Facts about the animal kingdom

Why Does a Cat Wag Its Tail?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. August 5, 2020
Why Does a Cat Wag Its Tail?

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Understanding feline behaviour can help us create a better bond with our cat as we learn to understand their type of communication. Cats communicate with a number of different movements. They use their ears, paws, and even their tails.

In this AnimalWised article we're going to talk about why a cat wags their tail, cat tail movement and their meaning. Continue reading to learn more!

You may also be interested in: Why Does My Cat's Tail Vibrate?
  1. Why cats wag their tail
  2. Cat tail movements and their meaning
  3. Abnormal tail movement in cats

Why cats wag their tail

Cats wag their tail to communicate certain emotions. Unlike dogs, these emotions are usually that they're upset, although not always the case. They can mean that they want attention, that they're scared or even that they are hunting something down. It'll depend on the context and the exact tail movement.

Recognising our cat's emotions can help us provide them with their needs and desires for a happier and healthier life. This is why it's very useful to be able to read our cat's body language and understand their form of communication.

To learn more, we encourage you to also read our complete guide to understanding cat behavior.

Cat tail movements and their meaning

There are many ways a cat will express themselves using their tail. We're going to talk about the most common cat tail movements and their meaning:

Tail hair is on its end

This means that your cat is scared. This may be accompanied by their ears going back and them backing up or trying to escape the scene. This can occur if you've creeped up on them without them noticing or if another cat playfully attacks them. Their hair will go straight up, they may even jump into the air, and then they'll flee the scene. Don't worry, they will relax and come back soon after! Try to find out what scared them and call them back when everything is more calm.

Tail is straight up

This means that they're happy to see you. Cats may often run up to their caregivers with their tail fully erect and pass by their legs to welcome them back home or to get attention from them. This can also occur when you're preparing their food. They will pass by your legs, giving you affection with their tail straight up. They may also meow to try to get your attention. If you see your cat acting like this, try petting them or talking to them.

Tail is low and wagging from side to side

This means that your cat is very annoyed and wants to be left alone. Sometimes cats do this when we tell them off for breaking something or when we pick them up when they were relaxing. Other times, they will wag their tail when playing with you or another cat. This doesn't mean that they are necessarily angry but, perhaps, just frustrated because they can't catch the toy. Be careful, as sometimes after this cat tail movement, they may want to attack. If they seem irritated, it's best to give them some space and time. They'll get over it quickly and come back with a calm attitude.

Tail is up with a little curl

This means that your cat is relaxed and feeling friendly. This may be towards a new human or new cat they're meeting. In the photo below you can see this tail movement as the young cat is greeting the other cat. This shows that they are relaxed and happy. It'll show the other cat that they come in peace and in a friendly matter, helping the other cat feel safe, relaxed and loved. Your cat will often greet you the same way. Learn more in our article about how to know if your cat trusts you.

Why Does a Cat Wag Its Tail? - Cat tail movements and their meaning

Tail is relaxed and not all the way up

This means they're curious or interested in something. This may be accompanied by their eyes widening up while observing something. This can happen when you present your cat with a new toy or when they're outside and spot an insect they haven't seen before, etc. Your cat will relax their tail and widen their eyes, they may also slowly move closer to what interests them. If you catch your cat staring at you, learn what it means in our article about why your cat is staring at you.

Tail is erect and quivering or vibrating

This means that they're very happy or excited. They may greet you this way or react like this to another cat. This is a very friendly sign. It can be accompanied by relaxed eyes and purring or soft meows. Many times cats meow more at their caregivers, unlike with other cats, because they know we communicate with them verbally and so, they try to do the same by meowing at us.

Tail is relaxed and low

This means that they are worried. You may also see their eyes observe something closely, they may also meow. They may be worried about you, another animal or themselves. Try to observe the situation and come to a conclusion as to why they may be feeling worried. You can also try to comfort them by petting them or speaking to them in a soft voice.

Tail is fully up and its hair is on its end

This means that your cat is very angry. Cats will do this when frightened or very angry to threaten the other animal. Their hair will stand on it's end, their tail will be fully erect and they will also elevate themselves to appear bigger and more threatening. In this case, they're warning the animal to back away or they will attack. Learn more in our article about how to calm down an aggressive cat.

Why Does a Cat Wag Its Tail? -

Abnormal tail movement in cats

If your cat has any abnormal tail movements, such as lying down while their tail is low and wagging, it's best to contact your local veterinarian as this may indicate that they are feeling unwell. In other words, abnormal tail movements can indicate that your cat is experiencing a health issue.

When you observe abnormal tail movements, try to pay attention to any other symptoms your cat may be experiencing. This may include loss of appetite, low energy levels, etc. If you notice that they are acting differently than normal, you'll need to take them to the veterinarian for a check-up.

It's always best to take them as soon as you notice any abnormalities as a vet can examine and diagnose your cat before the illness gets serious. Being able to recognise our cats emotions and understand their way of communicating with us is essential to keeping them safe, happy and healthy.

Learn more about understanding cat's tail movements and overall cat behavior with our Youtube video below. We'll explain the meaning of common cat behavior so that you can create a greater bond with your cat!

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does a Cat Wag Its Tail?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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Why Does a Cat Wag Its Tail?