Tail Talk: How to Better Understand What Your Cat is Telling You
By: Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCW (Ret)
Have you ever wanted to be able read your cat’s mind? Yearning to know about what she is feeling or thinking? Without a doubt many cat lovers have had this experience and often scratch their heads in wonderment; pondering upon what could be on their kitty’s mind.
In fact, cats are truly amazing communicators. Felines have inordinately unique methods by which they communicate to us with their vocalizations, by rubbing up against us, and expressing their feelings with their remarkable tails.
Unless you are owned by a tailless cat, such as a Manx, your cat’s tail is one of her most incredible features. When your kitty is sleeping, or sitting, you will notice that, very often, she will curl her tail around her body, or when she is walking her tail floats behind her. By just becoming fluent in feline tail language, you can learn a great deal about your cat’s mood and what is on her mind. Unlike canines, where tail wagging is generally a sign of pleasure and delight, depending on how the cat is wagging her tail can express a wide variety of their emotions.
When a cat wags her tail broadly, even whopping it, this is a definite sign that the kitty is annoyed. So when you are having a delightful petting session that both of you are enjoying and all of a sudden she starts swishing the tip of her tail from side-to-side or up and down, this is a signal that she is feeling overstimulated. If the owner disregards this tail message, then the kitty will make her point by following up with a paw swat, or a nip on the hand.
If her agitation has increased, her tail will wag rapidly back and forth from the base. On the other paw, when she is waving her tail slowly and softly back and forth, then she is telling her owner that she is happy and relaxed. And when she is resting or napping lightly, and the owner calls her name, she may respond with a little flick of her tail which tells the owner that she is content and is feeling safe.
A tail held high vertically is a sign of pure joy. And if that tail quivers from the base up, she is very happy and even excited. But if that tail is tucked between the legs, this is a sign that kitty is either trying to avoid a confrontation or that she is frightened about something.
Since understanding tail language is an essential part of kitty keeping, being able to translate all the subtle and not so subtle nuances that even the slightest motion of the tail is crucial in understanding your cat. While a tail pointed up in the air is a very positive message, just a small droop on the tip of the tail can be translated as “I am happy, but I something has me wondering.”
But watch out if a cat’s tail is humped and resembles a bottle-brush. This tail communication tells us that the cat is extremely frightened and/or defensive. If the cat is feeling threatened, then she may be getting into attack mode. When the tail is bristled and standing straight up, along with ears being laid flat against the head, then the cat is ready to attack. Definitely give this frightened, angry kitty plenty of space.
But when her tail starts bristling from the tip, rather than the base, with the bristle spreading downwards - go figure, this means the cat is ecstatically happy. Therefore, when they are bushy tailed we should be very happy too!
Speaking again about tailless kitties however, what piques my interest is if the “rumpy” Manx and the Japanese Bobtail possibly may become frustrated without being able to use their tails to communicate.
What do you think? Tell us in a comment.
Photo credit: Flickr User:Julie