Cat Tail Meanings: What Your Cat's Tail Says

What's your cat's tail trying to tell you? Pet parents—here's how to read your feline friend's tail to understand their desires, needs, and feelings.

Courtney Elliott

Updated December 15, 2022 • Published April 05, 2022

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Cat Tail Meanings: What Your Cat's Tail Says

While we all wish our furry friends could talk, unfortunately, that’s not the case.

They do, however, use different parts of their body to communicate how they’re feeling. Based on your cat’s tail position, they might be trying to let you know that they’re content, annoyed, or sensing danger.

It’s important to understand the nuances of your cat’s tail, because it can help you better connect with them and understand their needs and wants.

Let’s get to know your cat better by understanding the meaning behind their tail positions. 

Cat tail meanings: 7 cat tail positions and what they mean

If your cat’s tail is standing straight up…

Cats that have their tails straight up are likely feeling sociable, confident, and friendly. In fact, this is how they typically greet one another. 

If you spot your cat’s tail in this position, it indicates contentment and that it could be a good time to give them a pet or some playtime. 

If your cat’s tail is thrashing…

A thrashing, thumping tail likely means that your feline friend has a bone to pick. More specifically, they’re feeling irritable or angry. Many pet parents notice this occurs while their cat is lying down.

If you’re petting your cat and they start to do this, give them some distance—they may be feeling overstimulated. If you notice your cat thumping their tail and it’s accompanied by unusual aggression or an arched back, you should talk to a veterinarian, as this may be a sign that they’re in pain.

If your cat’s tail is wrapped around you…

Sometimes we just need a little validation from our cat. If yours is wrapping their tail around you, consider yourself validated. This friendly greeting is a sign that your cat wants to interact. Take advantage of this before any hiding ensues and show them some love.

If your cat’s tail is wrapped around their body…

If your feline’s tail is tightly wrapped around their body, this can mean a few things. They may be feeling unwell, in pain, frightened, nervous, or defensive. Cats wrap their tails around their bodies to make themselves feel safer.

Make sure there’s not anything that could be causing your cat stress or anxiety, and if this behavior persists, it’s best to consult a vet.

If your cat’s tail is swishing back and forth…

A swishing tail is a classic pre-pounce move. Your cat is likely focusing on something, whether it’s another animal, a toy, or other object nearby. 

This type of tail behavior is nothing to worry about, and pouncing can even be a good enrichment activity for your cat.

If your cat’s tail looks like a hook…

Similar to your cat’s tail being straight up, if it’s curled with a slight hook or looks like a question mark, this means that they’re willing to interact and are feeling friendly. Cue the pets and snuggles.

If your cat’s tail is fluffed up…

This is a “tell-tail” sign that your cat is feeling scared or has been startled. It can also be accompanied by hair standing straight up. There may be a perceived threat nearby, such as another animal, an unfamiliar face, or a loud noise.

It’s best not to approach your cat in this case, and try to remove any stressors that could be causing the reaction.

While these cat tail meanings aren't always 100% correct for every cat, paying special attention to tail position can help clue you in on your feline's feelings, wants, and needs.

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