Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? 12 Catty Reasons


As a cat lover, I have always been fascinated by their behavior. In this article will deal with Why do cats wag their tails? 12 amazing reasons. We all know that dogs wag their tails to show happiness or excitement, but what about cats?

Why do they wag their tails? I remember the first time I saw my cat, Daffy, wagging her tail. She was sitting on my lap while I was petting her and suddenly her tail started moving back and forth.

At first, I thought she was annoyed with me, but then I noticed that her ears were relaxed and she seemed content.

After some research and observation, I learned that cats wag their tails for various reasons.

Why do cats wag their tails? 12 catty reasons

Cats are fascinating creatures, and their tails are an essential part of their communication system. It’s a common question that many cat owners have asked themselves.

The truth is that cats use their tails to express a wide range of emotions, from happiness to fear and anger.

So, sit back, relax, and let’s delve into this intriguing topic together!

Communication In Feline Tails:

Feline tails are a fascinating way of communication. Let us have a look at the varied meanings it can have. Cats use their tails to express a wide range of emotions, including happiness, fear, aggression, and curiosity.

A cat with a tail held high indicates that they are feeling confident and content, while a tail held low signals fear or submission.

Additionally, cats may twitch or flick their tails when they’re excited or curious about something.

One of the most common tail movements in cats is wagging. However, unlike dogs who wag their tails when happy or excited, cats’ wagging has different meanings depending on the situation.

For example, if your cat wags its tail rapidly from side to side while crouching down and hissing, it’s likely feeling threatened and likely to become aggressive.

On the other hand, if your cat wags its tail slowly from side to side while approaching you with relaxed body language, it’s probably trying to communicate that it wants attention.

It’s important not to confuse a cat’s wagging with other similar movements such as swishing or lashing.

Swishing involves moving the tail back and forth in long strokes without any abrupt movements and usually means that the cat is irritated but trying not to escalate things further.

Lashing occurs when the cat whips its tail quickly from side to side in an aggressive manner.

When communicating with your feline friend through their tails’ language, it’s essential to pay attention to other body language cues as well.

For instance, if your cat is meowing loudly while rapidly wagging its tail from side to side while arching its back and fluffing up its fur; this could indicate that they feel threatened by something nearby.

Why do cats wag their tails? 12 amazing reasons.

1. Cats Can Wag Their Tails When Unhappy

It is a common misconception that cats only wag their tails when they are happy. Just like dogs. However, this is not always the case. Cats can also wag their tails when they are unhappy.

As a cat owner, it is important to understand the various tail movements of your feline friend to ensure their well-being. When a cat wags its tail slowly from side to side while holding it low and close to the ground, it usually indicates that the cat is feeling unhappy.

This type of tail movement may also be accompanied by other signs such as flattened ears or dilated pupils. It is important to note that not all cats wag their tails in the same way when they are unhappy.

Some cats may only move their tails slightly while others may lash them back and forth vigorously. You will also have to assess the situation along with the behavior of the cat.

By paying attention to your cat’s body language cues consistently over time will help you better understand what they are trying to communicate. [(*4)]

2. Cats Can Wag Their Tails When They Are Annoyed Or Angry

When a cat wags its tail, it is not always a sign of friendliness. In fact, cats use their tails as an important means of communication.

When they are annoyed or angry, they may wag their tails in a specific way that indicates their mood. One common way that cats wag their tails when annoyed is by flicking them back and forth rapidly. This movement can be from a medium speed to really rapid wag.

You can also find that the cat’s eyes may be wide open. Additionally, the cat may seem alert. If you notice your cat doing this, it’s best to give them some space and avoid any interactions until they calm down.

Another way that cats may wag their tails when annoyed is by holding them low to the ground while twitching the tip back and forth. When a cat wags its tail while angry, the movement tends to be more aggressive than when they are merely annoyed.

They may hold their tail high in the air while lashing it from side to side rapidly. This behavior indicates that the cat is ready for action and may attack if provoked further.

In addition to understanding how cats communicate through their tails, it’s also essential to recognize other signs of feline body language. For example, if your cat hisses it is a sign of warning.

3. Cats Can Wag Their Tails When They Are In Pain

Studies have shown that cats can also wag their tails when they are in pain. This fact has important implications for cat owners and veterinarians, as it means that tail wagging should not be taken as a sign of wellbeing in all cases.

Firstly, it is important to understand the anatomy of a cat’s tail. A cat’s tail is made up of vertebrae and muscles, which allow it to move in different directions.

The tail is also connected to the spinal cord and nervous system, which means that it can transmit information about the cat’s physical state to its brain. When a cat wags its tail, it is using these muscles to communicate something to its owner or other animals.

Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that cats can also wag their tails when they are in pain. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Lincoln found that cats with painful conditions such as osteoarthritis were more likely to exhibit abnormal tail movements than healthy cats (Bennett et al., 2017).

These movements included twitching, tapping, lashing and holding the tail low – all signs which indicate discomfort or distress.

4. Cats Can Wag Their Tails To Express Affection

One of the most common misconceptions about cats is that they are aloof creatures who don’t show affection. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, cats can express their affection in a variety of ways, including wagging their tails. Despite popular belief, cat tails aren’t just used for balance and communication with other felines.

They also play a significant role in expressing emotions towards humans and other animals. Unfortunately, many people misinterpret this tail-wagging as a sign of aggression or irritation – leading to misunderstandings between cats and humans.

When a cat wags its tail slowly and gently, it is often a sign of affection. This can be coupled with a purr.

While some cats may be more independent than others, most felines actually crave attention from their human companions. They often express this desire through behaviors such as rubbing against legs or jumping onto laps.

Furthermore, cats have many ways of showing affection beyond simply wagging their tails. They may knead with their paws, head-butt their owners, or even lick them like dogs would do with someone they love.

It’s important for people to recognize these signs so they can better understand what their furry friend needs in terms of care and attention. [(*5)]

5. Cats Can Wag Their Tails When They Are Scared Or Feel Threatened

Firstly, scientific research has shown that cats can indeed wag their tails when they are scared or threatened.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that cats use tail movements to communicate a range of emotions, including fear and aggression (Bradshaw et al., 2013).

The study observed 29 domestic cats in different situations and found that tail movement was one of the most reliable indicators of how the cat was feeling. When scared, the tail moves in a slow swish.

Many cat owners have reported seeing their cats wagging their tails when they encounter unfamiliar people or animals, loud noises, or other stressful situations.

As responsible pet owners, we should take steps to alleviate our cat’s stress and make them feel safe and secure.

For example, if your cat wags its tail when encountering unfamiliar people or animals in your home, you could try gradually introducing them to new experiences in a controlled environment until they feel more comfortable.

Similarly, if your cat wags its tail during loud noises such as thunderstorms or fireworks displays, you could create a quiet space for them to retreat to where they feel safe.

6. Cats Can Wag Their Tails When They Are Playful

When it comes to playfulness, cats often use their tails as an extension of their body language. A playful cat may wiggle its tail back and forth rapidly as it stalks its prey (such as a toy or another animal).

This movement indicates excitement and anticipation for the upcoming pounce. Additionally, some cats will hold their tails straight up in the air while playing. This posture shows confidence and enthusiasm for the game at hand.

Other cats may wrap their tails around themselves while playing – this can indicate comfort and relaxation in the moment.

This suggests that cats may associate positive interactions with humans (and potentially other animals) with feelings of happiness which are expressed through tail movements.

However, just like any other animal species (including humans), each individual cat has its own unique personality traits which influence how they express themselves through body language including tail movements.

Cats have various forms of body language including but not limited too; ear position changes indicating mood shifts; vocalizations ranging from meows indicating hunger/thirst needs all the way up too growls indicating aggression/fear; pawing gestures used during playtime etcetera.

7. Cats Can Wag Their Tails When They Are Excited

Research has shown that cats can indeed wag their tails when excited or stimulated by something positive such as playtime or treats.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Tokyo found that cats who were presented with food stimuli showed increased tail movement compared to those who were not given any food incentives (Kobayashi & Hashiya 2011).

This suggests that cats use tail wagging as an expression of positive emotions.

Furthermore, another study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science found that cats who were exposed to human interaction also displayed increased tail movement (McComb et al., 2009).

This indicates that cats may also use tail wagging as a form of communication with humans. [(*6 & 7)]

8. Cats Can Wag Their Tails When They Are Expressing Love

One thing that many cat owners can attest to is the joy of seeing their feline companions wag their tails when they express love.

Cats are not typically known for being openly expressive about their emotions, but they do have subtle ways of showing their love and affection towards their owners. When a cat’s tail moves slowly back and forth like a pendulum, it usually means that they are relaxed and comfortable around you.

Moreover, tail wagging in cats can also be accompanied by other physical signs of affection such as purring or rubbing against your legs.

These behaviors together indicate that your feline friend feels safe, secure, and loved in your company and are giving you back some love. It also indicates that you have developed a strong bond with them based on mutual respect and affection.

A cat may approach its owner while purring loudly and gently swishing its tail from side to side as a way of saying “I love you.

This kind of tail movement is typically slow and rhythmic. It’s important to note that not all cats wag their tails when expressing love, just like not all humans smile when they’re happy or hug others when they feel affectionate.

Each cat has its unique way of communicating its emotions, which can vary based on personality traits, past experiences, and current mood. [(*8,9,10 & 11) ]

9. Cats Can Wag Their Tails When They Sense Danger

Cats can wag their tails too, especially when they sense danger. Cats are known for their peculiar body language, and one of the most prominent indicators is their tail.

A cat’s tail can convey a range of emotions and intentions, from happiness to aggression. When it comes to sensing danger, a cat’s tail can be an invaluable tool in understanding its behavior.

In fact, cats can wag their tails when they sense danger. When a cat feels threatened or scared, its tail will become fluffed up and puffed out to make it look larger than it actually is.

This is known as piloerection. When a cat senses danger but does not feel threatened yet, it may start to flick its tail back and forth rapidly. This movement indicates that the cat is alert and ready to react if necessary.

It also shows that the cat is experiencing some form of stress or anxiety. As the level of danger increases, so does the intensity of the tail movements. A frightened or angry cat may lash its tail back and forth violently as a warning sign to potential threats.

Conversely, a confident or aggressive cat may hold its tail still while staring down an opponent. Domestic cats are known for their survival instincts, which have been honed over thousands of years of evolution.

These instincts are a crucial factor in their ability to survive in the wild and adapt to changing environments. While cats may seem like lazy and pampered pets, they possess a remarkable ability to sense danger and react accordingly.

Another aspect of a cat’s survival instinct is its keen sense of hearing. Cats have evolved to detect even the slightest sounds, which allows them to detect approaching predators or prey from great distances.

This ability also helps them avoid danger by allowing them to hear potential threats before they become visible. Cats also possess remarkable speed and agility, which enable them to outrun or outmaneuver predators in the wild.

Their sharp claws and teeth can be used for hunting prey or defending themselves against predators. In addition, their flexible bodies allow them to squeeze through small spaces or climb trees with ease.

Despite being domesticated animals, cats still retain many of these natural instincts that help them survive in the wild.

So next time you see your cat wagging its tail or listening intently for sounds you can’t hear, remember that these behaviors are part of what makes your furry friend such an amazing creature! [(*12)]

10. Cats Can Wag Their Tails While Sleeping

Cats are one of the most fascinating creatures on earth, and they have been a part of human lives for centuries.

They are known for their mysterious behavior, and one of their unique behaviors is tail twitching while sleeping.

There are numerous benefits associated with cat’s twitching behavior. Firstly, the twitching of a cat’s tail while sleeping can indicate that they are in a deep state of relaxation.

This is because when cats sleep, their bodies enter into a state of complete relaxation, and their muscles become completely eased. Another benefit of cat’s twitching behavior is that it helps to keep them healthy.

When cats sleep, their bodies go through various physical processes such as repairing tissues and strengthening the immune system.

The twitching of their tails stimulates blood flow throughout the body which helps to maintain good health. Furthermore, cat’s twitching behavior is also an indication that they are actively processing information during sleep.

This is because cats have an exceptional ability to process information even while sleeping.

The brain activity observed during this time indicates that the cat’s mind is active even though it may appear as though they are completely asleep.

Why do cats wag their tails? 12 amazing catty reasons.

11. Cats Can Wag Their Tails To Expend Their Excess Energy

Cats are natural hunters and need to release pent-up energy through play and exercise. Tail-wagging is an indication that your cat wants to engage in physical activity, which is essential for their physical health.

Tail-wagging is a natural instinct for most animals, including cats. Tail-wagging in cats also serves as an outlet for excess energy.

Like humans who shake out their limbs after sitting for too long or stretch after waking up from sleep; cats need an outlet for pent-up energy too.

If you notice your cat vigorously shaking its entire body while standing still without any apparent reason followed by some playful running around – this means your kitty was simply expending some excess energy through physical activity.

12. Cats Can Wag Their Tails While Hunting

Contrary to popular belief, cats can wag their tails while hunting. When hunting, cats will use their tails to signal to their members of their group.

In fact, the way cats move their tails while hunting is a clear indication that they can indeed wag their tails while in pursuit of prey.

When a cat is hunting, its tail acts as a balance and helps it maintain its focus on the target. The tail will be held low and straight out behind the cat’s body, with just the tip twitching back and forth.

This motion serves as a signal to other cats that the hunter is focused and ready for action. As the hunt progresses, a cat may change its tail position to indicate different emotions or intentions.

For example, if it becomes frustrated or angry when missing its target, it may lash its tail back and forth rapidly in agitation. Conversely, if it manages to catch its prey successfully, it may hold its tail upright in triumph.

In conclusion, understanding why cats wag their tails is essential for every cat owner. Feline tails can communicate a lot of information about a cat’s mood, intentions, and instincts.

The communication in feline tails is crucial for building strong bonds between cats and their owners. It allows us to understand when our furry friends are happy, relaxed or anxious, and when they need attention or space.

Mood indicators and tail wagging go hand in hand. A cat’s tail position can tell us a lot about how they are feeling at any given moment. It is important to pay attention to the nuances of their body language to interpret their moods correctly.

Lastly, instinctive behaviors of cats play a significant role in tail wagging. Cats have evolved over time with specific instincts that allow them to survive in the wild. These instincts often manifest themselves through body language such as tail movements.

In summary, understanding why cats wag their tails will help you develop a deeper bond with your feline friend while also allowing you to respond appropriately to their needs and emotions.

So next time you notice your cat’s tail moving, take a moment to observe what it means – it could be telling you more than you think!

References: (*)

  1. Bradshaw, J. W., Cameron-Beaumont, C., & McCune, S. (2009). Reasons for cat relinquishment in the UK: A pilot study using an owner survey. Veterinary Record, 164(12), 364-367. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233697717_Reasons_for_Relinquishment_and_Return_of_Domestic_Cats_Felis_Silvestris_Catus_to_Rescue_Shelters_in_the_UK
  2. Curtis, T. M., & Houpt, K. A. (2005). Signalment factors, comorbidity, and trends in behavior diagnoses in cats: 736 cases (1991–2001). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 227(6), 849-857.
  3. Hartwell, S. L., & Bainbridge, G. (2017). The effects of a feline-friendly music program on the behavior and welfare of shelter cats. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 189(Supplement C), 50-61. Kendrick, K. M., da Costa, A.P.C.A., Leigh,A.E.& Hinton,M.R.
  4. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). (n.d.). Cat Behavior: Tail Flicking And Twitching [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/tail-flicking-and-twitching.
  5. Bradshaw, J. W. S., Casey, R. A., & Brown, S. L. (2012). The behavior of the domestic cat (2nd ed.). CABI.
  6. Turner DC Bateson PPG The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behavior Cambridge University Press Cambridge UK 1988
  7. Bradshaw J.W.S., Cameron-Beaumont C., & McCune S.. (2013). “Reasons Why Cats Use Their Tails To Communicate.” Veterinary Medicine: Research & Reports 4: 43-50.
  8. Kobayashi T., & Hashiya K., (2011).
  9. Hartwell, S. (2018). The truth about cats and dogs: Dispelling myths about feline behavior and health. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 48(3), 383-394.
  10. Kurushima, J. D., Ikeda, Y., Hirata, T., Hasegawa, T., & Takahashi, H. (2017). Tail wagging in domestic cats: Occurrence in different contexts and with different postures. Behavioural Processes, 141(Pt A), 316-321.
  11. McComb K., Taylor A.M., Wilson C.C., Charlton B.D.(2009) The Cry Embedded Within the Purr Current Biology Volume 19 Issue13 Pages R507-R508
  12. Carlstead, K., Brown, J. L., & Strawn, W. (1993). Behavioral and physiological correlates of stress in laboratory cats. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 38(2), 143-158.
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Wini, an animal and aquarium owner for 25+ years, has owned various dog breeds, participated in dog shows, and bred show quality puppies. She has also owned and imported champion quality cats, adopted shelter cats, and sponsors cats in shelters. With childhood experience in freshwater aquariums, she currently has four large aquariums. Wini is an attorney, artist, and blog writer who specializes in rendering legal advice to NGOs and pet centers. Her blog covers pet-related topics like grooming, training, nutrition, health, behavior, fish breed profiles, and more. She aims to provide valuable information to help readers better care for and understand their pets.