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The Mystery of the Cat’s Tail

Dog tails are pretty expressive. A wag usually says something like “OMG SO HAPPY. TREAT?!?” A tail that’s down or between the legs says the exact opposite. All in all, it’s a fairly easy language to read.

Cats, on the other paw, are much more mysterious. Their tails tell a variety of stories – and rarely does a “wag” indicate outright happiness.

Let’s shed some light on this mystery – but don’t tell your cat! You know how she loves to be an enigma.

Behold the wonder that is my tail.

Swish, and Flick

The Sweet Swish

When your cat swishes her tail so that it almost looks like a toy, this is a pretty good indication she wants to play. Many cats have feisty moods every now and then (don’t we all?), and this is a fair warning that you’re about to get playfully pounced.

The Ferocious Flick

A flick is a little different. This is when playtime becomes hunting. Is your cat sitting by the window, holding her tail low and stiff while giving a hard flick? Take a look at what she has her eye on. Chances are your fluffy little angel is planning the demise of a helpless bird… if you’d ever open that window.

The ultimate in body language technology.

Back Up!

The Poofy Tail

If you’ve ever seen a cat get spooked, chances are you’ve witnessed this interesting sight. Kind of like goose bumps on a person – only much furrier – cats will poof up when they’re afraid. You’ll know immediately by the tail, which is often upright and always has the hair standing on end. In kittens, this might look like a tiny bristle, but in adult cats with a lot of fur, your baby will look like a completely different creature! That’s likely the point; she’s trying to frighten off whatever spooked her in the first place.

The Roomba is alive!

Tail Affection

Not all cat tail movements are signs of impending doom. Cat body language is an intricate language, and of course there’s room for affection.


Some cats like to coil their tails around their family’s arms and legs. No, this isn’t the first stage of a death grip. It’s a friendly sign of affection. Think of it like “I appreciate you and want you to be close.” Aw.


You might see this happen when you first get home from work, or even when another friendly animal comes into the room. When your cat sticks her tail up in the air and vibrates it briefly, almost like a short quiver, this is similar to waving hello. Think of it like “Hi, there! I’ve had a good day. How about you?”

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