What Cats Signal With Their Tails

My cat had such an expressive tail, I sometimes thought she was spelling out letters in an effort to communicate with me. Although she couldn’t form letters as well as, say, the cowboy or Indian chief could make a YMC or A, she could certainly say a lot. As it turns out, a cat’s tail does more than act as a rudder and provide balance–like dogs, cats use their tails to signal their moods.

According to Arden Moore, author of The Cat Behavior Answer Book (Storey, 2007) recognizing the messages delivered in tail talk can help you better communicate with your cat. Here are some key tail positions and what they mean.

Hoisted high
A confident, contented cat will hold her tail high in the air as she moves about her territory. A tail that is erect like a flagpole signals a happy mood or a friendly greeting. Cats often send this message as they approach a welcoming person. If the top third of the tail twitches as the cat nears you, this means he totally adores you.

Question mark
A tail looking bent in a question mark often conveys a playful mood. This would be a good time to engage in a five- or ten-minute play session.

Flying low
A tail positioned straight down, parallel to the legs, may represent an aggressive mood. Be wary. That said, there are exceptions to this rule. Some breeds, such as Persions, Exotics, and Scottish Folds, normally tend to carry their tails lower than their backs.

Tucked away
A tail curved beneath teh body signals fear or submission. Something is making the cat nervous.

Puffed up
A pipe cleaner of a tail reflects a severely agitated or frightened cat whi is trying to look bigger to ward off danger.

A tail that whips rapidly back and forth indicates both fear and aggression. It is a warning that says “stay away.”

A tail that swishes slowly from side to side usually means the cat is focused on an object. Cats often swish their tails right before they pounce on a toy mouse. It is part of their predatory positioning.

A tail that twitches just at the tip is a sign of curiosity and excitement.

A tail wrapped around another cat is equivalent to a person casually putting her arm around a favorite pal. It conveys feline friendship.

By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor, Healthy & Green Living


Danuta W
Danuta Wabout a month ago

thank you for posting

Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a month ago

Don't mistake the contentment twitch of the tail with the I'm getting ready to attack. Happens a lot when a cat tires of being petted.

Clare O
Clare Oabout a month ago

you have just stated the obvious ones

Clare O
Clare Oabout a month ago

of course!

Kelly S
Past Member 1 months ago


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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O2 months ago

Very good article thank you for your insight.

Tanya W
Tanya Wabout a year ago

Love my kitty cats 😻😸😺💟💖

Tanya W
Tanya Wabout a year ago

Lovely article 😺

William C.
William C1 years ago