Popular Posts

Why does my cat wag his/her tail?

Monday, July 23, 2012

When it comes to tail wags, cats and dogs are polar opposites! We all recognize a dog wagging his tail as a sign of happiness, and it’s easy to assume that the same would go for cats. WRONG. You know cats—nothing can ever be that simple!

This kitty is happy and confident.
Photo credit: petdental.com
Cats tell us a lot about how they’re feeling by their tail. This “tail language”, once deciphered, is a vital way your cat can communicate with you. For example, a tail raised high is a sign that a cat is happy and confident. A tail hanging low (and usually accompanying wide eyes and a crouching body posture) is a sign that a cat is nervous, scared, or in distress.

Sometimes you may notice that your cat is flicking the tip of his tail ever-so-slightly. This is generally a simple acknowledgment of stimuli in the room such as you talking to him. The cat is signaling that they’re still awake and aware of their surroundings.

When the tail begins to flick back and forth more noticeably, this is usually a warning sign from the cat that they are on-guard. You may see this behavior when the cat is a safe distance from a perceived threat (like young children), signaling “I know you’re there, and you probably shouldn’t come any closer.” It can also be seen during playtime or when your cat is watching the birds out the window, indicating the cat is on the hunt for prey. You may also notice heavier tail flicking when you’re petting your cat. At this point, your cat is politely letting you know that she is beginning to get a little irritated with you, so you may want to scale back a bit and give kitty some space.

A good old-fashioned kitty standoff
Photo credit: crazyauntpurl.com
If tail flicking escalates to tail wagging, your cat is trying to give you a very clear signal: “Knock it off, and get away from me!” The tail may whomp audibly back and forth. If your cat begins to rapidly wag its tail rapidly from the base while you are petting him, stop immediately. If you don’t, there is a high likelihood you’re about to get bit! You may see tail wagging accompanied with the cat flattening its ears onto its head; the cat is taking an aggressive stance. Never approach a cat displaying this posture, as they are likely to attack at the drop of a hat. If you see your cat displaying this posture towards another cat or pet, it is natural to want to step in between and “break it up.” Do this, and you may wish you hadn’t! Use something neutral like a pillow or towel to put between, if you absolutely must diffuse the situation. If two cats are posturing to each other in this manner, it’s usually just that…posturing. The posturing may be followed by a little paw boxing and growling, but frequently one cat will back down and walk away. In a multi-cat household, cats must constantly reinforce the feline hierarchy. Unfortunately, this means there are bound to be altercations now and again. It’s usually not necessary to break it up, but if a cat is at risk for injury you might have to.

Sometimes while your cat is being pet or just laying next to you, you may see her tail leisurely and slowly moving from side to side. This is a sign that your cat is relaxed and content. If the pace of the tail movement begins to pick up to a more irritated pace, back off. Cats are fickle creatures, and relaxed contentment can move to irritation fairly quickly. Get to know your cat’s tail signals, and you’ll be able to tell for certain when she’s had enough! Just like people, every cat has a unique personality and varying degrees of patience and tolerance. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to how much petting is too much petting, or which areas of the body are off-limits for petting. Learning where your cat’s limits are and reading body language will go a long way in building a mutual respect and trust between you and your cat.  

See also: Why does my cat roll over, then bite me when I pet his/her belly?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Follow Me

Facebook Twitter G+

Got a tip?

If you know of an upcoming event, a cool product, a new pet supply shop, etc. in the Madison, WI area, please let me know!

Pet Jobs