A cat meowing is cute, but it’s not the number one way cats communicate with each other or with us. Understanding cat tail body language is important to effectively care for and communicate with your feline friend. Keep reading to learn more about understanding cat body language.

Understanding Cat Tail Language

Cats can put their tails in many positions and movements. Each one has a different meaning, but they can also show the same emotions in a few different ways. Let’s discuss a few of these tail movements.

Black and white cat tail on a brown floor

Fluffed Up Tail

A fluffed up tail makes the tail look much larger than it is. When your cat does this, this often means they feel scared of something or threatened. When they get like this, it’s a good idea to leave them alone. Otherwise, they might become aggressive in an attempt to protect themselves.

Swishing Tail

When your cat slowly swishes its tail back and forth, this typically means they’re focused on something or someone. They may be looking at a toy, a trick of the light, or see something enticing outside the window. This cat behavior is natural and great enrichment for your feline.

Tail Curled Around The Cat’s Body

This particular tail language is misleading. When your cat is sitting or lying down with their tail curled around their body, it looks calm and peaceful. In some cases, this could be your cat being relaxed or submissive.

However, in other cases, this could also be a sign that your cat is defensive or nervous. When you see your cat like this, let them come to you, so you don’t accidentally spook them. 

Tail Held Low To The Ground

If you notice your cat’s tail being low to the ground or even tucked in between its back legs, it is a sign that they’re really scared. Alternatively, they might be in pain. If your cat allows you to approach them, give them a quick check to ensure they don’t have any wounds.

Tail In Question Mark Or Hook Shape

If the tail looks like a question mark, or the tip is hooked, standing straight up, then this is a sign that your cat is being friendly. They’re telling you that they’re approachable. You can pet them and cuddle with them. 

brown cat tail on the ground

Tail Straight Up

When your cat’s tail stands straight up, it’s a neutral and friendly position. They’re in a good mood and content overall. In addition, this is an invitation from them for you to pet them and play with them.

This tail position is also commonly seen in kittens because this is how they typically greet their mothers.

Tail Twitching

This tail positive could mean one of two things. First, your cat is hunting or playing. This movement is common in kittens, learning to play and use their instincts.

Alternatively, your cat may be annoyed. If they are not in a playful mood and aren’t in a hunting position, then chances are something is irritating them.

Tail Wrapped Around Your Leg

Cats intertwines their tails together as a greeting. It’s also a way they show that it’s okay to interact with them. When they wrap their tail around your leg, it means they’re willing to let you interact with them, and they’re saying hello to you.

Thumping Or Thrashing Tail

Thrashing its tail from side to side or thumping it harshing on the ground means your cat is angry, annoyed, or frustrated. When your cat is irritated like that, keep your distance. This tail movement is them telling you that they need to be alone.

Quivering Tail

If your cat quivers its tail, that’s a good sign that they’re happy and excited to see you or another cat or animal.

Sometimes, if their tail is quivering straight up and against a wall, they might be urine marking.

black cat with tail curled up

Wagging Tail

Cats wag their tails just as dogs do. And, like dogs, different wagging speeds mean something different. For instance, fast lashing may mean they’re angry or aggressive.

On the other hand, gentle swishing may mean that your cat is happy and excited.

For a quick recap, look at the cat’s body language chart for their tail positions and emotions.

Cat Tail Body LanguageMeaning and Emotions
Fluffed up tailAngry, threatened, annoyed, irritated
Swishing tailFocused
Tails curled around the cat's bodyRelaxed or submissive, nervous or defensive
Tail held low to the ground (or tucked between its legs)Scared, in pain
Tail in a question mark or hook shapeFriendly
Tail straight upContent, friendly
Tail twitchingPlayful or irritated
Tail wrapped around your leg (or intertwined with another cat's tail)Friendly greeting
Thumping or thrashing tailAngry, annoyed, frustrated
Quivering tailHappy, excited
Wagging tailHappy or excited, angry or aggressive

Question Corner: FAQs About Cat Tail Body Language

If you’d like to learn more, then read through the frequently asked questions answered below.

Can Cats Control Their Tails?

Yes, they can. Sometimes it seems their tails might have a mind of their own, but cats’ tails are linked to their feelings and emotions. It’s how they communicate. Some movements are involuntary; if this happens often, your cat might have feline hyperesthesia syndrome, also known as twitch-skin syndrome.

Why Does My Cat Chase Its Tail?

Cats can have silly moments and use their tail as a toy. Or maybe they catch a glimpse of it and think it’s prey. Sometimes, when a cat catches its tail, it’s a sign that they’re understimulated or bored. So, set aside time to play with them every day. 

Why Does My Cat Slap Me With Its Tail?

When a cat shows its backside to you (thus hitting you with its tail), it signifies contentment and trust. It’s their way of complimenting you and claiming you as their own. 

Listen To Your Cat

Cats may meow to get your attention sometimes, but their primary form of communication is body language. So, pay attention to their tail to provide the best cat care for your feline friend.

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