The body language of cats is incredibly complex. The felines communicate mainly through physical signals – the sounds are only a supplement to them. Their posture, different expressions – they all can mean something. It’s the tail, however, that transmits the majority of messages. 

Answering why the cats wag their tails is not easy since there are many kinds of tail movement. Sometimes, the little details like the pace of wagging separate anxiety from excitement. Unlike dogs which wag their tails out of joy, cats can express the whole spectrum of emotions this way. 

Dog lovers often underline that their pets are easier to read through, and thus – more predictable when it comes to behaviors. But the truth is, if you understand particular tail movements, you can read your cat like an open book. Before we head on to the analysis of their body language, let’s take a look at the tail itself. How is it built, and what are its functions?

The role of cat’s tail

For felines, the tail is a body part responsible for contact with the surrounding world. Contrary to the whiskers that only help the cat feel more, the cat’s tail can also send non-verbal messages. In addition, it helps the cats keep their balance. If you’ve ever been wondering how come they’re such incredible climbers, here’s the answer – it’s mainly because of the tail. It allows them to walk on thin fences and always fall on four legs. For instance, when the animal’s turning, the tail will always be directed in the opposite way to the leg. This way, the cat maintains its balance.

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Wagging tail – what does it mean?

If the cat is wagging its tail, it usually means that something’s not right. In most cases, it’s a result of irritation, anxiety, or disappointment. The wagging can be a manifestation of an internal conflict. Sometimes, it’s about too much stroking, another time – about the lack of attention from the owner’s side. 

When the cat wags its tail, it may be frustrated with the occurring situation – for example, while observing the birds from behind the window. The unfulfilled prey drive is often expressed this way. But this movement may even signalize dissatisfaction with the content of the bowl! 

As you can see, the wagging doesn’t always indicate the cat’s issue with an owner or the other animal. By observing the tail’s movements, you can recognize the internal conflict which the cat is going through. Identifying its source, however, requires more observation. The tempo of wagging and a position of a cat can tell you a lot.

What does it mean when the cat wags and hits its tail?

The rhythmical hitting is a clear indicator that the cat is preparing to take some action. In most cases – unfortunately – it’s a prelude to attack. The cats often tend to swish with their tail when they’re extremely irritated. The stronger the hitting gets, the closer the animal is to act. 

However, don’t get misled – this movement doesn’t always mean that the cat is preparing to strike. Your cat may initiate an entirely different action – for example, pounce, jump or start playing. Nevertheless, it’s always better to remain cautious when observing this particular movement.

Can wagging mean happiness?

In the case of dogs, wagging the tail is an expression of pure joy. Contrary to common conviction, the cats also use their tails to express happiness – but they do it in a different way. In their body language, it’s a straight and lifted tail that means joy. It also can signalize the willingness to play. 

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Why do the cats wag their tails when lying down?

There are few options in this case. If you observe this kind of movement while petting the cat, it might be a sign to stop. Cats sometimes wag their tails when feeling overstimulated with caressing. Each pet has its own particular personality and preferences. It’s hard to know its boundaries when it comes to petting, particularly just after getting to know each other. But fortunately, the cat can use its tail to inform you that it’s enough for now. 

The other possibility is that the animal is wagging its tail to check what’s going on around. To do so, it doesn’t need to move or even open up its eyes. By moving its tail from side to side, it can feel what’s behind. In a way, it sees with its tail. 

There is also a third option. If your cat wags its tail while lying down, it may be a signal that it’s already rested and planning to move soon but hasn’t decided to do it yet. 

Why do the cats wag their tails when asleep?

Just as humans, the cats dream, too. And if they’re having some vivid dreams, you may notice it through its movements. It’s not uncommon for them to move their jaws or legs as if they were running. Some cats make the chirping sounds, too. In this case, the dreams are probably about hunting! Wagging the tail is also a common twitch during sleep. 

Why does the cat tail quiver?

If the tail quivers while the cat is standing, it most likely means that it’s marking its territory. The felines may use different strategies to distribute their scent over the place. Rubbing against the furniture, surfaces, or the owner is the less invasive one. 

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Sometimes, however, they also use urine. For marking purposes, the cat releases a small amount of it. Often, it’s just a few drops. The urine is almost odorless and colorless, but you can figure out what’s going on by watching the cat’s tail. While it’s spraying the drops, the tail remains lifted and quivers.

The marking may be problematic from the owner’s perspective, particularly if the animal uses more urine than just a few drops. It’s worth noting that the marking-related behaviors intensify when the cat doesn’t feel safe on its own territory and has to fight for its position with the other animals. It may occur when a few cats in the house share a relatively small space. When the introduction of a new furry member of the family is not carried out in the right way, the marking may get more frequent, too.

If you notice that the marking intensifies, it’s worth consulting it with a behaviorist. The changing habits may be a sign of anxiety-related issues or conflicts between pets. The specialist will suggest which changes are worth introducing to solve the problem. 

How does the lack of a tail influence a cat’s life?

Cats may lose their tails as a result of an accident. Life without a tail is definitely possible. When it comes to expressing emotions, you can be calm – the kitty will find another way to signalize them. However, the amputation of the tail may result in lowered motor skills. Such a cat may have some difficulties with maintaining balance.

Summing up

As you can see, the tail plays an essential role in a cat’s life, being a tool to communicate with the world around. There’s no doubt that deciphering the particular movements is the key to understanding your kitty better. Of course – cats use sounds to communicate, too. However, it’s the body language that plays the most significant part in their communication.