two cats sitting on a window sill

Cats are elusive creatures whose actions and motivations ever remain somewhat of a mystery to their pet owners. However despite their seeming inscrutability, cats offer us dozens of various vocal communications, and they also indicate their feelings and actions primarily through the postures of their tails. Gain further insights into what is going on in that feline mind, by browsing the list of tail postures and what they mean.

  • Flitting or swishing from side to side (while seated): This means the cat is focused on something, is watchful and possibly excited. If the movement of the tail speed up, it can indicate that either a cat’s eagerness or his agitation is increasing slightly.
  • Quivering: This is a very good sign meaning that the cat is very pleased to see you. Their tails quiver the most when a delicious treat is anticipated, or when the pet hasn’t seen you in a long time and has been looking forward to your return.
  • Laying flat, twitching or curled up at just the tip (while seated): This means your cat has slowed his movement so as to focus intently on something. He is alert and highly interested in the sight before him, but not so committed as to move forward quite yet.
  • Low, hanging between the legs: When the tail is in a relaxed position, hanging gently between the legs, then he is in a submissive stance. This could also mean the cat is nervous or worried.
  • Low and bristled: This means the cat is cautious, or feeling threatened or afraid. It is a warning sign, and should make pet owners wary.
  • Standing upright: An upright tail is a sign of anticipation and happiness. Similar to the dog, if the tail is pointed slightly diagonal, it is because the cat is trying to assess the situation and is unsure what to think. When the tail is slightly hooked at the tip TOWARD you, that is a friendly sign; when it is hooked slightly away from you that means he is curious but unsure.
  • Wrapped around another cat: This is a sign of comfort and comradery between animals, and is considered akin to a human putting his arm around another.
  • Dropped tail, raised slightly at the base: This is a cat’s natural sign of warning. The tail is dropped, covering his behind yet lifted just a bit at the start of the tail, while the rest of it droops downward. This means that the cat is on edge, maybe even defensive of aggressive, so be on the alert!
  • Standing erect, bristling outward. This is often seen illustrated through images of witches’ cats during Halloween. The rigid-standing bristled tail is usually accompanied by an arched back, and indicates that the cat is either incredibly frightened or very angry. Give the cat plenty of space when his tail is in this position.