Cats Tail Wagging Tales

Why do Cats Wag their Tails?

Sources: Alison Gerken, DVM (Clinical Behaviour Resident) – PetMD /

Just like dogs, cats move their tails to express their emotions. Cats use their tail movements, along with their eyes, ears, and body postures, to communicate. Understanding cat tail language will help you to better understand your cat. Here are some different tail movements and positions and what they mean.

Thrashing Tail movements

When your cat thrashes their tail, or is thumping it on the ground, they are irritated, annoyed, or angry. This tells you that something is bothering your cat. It wants you to back off. In other words, if you are petting your cat and they start thrashing their tail, they are trying to tell you to stop. If you don’t, then the thrashing tail may be a prelude to hissing, growling, swatting, or biting.

Twitching the End of the Tail

Cats twitch the end of their tails when they are hunting and playing, as well as when they are mildly irritated and frustrated. In this case, read the scene and look for other clues to their mood. If they’re not playing or stalking something, then the twitching tail movement probably means that they are annoyed.

Swishing Tails

When your cat slowly swishes their tail from side to side, they may be intently focused on something like a toy, another animal in the home, or something outside. They may be about to pounce. Predatory behaviour is normal for your cat, so let them continue to engage in whatever is captivating their attention.

Wrapping their Tail around you

Just as we greet one another with handshakes or hugs, cats may greet by curling their tails around people and by intertwining their tails with other cats. Tail wrapping is a behaviour that demonstrates a willingness to interact.

Tail straight up

When a cat’s tail is upright, they are feeling social and confident, and they are in a friendly mood towards you or other animals. It is also how kittens greet their mothers. If your cat approaches you with their tail up, this is a good time to interact with them.

Horizontal Tail

A relaxed horizontal tail carriage represents a relaxed cat. The tail may be in a slight U-shape. The general indication is cool, calm, collected. Overall, both body and tail should appear loose and casual.

A low horizontal tail indicates an uneasy, unhappy kitty who feels fearful and prefers to be left alone, please. Respect the wish. An attempt to socialize could result in an aggressive flareup.


Tail wrapped around their body

Cats often sit or sleep with their tail wrapped around their paws or body. This generally means the cat is relaxed but has activated the “Do Not Disturb” sign. It’s important to note the full body cues to determine if the cat wishes alone time or feels anxious. As levels of fear, anxiety, and stress increase, the tail moves closer and tighter to the body. In milder signs of fear, anxiety, and stress, the tail tip may flick slightly.

Tucked Tail

A tucked tail is a universal sign that the cat feels overwhelmingly threatened by something in the surroundings.



Fluffed up Tail

If your cat assumes the Halloween-cat posture with a puffed tail and arched back, then they are startled or frightened by a sudden, severe threat, e.g. dogs approaching, other cats, or sudden noises. They do this, so that they can appear to be larger. This is a defensive reaction indicating that your cat wishes to be left alone.


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The information contained in this website is not intended to replace guidance from your veterinarian. Bowen Therapy and Homeopathy are complementary to veterinary treatment and the general care of the animal.