What Different Types of Cat Tail Wagging Means

Generally speaking, when someone thinks of wagging tails, they will think of a dog rather than a cat. After all, dogs are famous for wagging their tails as a sign of their happiness, whereas there is no similar popular understanding for cats. However, it is important to note that cats are perfectly capable of moving their tails in various ways, though interested individuals should never interpret them to mean the same things for cats and dogs. Here are some examples of what tail movements can mean in a cat:


A side-to-side swish can mean that the cat is unhappy. Slower swishes tend to suggest a milder sort of irritation, whereas faster swishes tend to mean a much stronger feeling of unhappiness. With that said, there are times when cats will swish their tails to show intense focus, whether that means they are looking at food or they are looking at prey. Due to this, context is very important to interpreting a cat’s tail movements in the correct manner.

Upwards Tail with Quiver

Generally speaking, when a cat has its tail pointed upwards, it is showing its confidence as well as its contentment with its circumstances. This is particularly true when the tail is showing small quivers as well, which suggests that the cat is in a playful mood that their owners would do well to pay attention to. Some people might see a resemblance between the movements of a cat’s tail and a rattlesnake’s tail in this regard, but it is important to remember that the two are very different animals with very different body language.

Slight Flick

If the cat makes a slight flick with their tail while they are comfortable, it is a sign that they are acknowledging the cat owner’s presence but don’t feel like moving around at that exact movement. On the whole, cat owners should actually see this as a pretty positive sign of their relationship with their cats. After all, while cats are predators, they are also prey out in the wild, meaning that they actually have pretty strong concealment instincts. If a cat is showing a slight flick of its tail, that suggests that it is pretty comfortable in the presence of the cat owner, so much so that it feels safe and secure enough to let down its guard.

Lowered Tail

A lowered tail tends to be a pretty bad sign for the cat’s state of mind. In some cases, a tail that is pointed straight down suggests that the cat is upset for some reason, so much so that it can be a sign of aggression. In contrast, if the tail is actually tucked away between the legs and beneath the body of the cat, that is a definite sign that the cat is scared because it is a sign of submission. Essentially, it means that the cat has no desire for conflict whatsoever, which is why it is doing its best to show that it is not a threat. However, if the tail is erect, the back is arched, and the ears are pulled back, the cat is still showing its fear, but it is also showing its intent to fight if it is pressed for whatever reason. On top of this, it should be noted that a cat with a puffed up tail is definitely a cat that one should avoid until it calms down because it suggests that it is agitated enough that it is actively attempting to make itself look bigger to convince whatever is spooking it to back down.

Final Thoughts

Most cats will move their tails in various ways. There are exceptions to this rule, but those tend to be cats whose tails have been hurt in some manner. With that said, interested individuals might want to pay attention to the rest of their cats’ movements as well, seeing as how tail movements are no more than a single component of feline body language. By taking in a more comprehensive set of information, they should be able to get a better read on specific cats than otherwise possible, which should help them form healthy relationships with their pets in the long run.

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