|Photo via S. Carter|
As an individual working in the field of Veterinary medicine, learning a cat's body language was important in order to know if they were happy, angry, scared, nervous, etc. It can help you come up with the best way to approach them. Here is a helpful list of different tail positions to help you better understand your cat's mood:
- Swishing tip back and forth - A rapidly "wagging" tail in a cat does not mean that they are happy like it does for dogs. This means they are probably annoyed and should be left alone.
- Puffed out fur, straight up position - This is the look you might see with the stereotypical Halloween cat image. Back arched and tail sticking straight in the air with it's hair sticking out. This cat is on high alert and scared.
- Tail tucked close to body - This cat may be scared, shy, or insecure. Approach with caution.
- Tail upright, curved, or relaxed - This tail position means your cat is probably in a good mood.
- Slow swishing back and forth - Cats like to do this when they are focusing on something. For example, when they are on the hunt or about to pounce on something.
Of course, when trying to decipher what your cat's tail is trying to say you should also look at the rest of your cat's body language. Be sure to pay close attention to their eyes, ears, voices, and body position too. With a little practice, learning to read a cat's body language is easy. This article by Petfinder explains the body language displayed by a cat's ears, eyes, and tails.
Also, not all cats have tails. Breeds like the Manx or Japanese Bobtail don't have tails. In these cases, you'd have to rely on the rest of the cat's body language to decipher how they are feeling.
The video above shows an example of an annoyed cat tail. This cat is probably only slightly annoyed at this point, because the swishing is not too intense.
One mistake I made early on as a Veterinary Technician was assuming that the wagging cat tail meant they were happy or excited. Even though I had cats all of my life, I was young and just never paid much attention to this before. The cats I worked with were more than willing to teach me the language of their people though.
Have you ever paid close attention to your cat's tail? What do you think it's trying to tell you?