What Does the Position and Movement of a Cat Tail Meaning?

cat tail

A well-known biologist once said: “Dogs speak German, but cats speak French.” By this, he meant that cats have a subtle language. A dog clearly shows how it feels and what it thinks of something. A dog does this by growling, barking, jumping, playing, or wagging. A cat does this in a much more subtle way. To understand cats, you have to do your best. In this post, you can read about what a cat tail meaning, how a cat communicates, and how it mainly communicates with its tail.

The position and movement of a cat tail have different meanings. Each position tells something about the behavior and feelings of your cat. A cat’s tail helps to balance and serve as a counterbalance when a cat walks on narrow spaces such as shelves or fences. The tail is using for communication, but also as a balancing organ.

In this post, you are dive into understanding the cat tail language. You can read about what the movements and positions of your cat tail meaning. Also, you learn how a cat communicates and how it primarily communicates with its tail.

Listen to cat language

People who say that cats are difficult to understand and gauge have no idea. The eyes, ears, posture, and especially the tail of the cat show exactly what it thinks and how it feels. You can understand a cat well when you listen and look at the language of the cat.

Understanding how cats communicate isn’t something naturally to humans because cats are such different animals from us. It is important that cat owners take the time to learn to understand how cats communicate. It helps people to understand them better.

Once you know the cat’s body language, you can read the emotions, identify situations that the cat is experiencing, see what makes your cat happy, and even identify an illness earlier.

Cat tail

The tail is using for communication, but also as a balancing organ. If the cat goes hunting it keeps its tail tightly back, the cat needs the tail to balance until the final attack.

If the cat makes small pulling movements with the tail, this indicates the intense concentration when the cat drives its prey into a corner. But the tail is especially important as a communication tool for contacts with other cats or people.

The tail has many movements, up and down, back and forth, and varying from a graceful, slow swing to a wild swing. The tail can change position in different ways. Every position of the tail means something else.

Cat tail basics

Thankfully there is exhaustive research to help guide pet owners to understand the finer points of cat tail language.

Cat tails can move quickly or slowly. A lashing or flicking tail is a signal that the cat is agitated, while a slowly waving tail indicates the cat is focusing on something.

If a cat has a tail-up posture, so the tail is straight up with a slight curve at the end, that is a signal that the cat is approaching amicably. This posture, seen with cats, is a common way that cats greet their humans.

Cats may curve their tail around people they are bonded to and may intertwine their tails with other cats they’re bonding to. This is called an affiliative behavior.

Also, cats can tuck their tails under or next to their body when they are feeling frightening. At the same time, they have often bowed their heads down. This behavior you can also see when cats are feeling pain.

Learning the cat tail language is like learning a foreign language. It takes time to learn it. If the cat tail signs are new for you, you can be confused by what various tail positions and movements mean.

tail of a black cat

Petting your cat

Most cats don’t like it when they are petting around the base of the tail, the area of the tail, or the tail itself. Focus all petting and scratching around the chin and ears, your cat likes this.

If you are petting your cat and the tail starts to shake or lash, your cat’s ears are turning back, or your cat is leaning forward, with these signals your cat wants to say it’s done with the attention of petting.

Cats are sharing pretty clear messages about how they’re feeling at any given moment with one of their most expressive body parts. If you know more about the cat tail language, it is bringing you and your cat companion’s relationship to greater happiness and understanding.

Position and movement of a cat tail explained

  • An upright or vertical tail
    Confidence, happiness, and contentment. When your cat holds the tail upright when it moves about the territory, it’s expressing confidence and contentment. The tip of the erect tail with a little twitch can mean that your cat has a particularly happy moment. If your cat does the tail vibrate when it sees you, that means it is happy and content to see you.
  • Curled like a question mark
    This means that your cat is in a friendly mood. If your cat has a curve in the tail, that means that your cat wants to play. Your cat has a playful mood, and it’s ready to share some fun with you. To give a short reaction, you can offer your hand for sniffing and petting.
  • Low tail
    A tail that is positioning straight down can be a signal of aggression. Your cat is feeling agitated and aggressive. A lower tail is a serious mood by cats. Certain breeds, such as Persians, tend to have their tails low for no particular reason. Don’t try to pet your cat. Try to find out why your cat feels so aggressive.

    Do not mistake; the low flick can also be indicative of a focused cat that is ready to pounce, and this position is often using when a cat tries to catch an airborne prey.
  • Curved beneath the body
    Nervous and or submissive. A tail that is curving beneath the cat body gives signals of fear or submission. Something makes your cat nervous. It would be best if you reacted nonchalantly. Wait when your cat comes to you.
  • The fluffy puffed up
    A puffed up tail means that your cat is scared, agitated and angry. Your cat is confronting by another animal or anything a cat considers to be a danger.

    The fluffed tail, particularly combining with an arched back, is used in response to a threat and is using to make the cat look bigger and scarier to its enemies.

    When you see this behavior by your cat, you react the best to leave your cat alone.
  • Whipping tail
    A whipping tail that slaps back and forth rapidly means that your cat is, angry, and aggressive. You can consider this movement with the tail as a warning to stay away.

    Don’t try to pet your cat or give it attention. Leave your cat alone when it is angry. Your cat will come to you again if it wants attention
  • Side to side
    A swishing tail that sways slowly from side to side usually means that your cat is focusing on an object. You often see this tail position when your cat is eating or concentrating on a toy. When you see this behavior, the best reaction is to let your cat follow the interests.
  • Wrapped tail
    Cats often wrap their tails around an owner’s arm or leg to show affection. But head butting is often also given to show affection. For example, if your cat’s tail is wrapping around your arm, leg, or ankle, it wants to show an open sign of love.

    If the tail of the cat is wrapping in the tail of another cat, this is the same as if you put your arm around someone. It is a sign of friendship and love.

Facts about a cat’s tail

Tail injuries can cause permanent damage. The spinal cord doesn’t extend into the cat tail, but an injury can still cause serious nerve damage. The tail contains nerves that control and provide sensation to the tail, hind legs, bladder, large intestine, and anus. When nerve damage occurs, problems can arise. Nerve damage can heal after a long time, but can often also be permanent.

Cats can live without tails. Cats use their tail for balance. A cat with an amputated tail can quickly learn to compensate for the loss of the tail. Manx cats are born without tails and are not any less agile than their friends with a tail.

Wild cats keep their tails hidden between the legs or keep the tail horizontal. But Domestic cats are the only feline cats that can hold the tail in a vertical position when they are walking.

The tail of a cat has 19 to 23 vertebrae; this is about 10 percent of the total number of bones in the cat’s body. A large group of ligaments, tendons, and muscles hold the tail together and provide its fantastic mobility. The average cat tail length for a female is 9.9 inches and for a male 11 inches.

Cat tail or cattail?

If you are googling, you can type cat tail in two ways, cattail or cat tail. These two words have both a different meaning.

A cat tail is the tail of a cat, and it is a balancing tool. The tail acts as a counterweight when the cat is walking along narrow surfaces.


Cattail is a genus of about 30 species of flowering plants. These plants have a variety of common names, in British English as a bulrush, or wild corndog, in American English as a reed, cattail, or punks, in Australia as cumbungi or bulrush, in Canada as bulrush or cattail, and New Zealand as raupō.

The rhizomes are eatable. Evidence of preserved starch grains on grinding stones suggests it was already eaten in Europe 30,000 years ago.

cat tail


As you can read in this post, a cat has a lot of different positions and movements that it makes with the tail. To be able to understand this right, you need to know a little about what it all means. It is like to learn a new language. However, with tools, explanation, patience, and attention for your cat, the meaning of your cat’s tail becomes much clearer.

If you like this post, then you may want to look at some posts in the Cat life part, since this post is also part of it.

Hopefully, you have learned something about the position and movement of a cat tail. Also, when you know someone who likes to know more about What Does the Position and Movement of a Cat Tail Mean? Then feel free to share this post. Additionally, what colors does your cat’s tail have?

By Marleen

Marleen is a truly madly deeply cat lover and founder of That Is for My Cat. She wants to share her knowledge about cats with other people who like to know more about cats.

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