Decode Your Cat’s Tail Language

Cats have a unique way of communicating and it involves non-verbal and verbal cues. You may have noticed how your cat will meow to get your attention and purr when you pet them, but have you ever paid attention to what their tail is doing?

The position of a cat’s tail and the way they move it can tell you a lot about how your cat is feeling. Be sure you are properly reading your cat’s body language so you can avoid a scratch or two.

Cats wag their tails like dogs to display different emotions. PetMD explains the different positions and the emotions associated with them.

However, some positions can mean multiple things, so you must assess the situation and proceed accordingly.

Thrashing or Thumping

Photo: Pexels/Karen Laårk Boshoff

This movement means your cat is annoyed or angry and wants some space. Something is bothering Fluffy and if that irritant doesn’t go away, it may lead to retaliation in the form of a swat, bite, or scratch.


Photo: Pixabay/alannascanlon

Cats quiver their tails when they are excited to see someone or another cat. It can also be a sign that a cat is urine marking.

Twitching the End

Photo: Pexels/Arina Krasnikova

Twitching the end of the tail is a sign of play, stalking/hunting, or mild irritation. When you see a cat holding their tail in this position you must look for more clues to see how they are feeling.


Photo: Pixabay/Vadim Tashbaev

If Fluffy is intently staring at a toy, another animal, or an object and slowly swishing her tail back and forth she is about to pounce. PetMD tells cat parents to allow this behavior as it is only natural.

“Engaging in predatory behavior like stalking and pouncing is good enrichment for your cat, so let them continue to engage in whatever is captivating their attention.”

Wrapping Tail Around Your Leg

Adobe Stock: nataba

This is how a cat greets a friend or family member and is equivalent to a handshake or a hug. Cats will even intertwine their tails with another cat as a friendly gesture.

Straight Up

Photo: Pexels/Lynn Elder

A confident and friendly cat will approach you with their tail straight up. This tail position is a green light to play and pet the cat. It is also how kittens greet their mothers.

Question Mark or Hook

Photo: Pexels/Cats Coming

While this position may have you questioning your cat’s intent, it is actually a sign that they are happy and wanting to engage with you.

Puffed Up

Adobe Stock: fantom_rd

A cat with an arched back and puffed-up tail is frightened and may attack the perceived threat. This may be a dog, a stranger approaching or a loud noise. Never interact with a cat in this position.

Low to the Ground

Photo: Pixabay/Steve Mantell

Cats who hold their tail low to the ground or between their legs are either scared, anxious, or in pain.

Tail Wrapped Around Their Own Body

Photo: Pixabay/uluer servet yüce

This is another position that may mean Fluffy isn’t feeling well. Cats also wrap their tails around their bodies when they are feeling defensive or afraid.

When in doubt, contact your vet to see if you should bring your furry friend in.

Communication is key in all relationships and hopefully you will be able to better understand how your cat is feeling based on her tail position and actions. Cats are fascinating animals that we still don’t completely understand, and maybe never will. However, our lives would be so boring without them.

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