People have certain “tells” that communicate feelings or moods, but we’re not the only ones. Dogs tend to be pretty easy to read, but cats tend to be subtle and succinct in their approach. They say a great deal through feline body language; we simply have to tune into the appearance and position of their tail to discern their emotional or mental states.
The Tail and So Much More
Before we get into what the tail does to communicate feline feelings, we would be remiss if we didn’t consider the importance of their ears, eyes, whiskers, and vocalizations. When used together to express themselves, feline body language is incredibly effective.
You Know a Friendly Cat
Recognizing a friendly, relaxed, easy-going cat is fairly straightforward. They approach people with trademark curiosity and sweetness, rub against them, meow, and even roll around to expose their soft belly. The tail will reveal their playful mood – it is likely to be pointed straight up to the sky, with a possible slight curl at the tip. This may indicate that, while open to a new experience, they still may have some doubt and need your reassurance.
If the upward-facing tail appears to shake or vibrate, this is not only a very happy cat but one that is near their very favorite human! Take it as a compliment and scratch that furry back!
You Know an Angry On, Too
Feline body language is quick to display the mood of an angry, upset, stressed, defensive or territorial cat. If the tail is pointed downward or close to the ground, a cat may feel defensive or submissive (they may also use the tail to cover up their vulnerable underside). If it appears taut, you may see other signs of aggression.
When cats puff their fur out they are trying to appear larger than they are. If you see a puffy cat, and a puffy cat tail, they are trying to communicate dominance, but they may simply feel threatened or afraid.
A cat tail that is lowered and flicking back and forth might be communicating indifference, boredom, anxiety, or even irritation. Take a look at what their eyes and ears are also doing to get the entire picture of feline body language.
Feline Body Language and Pain
It is always a good idea to know the signs that a cat is sick or in pain. Defensive or self-protective postures may precede withdrawal, and their tail may appear to be used as a shield or as a comforting feature.
When feline body language is studied and appreciated, the bond between people and cats can thrive. By tuning into their very special moods we can glimpse their true natures in real time. Only then can we truly give them what they need.