Cat Communication: Telltale Tails

catEver wonder what your cat was thinking? Take at look at the tail.

Though the feline tail is primarily a balance mechanism, it’s also a key part of cat communication. How your cat is holding and moving his tail can tell you a great deal about what he’s thinking and feeling. Here are some standard tail communications:

Tail held upright: this is usually a sign of a happy, alert, contented cat

Tail upright and quivering: this can be a greeting – a real “glad to see you!”

Tail upright and curved over back: anticipation. Look for this at food time, etc.

Tail upright with the end twitching: can be an indication of curiosity.

Tail upright but curved to one side (almost like a question mark): often seen when a cat is feeling playful, but may also indicate that the cat isn’t exactly alarmed, but it being cautious

Tail upright, very stiff, and very puffy (hairs bristling) : not a good sign; usually indicates anger or aggression.

Tail straight out from body, fairly relaxed: a fairly neutral posture; cat is feeling basically friendly, non-agressive, and not defensive

Tail lowered: often seen when a cat is being approached; indicates that the cat isn’t exactly frightened or alarmed but is unsure about the intentions of the person or cat coming toward him

Tail lowered, sweeping slowly back and forth: shows the cat is focusing on something

Tail low and sweeping rapidly back and forth: not a good sign – generally indicates alarm or aggression.

Tail low, with just the tip twitching: the cat is in predator mode; that catnip mouse better watch out.

Tail low, straight out from the body but with tip half hanging limply: generally a defensive posture, basically saying “don’t mess with me!”

Tail tucked: submission, fear, defensiveness

Tail movement when the cat is sitting or lying down: slow movement can indicate lazy indecision; “do I want to go look out the window, or keep lying here?” Faster and larger movement are signs that something may be about to happen – they show that the cat is becoming more alert. NOTE: some cats indicate extreme pleasure with sweeping or even thumping tail movements (while being brushed or petted, for example).

Tail wrapped around something (like the owner’s arm or leg, or perhaps the tail of another cat): usually an affectionate nudge for attention, affection, play, or food.