so let them continue to engage in whatever is captivating their attention.
Your cat may quiver their tail when they are especially excited to see you or another cat. Sometimes, when a cat quivers his tail while holding it straight up and backing up against a vertical surface, they may be urine marking.
Why Do Cats Wrap Their Tails Around You?
Just as we greet one another with handshakes or hugs, cats may greet by curling their tails around people and by intertwining their tails with other cats. Tail wrapping is an affiliative behavior that demonstrates a willingness to interact.
What Does It Mean When a Cat’s Tail Stands Straight Up?
When a cat’s tail is upright, they are feeling social and confident, and approaching in a friendly manner.This cat tail language indicates a friendly greeting between cats, and it’s how kittens greet their mothers. A research study by Cameron-Beaumont in 1997 found that cats were willing to readily approach a cat-shaped silhouette if it had a raised tail but were reluctant to approach the silhouette if it had a lowered tail.If your cat approaches you with their tail up, this is a good time to pet them or play with them.
What Does a Tail in a Question Mark or Hook Shape Mean?
You may notice that sometimes your cat’s tail looks like a question mark—it stands upright and curls at the end. This cat tail language indicates that your cat is happy and approaching amicably.Seeing your cat’s tail in this position is an invitation to interact with your cat. However, while it is tempting to pet that curly-tipped tail, most cats prefer to be pet around their facial glands on their cheeks, under their chin, and next to their ears.
Why Do Cats Fluff Up Their Tails?
If your cat assumes the quintessential Halloween-cat posture with a puffed tail and arched back, then they are startled or frightened by a sudden, severe threat.Your cat’s hair stands on end (piloerection) so that they can appear to be larger. This is a defensive reaction indicating that your cat wishes to be left alone.This tail position is often triggered by feeling threatened by other animals in the yard, dogs approaching, visitors in the home, or sudden noises. Remove the inciting triggers to decrease your cat’s stress. If you try to interact with your cat when their hair is standing up, they may perceive your approach as a threat and become aggressive.
What If Your Cat’s Tail Is Held Low to the Ground?
A cat may lower their tail below the level of their back if they are frightened or anxious. If your cat’s tail is tucked between their legs, then they are really scared or may be experiencing pain.
1. What “The Swish” Means
Marilyn Krieger advises, “The direction and speed [with] which cats move and swish their tails conveys their feelings. When felines thrash their tails quickly back and forth, it indicates that they are unhappy and want to be left alone. Tails that move slowly from left to right often indicate that cats are mildly annoyed. Sometimes, cats who are playing will swish their tails from side to side before pouncing.” This means we should pay attention to the way our cats swish their tails and not make assumptions.
2. What “The Twitch” Means in Cat Tail Language
We’ve all seen this type of cat tail wagging: A cat is sitting on a windowsill concentrating on nearby birds or rodents, when her tail begins twitching. It’s not the exactly the same movement as the previously mentioned “thrashing,” but it may look similar. Her ears, eyes and vocalizations will indicate if she’s upset or simply maintaining laser-sharp focus on a squirrel. As with the thumping, the twitch also carries the message, “leave me alone.”
3. What “The Quiver” Means
A “quiver” is a quick, tiny cat tail wagging action. When your cat is excited to see you, she may approach you with her tail in a vertical position, with just the tip of it making quick, little quivering motions, similar to a rattlesnake’s tail. Unlike the snake’s warning signal, a quivering kitty tail is a welcome sight and is typically accompanied by purring, face rubbing and sometimes even happy vocalizations. Return the greeting, even if you can’t quite do the tail-shaking thing.
4. What “The Sleepy Flick” Means
Unlike dogs, who are more than happy to come when called, cats like to mull over the situation and decide if we’re worth their time at that exact moment. When food is involved, there’s typically no question — all they have to hear is the pop-top of a can and they race into the kitchen like a baseball player sliding into home base.Other times, if they’re sleeping when we call their names, they like to play games. Instead of blatantly acknowledging us, they choose to meet us with a single — sometimes ever-so-subtle — flick of a sleepy tail. This is cat tail wagging that means, “Yeah, I hear you — I’m just choosing to ignore you.”This type of cat tail wagging is actually a sign of contentment because your cat is telling you that she feels comfortable remaining asleep in your presence. The bottom line, however, is that cats are going to do
The Bottom Line on Cat Tail Wagging
A cat’s tail is really a barometer for her feelings. Cat tail wagging is a way to communicate those feelings with us, but we must consider the entire picture, including non-tail body language and overall demeanor, before accurately interpreting it. When we learn to read the messages our cats are sending us, we will respond accordingly and develop a trusting, respectful relationship with our beloved felines.