Cat tails are a marvelous and beautiful thing. Not only are they anatomical marvels, but they are also an excellent tool for feline self-expression. Even the dullest of humans can learn the secrets of this behavior or “cat tail talk” with a little observation, and if you can decipher your cat’s special sign language, they’ll love you even more. Here are some of my favorite cat tail gestures and their meanings.
Two cats with their tails in the air. Photography courtesy JaneA Kelley.
1. in the air.
When Cynthia and Susie were kittens, they would run up to me with their tails high in the air as soon as I opened the door to my apartment. Then they purred and patted their heads on my shoes. The higher the tail goes, the more the kitten says, “Gee, I love you so much. It’s a signal that hardly needs to be translated.
Photography by mimagephotography / Shutterstock.
2. Question mark cat tail
A cat comes up to you with a little hook on the end of its tail and it’s saying, “I’m friendly, just a little timid and curious. Can I come to you? I see this all the time with shelter cats, and my roommate cat does it when he has visitors. If I hold out my hand to him and say something like ‘hello, dear’, he will extend his tail, pat my head and greet me affectionately.
If your cat’s tail twitches, it’s time to take a break from pets, cuddles and other affection. Photography ©cyano66 | Thinkstock.
3. Tail tip twitching
If your cat’s tail tip starts to twitch slightly when you are petting it, this is an early sign that your cat is being overstimulated and wants you to stop petting it. If your cat’s tail tip begins to twitch, listen to its polite requests.
The single tail flip is a sassy sign. Photography ©GlobalP | Thinkstock.
4. Single Flip
When I’m preparing a meal and Bella climbs on the counter, she jumps to the floor and wags her tail when I scold her. I interpreted this as the cat’s tail equivalent of the cheeky teenager’s phrase: “Girl, stop wagging your tail!” I replied.
A cat with a curled tail. Photography by Dan Kosmayer / Shutterstock.
5. cat tail hugs.
When I’m at the computer, Thomas will lay on my lap. I call this a “tail hug” and it melts me every time.
Cats who get scared or startled may get the exclamation point tail. Photography ©PeopleImages | DigitalVision / Getty.
6. cat tails that look like exclamation points
When Bella is startled, she jumps back and her tail immediately stands up and her fur all over her body. It’s a “uh!” for her. . Equivalent. To her, it doesn’t mean “I’m scared,” but “I’m surprised …… I kinda like it!” That seems to be what it means. When I see her in exclamation point tail mode, I’ll gently stroke her tail and ask, “Bella, why is your tail getting fat? Then I’ll stroke her neck and around her ears and slowly deflate her.
7. Play Cat Tail Game
Thomas loves to play the cat tail game with Bella. He looks at Bella with big eyes while flicking his tail back and forth. Bella gets excited and starts slapping Thomas’ tail.
A hunting cat stretches her tail just behind her. Photography by LeniKovaleva / Shutterstock.
8. Tail hunting.
When our cats go after rodents or their favorite interactive toys, they will stretch their tails back and bend over. The tip of their tail will wiggle slightly as if it is the only way to expel the raging adrenaline from their body.
Tell us: What are your favorite “tail talk” phrases? Share them in the comments. Bonus points if you have photos or videos of the tail talk in action.
By JaneA Kelley , January 25, 2021
This piece was originally published in 2017.
Thumbnail: Photography ©GlobalP | Thinkstock.