Cats are amazing animals. It's no wonder that they are popular pets (just ask one of the millions of cat owners around the world!). It is no secret that cats have a language all their own. Some cats are incredibly vocal while others barely meow at all. Yes, it is true, cats make many different sounds in order to communicate (hiss, meow or even growl) but they also communicate using their bodies as well.
A cat's tail does many things; however, its main purpose is balance (it helps keep kitty on all four paws!). Getting along with and caring for your kitten or cat is much easier to do if you know how to read the signs that his or her tail is sending! Pay attention my cat loving friends, knowing how to read your cat's tail could one day come in handy (and even prevent a scratch or two!).
The Tail Tells The Tale!
Think of your cat's tail as a barometer…a mood barometer to be exact. Just as a dog can send signals with its tail, a cat can too! When a cat's tail is hoisted high and proud that means he is happy and confident. A tail that is high and erect means he is content and willing to spend some time with you. If you are ever approached by a cat and his tail is standing tall, he is happy to see you! Let the bonding commence!
Cats are playful creatures. They love attention (most of the time) and enjoy bonding and playing with their owners. If your cat approaches you with his tail in what is called "the question mark" position (which is standing tall but slightly bent like a question mark) kitty is ready to play so get out the cat teasers and jingle bell balls! If your cat's tail is in the "low" position…quick, put away the cat teaser as kitty DOES NOT want to play! Danger! Danger! When a cat's tail is flying low it usually means that he is in an aggressive mood and you should proceed with caution. Of course, certain breeds such as Persians, Exotics and Scottish Folds normally carry their tails low or straight down…so they are the exception to this rule.
Whip It! Whip It Good!
While we are discussing DANGEROUS tail scenarios, I must warn you about tail whipping. When a cat whips his tail back and forth in a rapid manner…run for the hills. Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, however, it should be a warning that is taken some-what seriously. When a cat whips his tail it indicates that he is very afraid and will attack (or show aggression) if necessary. It is best to stay away from a cat that is whipping his tail in a frantic manner until he has calmed down.
A puffed tail is also an indicator of fear, however, it is not as quite as dangerous as a whipping tail. A puffed tail (sort of looks like a puffed up pipe cleaner) means that your cat is very agitated and frightened. A cat puffs his tail in order to look "big and bad." Most of the time, a cat with a puffed tail just looks cute and well, for lack of better words…puffy. No matter how cute a cat with a puffed tail may look….proceed with caution as puffy tails can lead to whipping which can lead to…well, you being attacked by a cat. Get my drift?
A cat that completely tucks his tail under his body is usually frightened and going into a submissive state. In other words…."I'm afraid and I'm going to bow down to you." A tucked tail is an indication that kitty is very nervous, so again, proceed with cat-like caution. A swishing tail, on the other paw, oops, I mean hand, usually means that the cat is incredibly focused. Whether it be a mouse, bumble bee or your face….a tail swishing from side to side means that kitty is about to pounce…so watch out! Swishing is all part of a cat's predatory behavior and is totally normal.
Finally if you see two cats sitting side by side and one of the cats has their tail wrapped around the other…well, this means that they are best buddies. It is equivalent to two humans with their arms around each other. Personally, I have never seen this, however, it sounds too darn cute for words! Caring for your kitten or cat is much easier to do when you know how to read your cat's body language. Your cat will appreciate being left alone when he is angry and enjoy being played with when he's "in the mood." Cats are wonderful, independent, loving pets. The more you know about your cat and his body language, the better! MEOW!
Learn More About Your Cat! Great Cat Reference Books!
Jane Ramona Rynkiewicz Frieman from Morris County, New Jersey on December 27, 2013:
I can tell that you are a cat lover! I share my home with 2 domestic shorthairs (I consider them my babies).
There is a song that keeps popping up in my head. It was from the '80's band called "The Stray Cats". It was the stray cat strut (I got cat class and I got cat style).
k9ttyk1t on November 05, 2013:
I have witnessed the best friend scenario. I rescued two cats that were brother and sister. when they would walk or eat both of them would would have eachother's tails wrapped around another. it was adorable.
Julian Rixon from Cork, Ireland on October 19, 2013:
That's a lovely article and I like your descriptions. My cat, Pusia, has a kind of in between tail thing. Just as she's about to set off on an adventure her tail will be in the low "danger" position but its tip will be gently twitching backwards and forwards. She's happy but she's ready for action!
Arrowisthename on March 31, 2013:
Well my kitty baby kitty (3years old and not so baby lol) when he is agitated he flicks his tail tip back and forth very fast and when he is loving and he wants attention his tail is curled
john on October 14, 2012:
My cat special K was born deaf an he was the best cat and friend that I or anyone could have ever hope to have .
g dunn on April 21, 2012:
My cats tail is to one side for 2 days now what does it mean
Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on April 11, 2011:
My cat always whips her tail to let me know that she is done with the petting and getting ready to attack. Great hub!
Eternal Evolution from kentucky on January 26, 2011:
Nice hub, the tail says it all lol
Springboard from Wisconsin on June 18, 2010:
Hmm. Always wondered what the question mark meant. Might have to try that the next time I see one of the cats doing that.
Nicks on January 02, 2010:
A useful Hub for us cat owners - unfortunately I have a cat with a 'Manx' tail which means the tail is (naturally) only a couple of inches long. This makes your information somewhat theoretical for me. Does anyone else have a cat wih a naturally foreshortend tail?
quirkyrabbit on November 08, 2009:
Question Mark? That's what I see when my cat is playing fierce. His tail is in a ? If it were straight or down, I'd be a little afraid. straight up is a salute. And when he walks by and the tip of the tail caresses a leg, I consider it "he kissed you with his tail."
BlazeTheVampire on November 04, 2009:
My cat whips her tail around when she's being playful. Her tail freezes if she's startled or threatened. She hits me with it when she wants to play, purposely sitting right next to my computer chair and looking at the toy innocently while simultaneously hitting me with her tail.
And my other cat tends to always have his tail lazily in the air like a flag. We can always see where he is because we'll see the end of his tail up in the air. I don't think he's ever felt threatened or angry in his life, so I don't know what that would look like.
My point is that gestures vary from cat to cat just as they do between person and person. I think it's best to use your own judgment and use these as general guidelines than as "rules." You know your cat better than anyone else.
merchantmom on November 04, 2009:
Thanks for the interesting article and great information!
mistywild from Houston, TX (Proud Texan) on November 03, 2009:
great hub! useful to me as well!
moviesbymail. on October 05, 2009:
My cat often "wags" his tail back and forth when cat-napping, that lets me know that he feels safe and secure. When he's napping outside, he's much more guarded, the body language says it all.