Cat Tail Language: What your cat’s tail is telling you

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a gray cat

People who say cats are not very expressive and impossible to gauge just have no idea. A cat’s ears, eyes, posture and especially the tail express exactly what it is thinking and how it is feeling. All you have to do is “listen” to the language of the cat’s tail.

“Because cats are as diverse as we are, it is not natural for humans to understand how they communicate,” said Kelly C. Ballantyne, DVM, DACVB, clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine at Urbana. Champagne. “It is important that all cat owners take the time to learn because understanding how cats communicate can help us understand them better. Once we know their body language, we can read their emotions, identify situations that cause them distress or pleasure, and even spot an illness earlier. “

If you take the time to learn and understand the language of the cat tail and find that a careful study of the cat tail signs is vital to the happiness of your and your pet at home, you will come across the myriad – and very clear – signals and be amazed emotions your cat companion shares with you.

Cat Tail Language: The Basics

What is your cat’s tail trying to tell you? Photography © Cynoclub | Thinkstock.

Fortunately, animal behaviorists like Dr. Ballantyne conducted extensive research to help pet owners understand the intricacies of cat tail language.

“Tails can move quickly or slowly,” she says. “A tail flicking or whipping indicates that the cat is excited, while a slowly waving tail indicates that the cat is concentrating on something (ie, falling on a toy). “The tail position – tail straight up with a slight curve at the end – is a signal that the cat is approaching amicably,” continues Ballantyne. “This attitude, observed among cat lovers, is a common way that cats greet their humans.

“Cats can curl their tails around people they are connected to and intertwine their tails with other cats they are connected to. This is known as associative behavior. “

“Cats tuck their tails under or next to their bodies when they’re scared. They often crouch with their heads tucked in at the same time. We can also see these behaviors when they are in pain. “

But learning cat tail language is like learning a foreign language: it takes time. If you are new to cat tail signs, the various tail movements and positions can confuse you and inadvertently annoy or confuse your cat.

Stroke your cat’s tail area

While learning the cat’s tail language is a must for cat owners, petting the cat in the area of ​​the tail (the base of the tail or the tail itself) is not appreciated by most cats, says Ballantyne. Rather focus on stroking and scratching around your chin and ears, she adds.

If your cat’s tail twitches or whips, their ears turn back, or they lean away from you during a petting, these are all signals that your companion is done with that interaction, Ballantyne explains. With one of their most expressive body parts, cats share fairly clear messages about how they are feeling at any given moment. If you take the time and effort to learn the cat tail language, you will be speaking the tail like an expert in no time and will bring you and your cat companion’s relationship to greater understanding and happiness.

How to respond to the cat’s tail language

1. Tail position: upright, held high

A cat with an erect tail.

A cat with an erect tail. Photography © Seregraff | Thinkstock.

    • What it means in the language of the cat’s tail: Confident, happy
    • How you should act / react: Offer play time, cuddles, and treats.

2. Tail position: curled up like a question mark at the top

A cat's tail curled up at the top.

A cat’s tail curled up at the top. Photography © Photodisc | Thinkstock.

    • What it means in the language of the cat’s tail: friendly
    • How you should act / react: Offer your hand to sniff and stroke.

3. Tail position: straight down

A cat with its tail lowered.

A cat with its tail lowered. Photography © Ekaterina Cherkashina | Thinkstock.

  • What it means in the language of the cat’s tail: Excited, aggressive
  • How you should act / react: Don’t try to get engaged or pet her. Try to neutralize what is bothering you.

4. Tail position: Curved under the body

A cat with a curved tail underneath.

A cat with a curved tail. Photography by © sakinder | Thinkstock.

  • What it means in the language of the cat’s tail: Nervous and / or submissive
  • How you should act / react: Act casually. Wait for her to come to you.

5. Tail position: Puffed

A black cat with a pouf or bottle-brush tail.

A cat with a distended tail. Photography © GlobalP | Thinkstock.

  • What it means in the language of the cat’s tail: Scared, excited, angry
  • How you should act / react: Leave her alone!

6. Tail position: whip back and forth

A gray cat with a whipping tail.

A cat with a whipping tail. Photography by Casey Elise Photography.

  • What it means in the language of the cat’s tail: Scared; angry, aggressive
  • How you should act / react: It is best not to try to snuggle up with an angry cat.

7. Tail position: sway / twitch slowly from side to side

A black cat with a swaying tail.

A cat with a swaying tail. Photography by Casey Elise Photography.

  • What it means in the language of the cat’s tail: Concentrated
  • How you should act / react: Let your trapped cat follow their interests.

The table instructions for the language of the cat’s tail

When a cat’s tail … … It means that it is him or her
Upright content
At a 45 degree angle Unsure
Angled back, moving back and forth “Well” excited or “fearfully” excited (the ears and eyes can help determine which)
Upright, moving slightly to and fro happy
Upright, tip curved friendly
Straight, almost at the level of the spine Restless; not necessarily scared
Hang, with a jump near the base Aggressive
Swing back and forth quickly Angry
Puffed Frightened
At the bottom at a 90 degree angle Attack mode
Hidden between the legs Fear, possibly pain
When you sit up straight, the tip of the tail moves Alert, interested

Tell us: Did we miss any cat tail signals? How does your cat speak to you in cat tail language?

Thumbnail: Photography © Tomwang112 | Thinkstock.

This piece was originally released in 2018.

About the author

Ellyce Rothrock spent half of her life with Flea, a Maine Coon who turned 21 and goes missing every day. She is currently looking for a cat friend to manage Fritz and Mina, who is rescuing her German Shepherd. She is fortunate enough to live out her passion for pets as a 25 year old member of the pet media industry.

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