Cats…they can be our best friend and cuddle buddy, window greeters, palmetto bug catchers, head warmers while sleeping and circus masters. I am sure all of us who have owned cats have stories to tell about their unique personalities. They are great companions for those who can’t provide endless attention, work long hours or are looking for a family pet that are typically safe to have around children, family and friends. What more could we ask for from them? If I had to ask one thing from them it would be that they are clearer on their emotions. Cats emotions are shown through their tails and with many different signals it can be unclear for people to read. Knowing the correct emotion can save you from getting scratched or your foot attacked because they are feeling spicy or playful.
8 Emotions of a Cat’s Tail
High Tail: A cat with their tail held high indicates that they are feeling like they are the king or queen and very confident in themselves. If they greet you in this fashion then they are saying hello in a friendly manner. Quick small twitches of the top of the tail can indicate a spur of great happiness. These signals are compared to us by walking straight with our heads high, smiling widely or making a small jump in excitement.
Curved like a ?: Play time! Your cat is in a playful mood and is searching for some fun. This is a great time to bring out some string or catnip toy and play with them. Think of this time as a little child running to their toys and wanting you to play with them. This is a great opportunity for bonding as well as helping your cat stay in shape.
Straight down: Danger, Danger! Back away from the cat if their tail is straight down. They are in an aggressive mode and will attack if they feel the need to. Although cat scratches and bites aren’t as deep as a dog they can be extremely harmful and cause a wider span of inflictions on the body. Try to envision someone who is red in the face, face scrunched up and very tense. We give people time to cool off when in these moods and cats need it as well.
Tail Tucked: If your cat has their tail tucked directly underneath their body between their hind legs then they are nervous about something in the environment around them. This could lead to them becoming aggressive or fleeing. In humans we represent this behavior by freezing in our spot and not moving until we must fight or flight.
Pipe cleaner upwards: “Don’t mess with me I am bigger then I look.” When cats puff their tails out they are agitated and frightened and not willing to back down. Making themselves look bigger and more dangerous is the hope they will fend off what is upsetting them. I know if one of my cats did this I would be backing away quickly just like if someone is puffing their chest out and looking mean.
Whipping tail: Back and forth quick whipping motions of the tail I like the compare to someone doing this to their foot. It indicates fear and aggression at the same time and most often will lead to a cat scratching or biting at you if you try to touch them. Best to just leave them be when in these moods. Don’t worry they will snap out of it and aren’t intentionally setting out to hurt you.
Swishing tail while focused: Oh boy, watch those feet! My in-law’s cat does this with feet. Let’s get into a pounce position, next swish the tail, now pounce. Your cat may be pouncing at a palmetto bug, a toy, piece of kibble or in my family it is usually the twins pouncing on each other. Don’t tell me as a kid you never just pounced on your parents, sibling or friends. We know we all have at some point, ha-ha.
Sibling Love: Cats show just as much affection towards other cats as we do to our friends and siblings. Wrapping a tail around each other is the same as us putting an arm around someone else. Sure, we may all fight sometimes but we love each other at the end of the day.
As we have learned cats are very similar to us when it comes to showing forms of emotions. They experience both good and bad days, fear and excitement, fight or flight and love. Being able to understand what they are convoying to us will help build strong relationships, affection and provide them with a long and happy life. It is important to understand that some breeds of cats carry their tails in what may be perceived as an aggressive manner but is in fact a happy manner. Research and ask your veterinarian about your cat’s breed so you can determine if they may fall into this category. As we end many of our blogs with this saying as it stands true- happy pet, happy owner, happy life.