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Felinexpress.com Home > Cat Behavior > Tail Talk

Tail Talk

A cat’s tail is a good indication of telling what kind of mood your cat is currently  in.  If you live in a multi-cat household, just sitting among your cats on the floor, observing them during playtime and feeding time will give you an idea of how social or anti-social your group is.  When you bring a new kitten or cat into the home, gauging the mood by watching the tail, you will be able to tell when the prime time arrives to make full introductions:

Upright, slight curve at the tip, tail waving back and forth slowly:
Your cat is indifferent. He is going about his day, without a care in the world. In other words, he is mellow.

Tail raised in the air as the cat rubs himself alongside another cat:
This is a typical cat greeting. Cats have sensors all along their back and these sensors are engaged when this rubbing activity is going on.

They are also swapping their scent, accepting of each other. Many times when you are opening cat food for mealtimes, your cat will swipe himself alongside your leg. He would do the same thing with his mom-cat when she is presenting prey (food) to him when he is weaning.

Back arched tail up at full -mast and quivering.
Watch out! This cat is ready to spray!

Yes, even neutered males, spayed females and 6 month old kittens can and do spray. Fully intact males and females are notorious for spraying. Unaltered male cat pee is extremely foul-smelling. Nature makes it this way to help lure in females that are in heat and scare away other tomcats that also want to mate with the females. 

When the female pulls her tail off to the side and lowers it to the ground:
She is signaling to the toms that she is ready to be mounted. She will duck her head in submission waiting. Once the tomcat mounts her, he will grab her neck in his mouth and bite down, pulling her head up, making her back further into him.

Flicking tail:
This motion can indicate your cat is irritated. If the tail is flicking while the cat is resting, the tail is being used as a sensor to feel for any presence behind him. 

While the cat is sleeping, the paws and tails will also flick from time to time.

Cat is at rest, and his tail is wrapped around his body unmoving:
He is contented and happy. Maine Coon cats have such long tails that they use their tail to keep warm when the weather turns colder.

Chasing the tail:

This is common kitten and young adult play.  The tail is raised and the hair is fluffed up. Prey instinct is engaged, because the tail moves, therefore it must be a mouse! 
If your cat is chasing his tail and won’t quit, you might want to investigate a disorder called Feline Hyperesthesia- compulsive tail chasing and running in circles repeatedly are two symptoms of this baffling disorder.

Tail biting:
Tail biting can be a result of a flea infestation, a sign of pain or early signs of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). If your cat is repeatedly biting at his tail, please contact your vet quickly.  Tail wounds are sometimes slow to heal and bacterial infections in deep bite wounds can occur.

Combat Signals:
When cats are getting ready to do battle, their tails tell a tale.  A fully aggressive cat prior to attack will be puffed up from the head to the tail. This is an attempt for him to look larger than life and intimidate the aggressor.  The tail is held low to the ground, and once he launches, he tucks his tail protectively between his rear legs. This is why many cat bites appear right at the base of the rump. The tail would be an easy “mark” to hold onto, so the cat instinctively tries to protect himself by keeping it low.

If the cats go airborne, as they often do in battle, the tail is used as a rudder to direct the action of the body. Once the cat is locked in battle in the air or on the ground, the tail again is lowered into the protective position.  Any time the cat stands with his butt in the air and his tail held low, this cat is ready to do battle and should not be approached.

A cat’s weapons of war are fully engaged when the cat is on his back.  Claws and teeth at the ready, the tail is held, not protectively between the legs but spread out flat on the floor.

The attack will come from the rear when the aggressor targets the neck or belly. The cat instinctively knows and protects the tail which is quite fragile because ten percent of the bones found in cats are located in the tail. Thus, the cat keeps the tail out of the way of injury.

  1. Korat
  2. Balinese
  3. Javanese
  4. Japanese Bobtail
  5. Somali
  6. Abyssinian
  7. Turkish Van
  8. Siamese
  9. Egyptian Mau
  10. Oriental Shorthair
  11. Tonkinese
  12. Bengal
  13. Norwegian Forest Cat
  14. Cornish Rex
  15. Siberian

More cat breeds

Persian Cats

Persian cats prefer staying relatively quiet. They are docile, loving cats.


Ragdoll cats prefer to stay low to the ground, rather than in high places


Ragamuffins are calm and can handle most types of child’s play