This is how your cat communicates with its tail: did you know that they signal in a very different way than dogs?

Ferenczi Deborah

2023. June 23 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

Cats express themselves in a wide variety of ways, as they use a broad range of body language. However, it is not necessarily easy to decipher what they want, because the cat's metacommunication can be confusing to inexperienced owners or even experineced ones. Below we have collected how much the tail can tell you in certain situations.


According to scientists, the ancestors of domesticated cats mostly communicated with scents. However, as they got closer and closer to each other and to humans, they also learned to communicate with visual signals. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most expressive is the animals’s tail. Here is in details how a cat uses its tail for communication.

Upright tail

To help them understand cat tail language, a researcher at the University of Southampton showed kittens life-size figures of cats. The tails of the figures were shown in various positions to the “audience”. This is how they investigated exactly how cats react to different tail position. The easiest metacommunication to interpret was the upright tail, which was slightly in the form of a question mark. This means that the animal is approaching with friendship, or can be a sign of its welcome. It is a clear marfk of trust and love. The experiment also found that the cats regularly reciprocates this signal.

Wagging tail

Unlike dogs, when a cat wags its tail, it never means good; it reveals that they are stressed or nervous. The stronger and more dynamic the movement of the cat’s tail, the more intense emotions it shows. So, if the cat’s tail is constantly moving quickly from one side to side, it may be better to leave the animal alone, because it can be quite tense.

When it swings at you

When the cat suddenly raises its tail and tries to sway you, it is very likely that you have upset it while playing or doing other activities. In such cases, even the hunting instinct, frustration and anger can come to life, which it tries to convey to you.

The tail moving on the ground

On the other hand, a tail moving gently on the ground indicates that the cat is not tense at all, rather a bit indecisive. In this case, the animal is quite peaceful.

When they curl it up next to them while they sleep

If the cat does not want any interaction, it wraps its tail close to itself. This shows that it mostly want to be alone, maybe to rest, and you should avoid any interactions.

The tail says: Please, do not disturb!

When their tail tucked under them

If the cat tucks its tail under itself, it can also indicate fear. This is especially true if they are sending signs that they are afraid or uncomfortable.

While a cat’s tail is an excellent clue to what’s going on in a cat’s head, it’s important to remember that just “reading” the tail is like picking out a person’s speech word by word. So, although it provides a significant clue, it does not necessarily mean that we can only interpret the animal’s behavior based on this. In order to do this, when you notice on its tail that it wants to “say” to you something, you should always observe its entire body language.

cat body language cat tails Life metacommunication tail

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