Picture of black and white house cat
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark
By Liz Langley
Cat owners are keenly tuned in to their pets’ body language, but once in a while the felines will throw a curve. Sometimes it’s in their tails.
While watching our cat snooze, we noticed his tail was tapping away like he was enjoying a disco medley we couldn’t hear, sending quite a mixed signal.
So how do you decode a cat’s tail? (Read “Surprising Things You Never Knew About Your Cat.”) Tail Tips
You have to take the whole body into account when reading tail signals, says Carlo Siracusa, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
The napping cat with the tapping tail, for example, is “relaxed overall but paying attention to something happening around him, a sound or movement,” so he’s peaceful but hardly asleep on the job.
If he really is sleeping, Siracusa adds, a moving tail could mean he’s dreaming. (Related: “Do Animals Dream?”)
A whipping tale on an alert cat can mean nervousness, potential aggression, and “Do not touch!” says Siracusa.
On a calm cat a straight-up tail with a hooked tip is a friendly greeting, while an aggressive cat may just have its tail straight up. A fearful “Halloween” cat will have an arched back and “its tail up and puffed.” read more…