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Cat Body Language: What Their Tail Is Telling You

August 18, 2021

Like dogs, cats use their tails to express their emotions. But unlike dogs that are easy to read, in cat body language, the tail movements have a lot of different meanings. 

For example, tail wagging may mean happiness for dogs  and while it can mean the same with cats, it can also mean differently depending on the pace and the way cats wag their tail. 

By knowing your cat’s tail movements, you will know how to approach them. You can understand the meaning behind these tail movements to learn if they are happy, scared, or sad. You can also plot your strategy, whether to greet your cat or to run for cover. 

Here are some of the cat’s tail movements you have to watch out for as fur parents. 

cat body language tail
Cats are emotional beings. In cat body language, the tail movements are the giveaway. Learn how to read your cat’s tail movements to address its needs.

Cat Body Language: Tail Movements Meaning

Tail Hair Standing Up

If you see that the hair in your cat’s tail is erect, it means that your cat is in defensive mode or scared. Along with the hair on the tail, the hair on your cat’s back may also be standing up to make themselves appear larger to attempt to scare what they deem as a threat. 

If your cat does this, understand that it is not a sign of aggression. Cats do this out of fear. What you can do is to help your cats relax, and leave them while they are venting their frustrations out on a scratcher

Wagging Tail

A wagging tail can have different meanings. It may be a sign of happiness, playfulness, concentration, or pain.

When your cat is happy, along with a wagging tail upright, you will see them rubbing its head (allorubbing) on you. 

If it’s being playful, you will see that the tail wags are subtle and moving side to side. You will see your cats doing it when they are playing with their toys. Take this opportunity to grab an interactive cat toy and bond with your cats. 

However, quick tics from side to side may indicate that your cat is concentrating. It might have seen a potential prey, which is why it watches intently. But if you see that this movement changes to twitching and curving between the legs, it is best to go away and save yourself. 

It means that your cat is starting to feel aggressive. It might start to feel frustrated if it cannot catch its prey out the window, and may vent it out to you.

If your cat’s tail is wagging and twitching while it’s lying down, it may be a sign that your cat is in pain. It’s time to go to a veterinarian and have your cat checked. 

Tails Extended and Pointing Upwards

It is a clear way that your cat wants to say hello. Allorubbing usually follows. It indicates that it’s time for your cat to exchange scent with you. 

Base of the Tail Arching Upward and Then Curving Towards Between the Legs

It means that something pisses your cat off and it is being aggressive. One potential reason is if it feels frustrated about not catching a prey out the window or if it doesn’t win its catty fight. 

If you see your cat’s tail in this posture, run for cover if it’s not yet late. It means that it’s in attack mode. 


Some people dislike cats because of its snobbish stereotype. However, this stereotype is wrong because cats are emotional creatures. 

Even though they do not pant, drool, or jump out of joy like dogs when they meet you, they can still express different emotions. In cat body language, the tail movements can give away what they feel. 

If you know how to read them, you will know when is the best time for petting and cuddles. You will also know when to run and leave it alone. Whatever it feels, it is best if you have something ready that will allow your cat to vent out its emotions. 

Having scratchers and cat toys, like the ones you can find in our shop, ready will let your cat release its stress and pent up emotions. #catthings #catclawing #catstuff #catscratchers

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