Like people, each cat has a unique personality all of their own, and unique mannerisms. That said, there are some basic instinctual tail movements that can give you insight into what your cat is trying to tell you. Below our Seattle vets explain some basics on how to read your cat's tail language.
Cat Tail Meanings
Cats, just like their canine counterparts, move their tails as a way of communicating their thoughts and feelings to their people and to other animals. While each cat has their own unique personality and mannerisms there are some basic tail movements that are often seen among housecats, some of the most common are explained below.
Wrapping Their Tail Around You
Like a hug from a loved one, your cat's tail wrapping around you is a warm greeting. It's time to spend some quality time with your kitty, curled up on the sofa together, playing, or just enjoying a few pats.
Tail Straight Up (With or Without a Curl at the Top)
If your feline friend's tail is straight up as they stroll around the house you can bet that your kitty is feeling confident, relaxed, and contented. If you notice your cat doing this it's a good time to strike up some fun playtime, reach down and give them a pet, or offer your kitty a treat.
Tail Straight Down
Oh dear, your kitty's tail is straight down and they are likely not looking very pleased with the world. This tail straight down language is a sign that your cat may be feeling agitated, angry, anxious, or even frightened. It's a good idea to leave your feline friend alone as the mood passes, or if there is an obvious reason why your cat may be feeling this way, try to neutralize the situation.
The End of Your Cat's Tail is Twitching
When the end of your cat's tail is twitching this is likely to be a sign that they are hunting, playing or feeling a little irritated about something. If they are looking at you and doing this with their tail, it may be a good time to dangle or throw their favorite cat toy so that they can engage in some fun playtime with you. If they aren't in the mood to play, rest assured that your cat will let you know.
Tail Swishing from Side to Side
A swishing tail and unflinching gaze are good signs that your kitty is in predator mode and has spotted something they are preparing to pounce on. This can happen even if the prey is on the other side of a sturdy glass window. Leave your cat to imagine their award-winning hunting moment, or if the prey is your pet hamster it may be time to move your pocket pet's cage to a safer location.
Thrashing Tail Movements
Is your cat thrashing their tail on the ground so that you can actually hear it? This means that your cat is angry and they want you to stay away. It may be best to give your cat some time to cool down before you decide to approach them.
Puffed Up Tail
A puffed-up tail is a very clear sign that your cat is frightened and perceives that there is a severe threat. This behavior is believed to be the cat's attempt at looking as big as possible to any prospective predator and is typically accompanied by a high arched back and hissing (think Halloween cat). Whenever a cat does this it's best to stay out of their way as they calm down.
Tail Tucked Between Legs
If your cat's tail is tucked between their legs they are scared, possibly experiencing pain, or being submissive. Try giving your cat a little time to relax and calm down, if their tail remains between their legs it's time to contact your vet.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.