Cat communication is fascinating. The way they stare, meow, chirp, and move their tails are all different ways to get our attention and speak to us, but what are they saying?
According to the experts, the way cats move their tails may be their way to signal to us and other cats about how they are feeling. As cat owners, it’s important for us to try to understand these tail movements so we might be able to respond to them in a way that better meets their needs – whether they’re happy, angry, or somewhere in between.
So, what does it mean when your cat moves their tail? Let’s take a look at some of the most common tail movements and what they might signify.
A Slow Blink or Wink
While not a tail behaviour, we figured this was worth mentioning in an article about cat behaviour. Knowing about cat’s winks and blinks is useful when also interpreting tail language as well, as they often will do this at the start of your interaction.
This is a cat’s way of saying ‘hello’, ‘I like you’, or ‘you seem to have good energy’. If a cat does this to you, it probably means they feel comfortable around you. Be sure to always do your best to read their body language as well. Some cats just don’t respond well to being touched by strangers or people they have only met a few times before.
A Twitch or Flick
This behaviour is a common one in a cat that is frustrated or overwhelmed. If you see your cat’s tail twitching, it’s best to leave them alone and let them calm down, and most will be able to do so within a couple of minutes. If you have small children playing with your cat and you see the cat’s tail twitching or flicking, it might be time to get the kids to leave them alone for a while.
A Swish from Side to Side
This is a sign that your cat is feeling confident and in control. If you see your cat’s tail swishing back and forth, they may be less receptive to gentle play and want to play more aggressively. Cats are independent creatures by nature and when feeling large and in charge, they may want to play rough in a way that lets them still feel they are in control.
A Low, Slow Wag
A sign of relaxation and contentment, if you see your cat wagging their tail slowly from side to side, it means they’re happy and comfortable. This is usually a good time to pet them and give them some love.
A Rapid Wag
This is a sign of excitement or happiness. If you see your cat’s tail rapidly moving back and forth, it means they’re excited to see you or are enjoying something (like playing with a toy). This is a great time to engage with them and give them some attention. In this mindset, playing with the laser pointer, or any other toy that simulates the hunt would be a great idea. Not only does it give you a chance to further bond with your pet, but it gives them a bit of exercise as well!
A Stiff, Upright Tail
This is a sign of aggression or fear. If you see your cat’s tail standing straight up in the air, it means they might be feeling threatened or ready to fight. This may not be a good time to pet them, and you likely should give them some space. This isn’t an exact science, so be sure to read your cat’s body language and facial expression for more information as to their state of mind.
Tail Wrapped Around You or Another Object
This is a sign of affection. If you see your cat’s tail wrapped around you or another object, it means they love and care for you or the other object. This is a great time to give them some love and attention. Many cats will park themselves next to their owner and wrap their tail around their wrist. This is almost like holding hands with them! When a cat does this to you, you should feel honoured!
As you can see, cat tail language can be complex. But, by taking the time to understand what your cat’s tail is telling you, you can develop a deeper bond with them and potentially respond in a way that better meets their needs. So, the next time you see your cat’s tail moving, take a moment to think about what it might mean. They just might be trying to tell you something important.