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Breaking Down the Cattitude: What Your Cat's Tail is Telling You

28 Sep 2021 | Written by Tori Holmes

Cats have a reputation for being unpredictable and difficult to read, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, cats are very expressive creatures but the way they show their feelings is more subtle than their canine counterparts – especially when it comes to their tails. This means that people often miss, or misunderstand, what cats are trying to tell them.

To help you better understand what your cat’s tail is communicating, we’ve put together a short guide.

The basics of cat body language

Cats communicate their thoughts and feelings with us in four ways: their eyes, their ears, their body, and their tail. Even if you’ve never owned a cat, you’re probably familiar with at least some of the ways that they communicate through body language – especially when it comes to negative emotions. For instance, the “Halloween cat” arched back means a cat is scared, ears pinned back to their head means they’re unhappy, wide eyes and dilated pupils means that they’re very focused on something.

What helps with understanding the body language listed above, is the fact that much of it overlaps with other animals’ body language, such as dogs. When a dog is unhappy it pins its ears back and when they’re focused on something their pupils tend to dilate.

Things get a bit more complicated when it comes to a cat’s tail, however. If we were to assume that this is just another limb that uses similar body language to dogs, then we would think that a cat with a wagging tail is happy. But in reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

What is my cat’s tail trying to tell me?

Your cat’s tail is one of their most expressive body parts, so it should be the first place you look when trying to determine how they feel. Let’s take a look at what your cat’s tail will do when they’re feeling the following emotions:

To fully understand how your cat is feeling you’ll want to look at the ‘bigger picture’ – including the rest of your cat’s body language and their current environment – but as you can see their tail is a great overall indicator of their feelings.

What can I do if my cat’s tail is telling me something is wrong?

Based on what we’ve learned about our cat’s tail, you should be able to quickly identify if they’re trying to tell you something is wrong. If you notice them holding their tail in a down and tucked or up and flicking motion, then the first thing you should do is assess the environment. Is there something nearby that could be upsetting them, such as another animal or unfamiliar object? If this is the case, try and remove the culprit from your cat’s immediate area.

If this isn’t possible – say they’re startled by an unfamiliar piece of furniture – then try and redirect your cat’s attention away from the object. Use their favorite toy, treat, or Freshpet recipe as a way to distract them and refocus their attention on something positive and slowly move them away from whatever is scaring them. Just be careful about picking them up as a way of removing them from the situation, as they may find it overwhelming and lash out.

In both of these situations, your cat’s tail should return to a relaxed and happy position when the upsetting object is removed. If you notice that your cat’s tail is flicking or showing another upset body language on an ongoing basis, schedule a call with your vet as this could be a sign of injury or illness.

We hope that this article helped you to break down the cattitude and better understand what your cat’s tail is telling you!

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