Cat Tail Meanings from Wagging to Twitching

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You may have been with cats for more than 10+ years, and you may still figure out new things every day about them. Because cats communicate differently every day, they may need little more than just observance. Sometimes, you may lose your patience because you don’t understand their expressions.


Almost all the owners have similar compliant that they are not getting what their cats want to communicate. It is confusing about the usual greetings, marking territory, and extremely difficult to understand if they are suffering from pain. If there is a radar that can help humans understand what their cats they’re going through or what they want to tell, the situation can get better.



Unfortunately, we don’t have such resources, and it can happen only in the fancy world. But for real, some things may help in understanding your cat’s behavior, but you may have to spend time with your beloved cat. Even though it is very challenging, you will get the knack for it.


The basics are to study their tail behavior. There are so many things that an owner can perceive from the cattail. Their positions, wagging, and twitch all have a story to tell you. In this article, we will discuss the body language of cats and what you need to understand about each sign. You can find interesting things that you can dwell deep and learn about the cat’s behavior in detail.


Why do cats choose tails to communicate?

Your cat’s tail is an extension of the spine, and thus, it becomes an important part of the body. Primarily cattail offers balance and helps cats to stay warm. You can see that a cat born without a tail or lost in an accident will recover or adjust. It is one of the stimulatory organs. It is evident when they specifically use them while walking over the narrow fences. When they walk higher above the fences, the cattail is at work to keep their counterbalance. It is accurate when they pounce on and prey.




While keeping this all aside, cats use tails importantly for communication. Since they have more focus on this region, they eventually use it as their radar for communicating. It is not only used for humans, but even cat-to-cat communication will also occur with the tail region. Also, they are equally a sensitive areas; hence response is much quicker in this part. Therefore, the cats use the tail as a primary communication tool from their own body.


Tail Positions – How do you translate them?

Straight Up:

When a cat is approaching you with the tail straightened up, it means that your cat is a bit happy. By behavior, it implies that they are open to you, and they are pleased to meet you or be in your presence. Keeping the straight-up tail does not always have to be for the owners. It can even be there for other fellow pets or animals whomever your cat is encountering.



The variation comes when the cat’s tail is straight, but his posture is like a hook at the end of the tail. You can see that the cat is making a question mark with the tail. It means he is going through some mood swings. The cat does not know how it feels. Such a question mark tail happens only when introduced to a new place or a stranger or a new pet in the home. When they don’t seem to expect something that is occurring, then in confusion, they keep their tails straightened up with question mark.



A cat may keep the communication going while keeping his tail straight behind from different angles. You can see that they are held straight or flat, and it means that they are making a friendly approach to the person. It may seem new, and you can see it more often when introduced to a new home for the first time. They are leaving behind all the aggressiveness or fear that they were carrying all the time. Now they have trust and want to be friendly with you.




Although, when cats keep their tail straight out but at an angle up, they do not completely trust someone. First of all, they don’t know how they are feeling about the owner or stranger. Also, the other movements that you can see them twitching back and forth, which means they do not seem to be interested in the activity or the person they are encountering.



The tail-down position in the cats generally means that they are trying to be submissive or defensive about the person or the place. If the tail is in a hooked-down position, then it is a sign of aggression. It is a defensive posture, and the tail would be down covering until the anus. He can be violent, and if given a chance or situation, he will pounce or make some defensive movements.


Sometimes a cat also keeps its tail down tucked underbelly. It means the cat is angry inside but doesn’t want to create a scene. You can see this posture, especially with indoor cats. Sometimes, the cats may become submissive for various reasons like they are not trained, or the encountered animal looks massive or could be more. Mostly they try and move from the place in such scenarios.


The following table will help you understand more about the tail positions. Also, know how you should be responding to each position.


Tail Position

How is the cat going to react?

What should you know?

Upright – The cats keep the tail held high with a straightened body position.
Happy and confident. Cats are contented being in a trustworthy surroundings.
Talk to your cats & take them for a walk. Engage them with playtime.
Consider it cuddle time; you can even feed them during dinner time.
Straight up but bristling.
Cats are intimidated or threatened by someone or some animal. They make husky bristling noises as if they look curious.
If it is a fellow pet, it is the responsibility of the owner to create space to find each other comfortable.
Curled – There are various curling shapes of tails. Keeping like a question mark on top, down, beneath their body while sitting, etc.
They are trying to be friendly and found comfort with the owners. When they are meeting the new pet cats or fellow pets, they feel confused about the reaction.
Initially, give your hands for sniffing. It means they get confidence in you and consider that they have marked territory in front of other pets.
You can always pet them to keep them engaged and be friendly with the new cats.
Down – In the pouncing position, they tend to keep the tail down.
The cats are really upset about some occurrence or people. Their mind is agitated and would be collapsing anything they come across during this time. When they are in the adult phase, aggressiveness becomes more common. They end up with mood swings.
During this time, do not engage; let the cat cool off on his own, but make sure the cat knows that you are observing.
The cat will take neutral behavior in this case. Not reacting is the better option.
Beneath – They sit and keep the tail beneath their body.
The cats are nervous and have anxiety about the place. In this case, the cats also lose appetite, and it may become regularized action.
If they are doing this multiple times in a day, it is recommended that you take them to a behavior specialist.
Puffed – While approaching or walking, they keep their body stiff, and the tail is puffed.
Here your cats really scared about something or someone. Usually, when they see a mirror, they react in this way. Also, when you bring dogs, cats might not want to socialize with them. Hence when they cross rooms, you can see that the tails are in a puffed position.
You may have to give your cats some space for them to react. Do not scare them away or make any loud noise. They will become inferior otherwise.
Back and forth.
It is not a good sign as he is looking for a change or a new place. The cat may keep the tail moving back and forth, even if he is allergic to a certain food item.
You have to check what foods may cause allergies to them. If it is a dark place or you notice that they are fearful about the place or a person, accompany them so that they can come out of fear.


The above table would have given you an overview of how your cats may use their tails combined with their body position and how you may have to respond. When they are stressed out, it is better to leave them alone. But if you think they are becoming more aggressive, then there are rescue remedies. Bach’s Natural homeopathic stress relief drops are completely safe and can do wonders to calm them down.


However, you cannot always judge based on the cattail position.  There are times when the cats perform other actions with the tail, which is based only on the movements and intensity. There is a lot of difference when it comes to cat wagging. It is not always called wagging, because there are different terms you need to know. Further below in this article, you will learn about the different types of cat tail movements and what they infer.






Twitching is also a movement in the cat’s tail that occurs, especially when a cat is sitting while focusing on its prey or walking towards the prey. Here is where the difference comes between twitching and normal wagging. It is not a soft movement; the cat shows excellent signs of intensity while twitching. Other combinations of movements occur while they perform this action. The eyes, ears, and other vocalizations are accompanied during this movement.


The attention of cats will be maintained, and the focus will be laser-sharp as the squirrel. During twitching, it is advised that the cat owners do not have to react or respond. In most cases, they perform only when no one is seeing them. It technically refers to the sign – leave me alone. Therefore, it is not necessary to go and help him out. Your pet cat will come back to you as soon as he is distracted or off the mood.



Swishing is a type of wagging, but not wagging itself. The direction and the speed of the wagging convey their feelings to humans. The swishing of cattail may occur only to their owners and not even to their fellow animals or pets. When a cat thrashes their tail back and forth quickly and continuously, they indicate that they are not happy. When they are unhappy and feel alone or depressed, they tend to swish a lot. Also, when you have given more space to any fellow pets, you can see that the cat will walk around, swishing its tail frequently. They always come for you and show their signs.


If your cat keeps moving his tail slowly and mildly, it means that he is annoyed already. However, sometimes it may occur when he has seen his prey, but cannot attack or is not happy with the food or something. Even while playing, the cats’ swish, but the intensity may look really soft. If you find this action during playtime, then you can decide that they are looking for attention without any assumption. They have a pouncing body position during that action. Hence the combinations are equally vital as you want to understand the cat better.



Flicking is most commonly considered a sign of happiness or contentment. Unlike dogs, cats try to keep themselves happy despite the situation they are in. Without any influence, if they wanted to be satisfied, they ensure that they feel all good about it. They are just instinctively happy about the exact movements without any questions asked. Also, as you know, they become moody. During this time, they flick the tail hard.



While you walk inside the home or room, they walk in between the legs while flicking and giving hugs with the tail. They are looking for people or activities that can distract them or focus on all their happy energy. The cats become hyper-enthusiastic and slide into the home base. Now when they have fellow pets, you are sorted. But if they don’t have one, they will keep on seeking attention until you pay them on.


Sleep Flicking

It is a new sign that anyone would notice in the cat. Your pet cat flicks the tail only without any reason while sleeping. It means they are contented with the people, home, and things around them. Suppose you had given them a treat for dinner, and all you can see is that they sleep peacefully by flicking their tail. Also, sometimes it is not even due to any reason. However, they keep flicking their tail, meaning to tell that they are happy about themselves, and they choose to ignore anyone. More than adult cats, these signs are commonly seen only in kittens. May they become curious and joyful about anything new quickly?




Quiver is also a tiny action in the cat’s tail. It falls more into the wagging type only. The intensity is comparatively slow and does not mean to attack you by any chance. Not all cats perform quivers. Only certain cat breeds carry this action to communicate effectively with their owners. When a cat is too excited to see you or approaches you for something unusual, they tend to show quiver action.


There is a little hissing accompanied while they perform this motion. It is similar to the rattlesnake tail. Meaning there are strong signs but not as prey or defensive tool but just as welcome signs. Some cats purr, face rub, or even have a happy tone of vocalization while they quiver. It is the slightest movement; hence you need to pay detailed attention. It is more of a shaking type of movement.


The following table will give you an overview of how cats feel and communicate using their tail while keeping the happy and sad moods as a broader category.


Sad signs

Happy signs

Twitching and swishing is a sign of anxiety, nervousness, sadness, and depression.
Flicking and quivering are happy signs where they feel happy, contented, peaceful, and curious about the owner and surroundings.
As an owner, while they are twitching, there is nothing much you can do about it. But most cat behavior scientists say that it is better to leave them off alone.
When they are showing happy tail signs, you need to respond to them so that they feel more trusted and feel comforted to be around.
If you see that they are showing warning signs constantly, you may have to take a chance of taking them to clinical specialists. Leaving them off depressed for a long time is not advised as well.
You don’t have to worry about these happy movements in the cattail. You are going to have happy company and a respectful relationship throughout. When you see such signs, you can teach them some habits that you always wanted them to learn. For instance, sharing the feeding bowl with fellow cats or not scratching the furniture, and so on.


Thus, in cats, a wagging tail is a barometer of their feeling. They put all their feeling over the tail, and as you spend more and more time with them, you can always understand what they want to share with you. The cat does not always want to have its tail in some position. Still, they are continually reminding you of something or communicating with you most of the time.


Check the following table to understand when you have to pay attention to the cats.


Cat movements


What do they mean?

Slow flicks mean that they don’t like the presence of someone. Since it’s a happy sign, slow flicks mean that someone or something has really ruined their happy movements.
Slow wagging is an indication of their fear, mostly. When they had to be taken to the vet or introduced to new places or activities that are not part of the routine makes them wage their tail slowly.
When the swish slows from left to right, it means they are slightly annoyed. It may occur, especially when someone or another pet has occupied his usual space. It will slowly turn to anger.
Quick swishes can be seen once they become competitive while playing. But if you leave them off the lane, they become aggressive and may pounce immediately.
Quick twitches mean that they are concentrating or focusing on something you may not be able to see. It can be rat movements or a bird flying in the garden. They are paying close attention. If it is something serious, you may even want to pay attention as well to the direction where they are constantly showing the quick twitches.


Cat Care

We hope that you have got an idea of how important a cattail is. Hence, if the tail is hurt or injured, it may lead to bigger health issues. Even though they can manage without one, the responsiveness and communication may collapse. It is proven that an injury or hurt in the tail region may affect the nerve directly. Use essential oil that can help them to recover from tail injuries quickly. Take them to vets without hesitation. Always consider this part similar to other similar organs to avoid fatal pain or slow damage in them.



In this entire article, you would probably have an idea of why we are stressed to watch the cat’s tail movements. Like any other behavior you would observe, you must pay close attention to the tail’s movement. In one way or another, they are always trying to communicate with the most trusted ally, which “You” is. It is not always as complicated as you think is to understand them. All you need to do is spend enough time and have a dedicated “Cat time” to learn them. Because they can talk to you more than you have ever thought of. You don’t have to always respond but know the signs to keep the relationship alive.

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