We’ve talked about the meaning of cat meows. This time, we will decode the feline wagging tail.
According to a veterinary medicine professor, Dr Carlo Siracusa, you should observe the cat’s body to interpret the tail wag correctly. Apparently, the tail serves as the ‘accent’ in feline body language.
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Here are the most frequently observed cat tail wags and what they mean.
Upright Tail Position
Usually, a high tail position is a positive sign. It is the equivalent of a hand held up to wave hello.
- If your cat has his tail up and curved forward at the tip, he is calm and is greeting you. A side-to-side motion whilst upright also conveys the same meaning, even a playful mood.
- If it is straight up but not taut, and it is wagging or twitching at the tip, he is in an attentive and happy mood.
- If there is a quivering or rattling motion in the upright tail, it means he is excited to see you or something.
- If it is rigidly upright with fur bristling, your cat is frightened or in an aggressive and defensive stance. More so if his back is arched. The bristling and erect tail makes them look bigger.
- If the upright tail tip is flicking back and forth, the kitty may be upset and does not want contact. This signal is considered a derisive one.
Level Tail Position
When the cat’s tail is in a horizontal position parallel to the ground, it means he is relaxed. This is a neutral tail position.
If the cat’s tail swishes from side to side with another cat, he may be inviting the other feline to engage with him. The same is true if he does this tail movement with you. However, if the ears are pulled back and down and the back fur is bristled, it’s a sign of aggression.
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Low Tail Position
The closer the tail is to the ground, the more negative the message. It usually is a defensive stance, with the cat ready to move at the slightest sign of threat.
- If the tail is curved or diagonally directed downwards, it means the cat is on a defensive mode.
- If the tail is in between the cat’s legs, the cat is in a submissive mode and may be upset.
- If the cat’s rear end is in a low position and his tail is swishing or trashing loudly, it’s a sign that he is irritable, angry, or excited. If his tail is doing this whilst concentrating on something, he is probably ready to pounce.
Tucked Tail Position
If the tail is neatly curled around your cat’s body, it means your cat is closing himself from interaction. He is detached and content to just observe his surroundings. This means you should not touch him.
Inverted U Position or ‘Horseshoe Tail’
This is a sign of defensive aggression and feistiness. This kind of tail position is observed in chased cats or those in a bout of feline ‘crazies’ or ‘zoomies.’
Wrapped Tail Position
If a cat wraps his tail with that of another feline, he is signifying their friendship. This is similar to humans putting their arms around another, as friends do.
If your kitty wraps his tail around your leg or arm, he is showing you affection. Whilst dogs may accidentally swish their tails against their humans, cats never do that unconsciously. When their tails touch you, it is done on purpose.
Cat Wagging Tail Whilst Purring
As mentioned in our previous piece on cat meowing, purring is a sign of contentment or happiness. It can also mean your feline companion is not well. If your cat’s tail is wagging in an upright position whilst purring, this most probably means that he is happy. However, if the tail is twitching whilst he is purring (and you are petting him), he may be too stimulated by your stroke. The stronger the twitching, the more he is stimulated by the petting. You must tone down your stroke so he relaxes.
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Cat Wagging Tail Whilst Lying Down
If your cat seems to be sleeping but his tail is tapping, he may be dreaming. It could also mean he is just relaxing but is actually monitoring something nearby.
If the cat has his eyes open but is lying down and thumping his tail on the floor, he is probably feeling agitated. This can happen when you are petting him with more pressure or on a rather sensitive part of his body.
Different tail wags carry different meanings, but one message rings true—your cat will engage with you on his own terms. That’s just how felines are!
If you find these tips enlightening, you may want to check out these helpful posts on pet behaviour. Don’t forget to share with other cat parents!