It’s easy to tell when dogs are happy – they wag their tails. A cat’s tail is just as expressive as a dog’s, but for many, deciphering “cat tail language” isn’t always easy.

Although understanding cat body language may not come as naturally as it does with dogs (we can thank 14,000 years of coevolution for this insight), it’s important that all cat owners be aware of what their kitty is trying to tell them. The Pet Experts invite you to join us as we dive into the incredible world of your cat’s tail!

Cat Tail Language

A cat’s tail can assume many different positions, and there are nuanced meanings behind each one. Fortunately, years of work by dedicated animal behaviorists have led to this detailed rundown:

  • Tail held straight up – This is a sure sign your cat is happy and confident. Use this time for some snuggles!
  • Held high and curved (like a question mark) – This cat is not only happy and confident, but also curious. They’re probably ready for some type of interaction.
  • Tail between the legs or against the body – Much like with dogs, this is a sign of fear or extreme submission in cats. However, this doesn’t mean they won’t attack, especially if a tail in this position is accompanied by hissing, growling, or yowling.
  • Fur on tail bristled (like a bottlebrush) – Fur that’s standing on end indicates aggression. This is a signal your cat is about to attack.
  • Tail lashing back and forth – Cats tend to move their tails this way when they’re getting angry; it serves as a warning for other animals to “back off.” Thumping their tail against the ground usually precedes an attack. Unfortunately, dogs may interpret this as a sign of friendliness, which could lead to trouble.
  • Tip of tail quivering or “wagging” – This is an indication your cat is alert and interested.
  • Swaying slowly from side to side – This indicates intense focus. You may notice this tail movement when your cat is about to pounce on an unsuspecting toy.
  • Curled around a human or other animal’s legs – This is a classic sign of love and affection!

Your Cat’s Tail Deserves Respect

In so many cases, behavioral problems stem from simple miscommunication. Understanding what your cat’s tail is trying to tell you can help form the basis for a healthy, fulfilling relationship with your feline friend.

Please don’t hesitate to contact the staff at Wheaton Animal Hospital with any questions or concerns about your cat. We’re always here for you!