6 Tail Positions: Unlock Your Cat's Secret Body Language

Decode your cat’s mood and the meaning behind their tail positions and movements.

Published April 4, 2023

What Your Cat's Tail Tells You


Cats express a lot about how they're feeling by the way they carry their tails. Would you approach a cat with their tail upright and curved? If you're not sure, it's time to brush up on your cat tail language. Cats use their tails as an important part of their non-verbal communication, and you can figure out their mood based on their tail position. Discover the six most common cat tail meanings and what each indicates about your cat's emotional state.

1. Upright and Curved Tail: “I’m Happy”


Holding their tail upright with a slight curve in the tip means a cat is happy. It communicates that they're confident and comfortable, and approaching them is probably OK. Other signs a cat is happy include rubbing up against your leg, purring, forward-facing ears, and relaxed whiskers.

2. Puffy Tail: “I’m Angry”


The puffed-up tail is a telltale (pun intended) sign that a cat is definitely not happy. It's a natural survival instinct cats use whenever they feel threatened. A puffy tail and arched back make a cat appear bigger, which can help deter predators. Don't approach a cat with this tail position because they're frightened or angry and could act out.

3. Swishing Tail: “I’m Annoyed”


Dog people might think a tail moving back-and-forth means a cat is happy, but that's not the case with felines. If your cat is swishing their tail or thumping it against the floor while seated, it means they're ticked off. It's best to leave a cat alone if they show this kind of tail communication.

4. Quivering Tail: “I’m Excited”


If a cat greets you with a quivering tail, it means they're really excited to see you. Usually, their tail will be upright and appear as if it's almost vibrating. This can often look like the cat is spraying without any urine being released. Look to the rest of the cat's body language for other clues as to their mood because a quivering tail can occasionally point to impatience or annoyance, but in most cases, it means a cat is just overjoyed.

Fast Fact

Cats communicate information about how they're feeling to both humans and other felines with their tails, and some positions or movements are meant for specifically for other cats.

5. Tucked Tail: “I’m Worried”


Similar to the way a dog tucks their tail between their legs when scared, a tucked cat tail means, "I'm worried." Cats will walk or stand with their tail tucked very close to their body as a sign of submission or fear. Unfortunately, this can also communicate pain.

6. Horizontal Tail: “I’m Relaxed”


A cat who is lounging or walking toward you with a horizontal tail is most likely relaxed. This is a neutral tail position and one that says, "I'm indifferent." Cats with a horizontal tail aren't necessarily frightened but aren't terribly excited, either. Look to the rest of their body language for more clues as to their mood.

Interpreting Cat Tail Language


Just as each cat's meow is unique, every cat may have slightly varied tail position meanings. If you've never seen your cat quiver their tail, that's OK. They probably just have another tail posture for being excited. Watch your cat to learn the nuances of their body language, and you'll feel even closer to your pet kitty.

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6 Tail Positions: Unlock Your Cat's Secret Body Language