To Understand Feline Body Language, Look No Further Than a Cat’s Tail
The magic of cat communication may be lost on people that live exclusively among dogs. Instead of actively vying for their owner’s attention with barks or whines, a cat may simply stare. Likewise, they may not wag their rears for a treat, or lick your face with abandon, but a closely bonded cat will likely greet their person with a long, meaningful blink.
Incredibly subtle at times, feline body language has a lot to say and it does so by way of their long, fluffy, expressive tail.
The Whole Picture
Of course, cats are known for meowing at their owners to convey their interest in food, snuggling, playtime or outside access. But perhaps more important is the fact that they use feline body language signals to get what they want, or show how they’re feeling.
Between the Lines
It may not always be easy to tell, but once you get in the habit of reading between the lines you’ll become an expert in feline body language. And a great place to start is at the rear!
Your cat’s tail is likely positioned in a straight line, pointed up. After all, they love you! A fully erect tail signals a happy, confident, friendly, and open greeting. When lined up toward the sky, your cat’s tail says “I’m ready for anything good to happen”.
Sometimes, feline body language is employed to communicate doubt or uncertainty about a person, place or object. They may still have an upright tail, but a little hook or curl at the end signals a lack of conviction. If your cat comes to you like this they could simply be interested in playing with you.
Sometimes a particularly devoted cat will thread their body between the standing legs of their owner. They may purr, trill, or meow, and their tail may burst into repetitive twitches. It almost appears to be vibrating, but what this cat tail is saying is: “Mine!”.
Dipped and Down
Downward tail positions can mean defensiveness or submissiveness. Take a close look at how the tail may be protecting their belly or hind legs; they may be feeling frightened or nervous.
A downward, flicking, or swishing tail can also signal aggression. Watch for a bristled appearance of the tail’s fur (which is an attempt to look larger to perceived threats), and try not to make them feel cornered.
To fully understand feline body language, their environment and stimuli must be taken into account. The position of their tail can mean various things such as indifference or ambivalence. However, if a flickering tail is paired with vocalizations, they’re likely feeling irritated or aggressive. You may also see this accompanied with a little butt shake right before pouncing on something or conducting an ambush.
Decisive Feline Body Language
Knowing what your cat likes, fears, or distrusts can make a huge difference when it comes to understanding and responding to feline body language. Get ready to experience extra cuddling, head butts, and long eye blinks!