One of the most prominent parts of a cat’s body is its tail because of its mobility, graceful movements and the different positions that a cat can do with it. But did you know that cats can also use their tails to communicate with other animals and to us, humans? Just like how we communicate with other people using signs and gestures, cats can also use their tails as visual cues. If we observe our cats in different situations, we can tell its mood just by looking at the position of their tails. Some of the most common positions and explanations are listed below.
A fully erect and upright tail position is a cat’s way of saying hello to its owner. Notice when you go home and your cat sees you for the first time, its tail is usually upright which is a non-verbal way of saying that it is happy to see you. Also, when a cat’s tail is held high in the air, it is feeling excited and contented so you can also see this position during mealtime.
If a cat’s tail is upright but the tip is curled like a question mark, the cat is feeling relaxed and comfortable and that it is in a friendly or playful state. It is best to approach a cat when its tail is in this position because it represents approachability and neutrality. Oftentimes, when a cat approaches you with its tail curled up in the air, it is telling you that it wants to play or that it wants to have some head scratches.
A tucked-in tail or tail between the legs indicate fear or uncertainty in cats. Usually, when a cat is in a new environment such as in a vet’s office or if you are looking at cats in an animal shelter, you will see this stance. Positioning its tail between its legs is actually a refleive move for the cats to protect their tummy which is considered to be one of the most vulnerable parts of a cat’s body.
When a cat feels threatened or if it is ready to strike at something or someone which intimidates it, the cat’s tail becomes spiky and fluffy. Aside from the position of the tail, you can also tell that a cat is unsettled by its arched back. You should take extra caution if you are planning to approach the cat because it may be torn between offense and defense and may scratch you or even bite you.
During playtime, you may also see a cat’s tail move from side to side or in a swishing motion. They usually do that when they are focused on something such as a toy or an object that caught its interest. After the swishing motion of the tail, the cat is expected to pounce on the object that it has been eyeing. When outside, cats may also do this when they see an insect or a smaller animal that they may want to attack.
These are just some of the visual cues that cats may do with their tails to help us understand them better. However, it still needs to be distinguished that not all cats are alike. There are some tail positions and movements which may differ in meaning for each cat. It is still best to observe your cat and take note how their tails talk.