What You Can Learn from Watching Your Cat’s Tail

When it comes to reading a petís tail, most of us think about our dogs. A wagging tail is widely believed to mean a dog is friendly (this isnít always true) while a tail tucked between the legs means a dog is nervous or scared. But dogs arenít the only companion animals to communicate how they feel with their tails. A catís tail is also a good indicator of his or her mood, according to veterinary specialists at Hills Pet Nutrition, Inc.

What Your Cat’s Tail†is†Says About Her Mood

While the tail definitely gives clues as to how a cat is feeling, cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett cautions that pet owners should take their petís total body language into account when trying to interpret how a cat is feeling.

Tail Held High

When your cat parades around the house, tail held high with a hooked tip, itís likely a sign that sheís happy and confident.

Ernie Ward, Jr., a member of the Petplan Veterinary Advisory Board, says that cat companions will also greet one another with this friendly tail-held-high greeting. If your cat approaches you with her tail in this position, sheís likely happy to see you and would enjoy some attention.

If the tip of her raised tail begins to twitch, that usually means that your cat is in a particularly happy mood, according to Hills Pet Nutrition experts.

What Your Cat's Tail is Says About Her Mood

A Puffed Tail Held Straight Up

Cat experts say that cats who feel afraid and threatened will puff up the hair on their backs and tails in an effort to look larger to their opponents. A cat with a puffed tail held straight up in the air and an arched back is a fearful cat.

A Tail thatís Curved Like a Question Mark

A tail in this position often means that your cat is in a playful mood and ready for some action. Cats in this mood might even throw in a slight flick of the tail, according to Johnson-Bennett.

When your cat exhibits these behaviors, itís a good time to stop whatever youíre doing and spend some time playing with your kitty.

A Quivering Tail

Cats who are about to spray-mark will back up to an object with their tails held high and quivering. Some cats may also tread with their front paws. According to Johnson-Benson, cats who are spray-marking will also usually close or half-close their eyes.

Many people think that only unneutered male cats spay, but in fact, neutered males and spayed and unspayed female cats also spray-mark. There are a variety of reasons for this behavior including marking territory, fear, insecurity, stress, anxiety or underlying medical conditions.

Not all quivering tails mean that your cat is about to spray. Catsí tails can also quiver when they are anticipating something good about to happen. Look for this when you are about to feed your cat or when you are giving out favorite treats.† In this case, the catís eyes will be wide open in anticipation of the food or treat.

A Tail Held Low

When a catís tail is held low or tucked between his legs, this can be a sign of insecurity, say experts at the Humane Society of the United States. The cat is likely anxious and afraid. Itís a signal for you to check out the environment and see whatís stressing your cat.

A Twitching Tail

Behavior experts believe that cats twitch their tails as a way to contain their excitement. Youíll see this tail action, for example, when your cat is watching prey. This could be when your cat is chasing a toy, gazing through the window at the bird feeder or when an outdoor cat is stalking prey.

The more excited the cat is the faster the tail will twitch.

What Your Cat's Tail is Says About Her Mood

A Whipping or Lashing Tail

A whipping or lashing tail is a warning that a cat is irritated. If a catís tail starts to whip or lash when she is being brushed or petted, it means she’s had enough.

Behaviorists caution cat owners not to misinterpret tail wagging for happiness. Itís a clear signal that you need to stop what youíre doing and leave your cat alone.

A Wrapped Tail

When cats wrap their tails around one another or around their human companionís arm or leg, they are displaying friendship and companionship. Sometimes the tail doesnít wrap but rests against the skin of a human companion.

In an article on catster.com behaviorist, Marilyn Krieger writes that this sweet behavior reminds her of friends holding hands. So feel honored if your cat’s tail rests against your skin. It’s a sign of love, trust and friendship!

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Photo credit: Thinkstock


Sue R
Sue R3 months ago

Great article

Ellen J
E Away J3 months ago

Thanks for this article.

Carole R
Carole R3 months ago

Good to know.

Claudia S
Claudia S3 months ago


Kelsey S
Kelsey S3 months ago

Thanks. I love my kitty.

Leanne K
Leanne K3 months ago

Although spraying can happen in speyed or neutered cats, it is far more likely with full sexed animals. Do not use this as a reason not to desex. All cats need desexing. We kill far too many every single day. Desex!

Leanne K
Leanne K3 months ago

Too many people treat a cat as they would a dog. They are overly rough and you cannot trust them with a cat because they deliberately provoke then lash out at the cat. Dating a guy and he does this to your cat, dump him!

Trish K
Trish K3 months ago

Cats being Cats and their mysterious ways.

Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine Andersen3 months ago

Thanks for sharing....

Ruth S
Ruth S3 months ago