Revealed: Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? | Purina (2023)

  • Introduction
  • Why do cats wag their tails? What is the hidden meaning?
  • Cats wag their tail when they're unhappy: the low flick
  • Your cat may be wagging their tail because they're scared: low wagging
  • Cats can also wag their tail when they feel slightly annoyed: the slow swish
  • Some cats wag their tail when they're in a playful mood: the quick swish
  • Cats wag their tail when they're focused: the quick twitch
  • Cats wag their tail when they're excited: the quiver
  • Sometimes cats wag their tail to show their love: the wrapping tail
  • Cats can wag their tail when in danger: fluffed up tail
  • Some cats wag their tail while sleeping: the sleep twitch
  • Cat tail wagging as a sign of pain: waving tail while lying down

Next article

Can Cats Have Dreams and Nightmares

Revealed: Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? | Purina (1)

Common Questions About Cats

5 min read

Related topics

Cat BehaviourExpert Cat CarePet Care Articles and Advice

Revealed: Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? | Purina (2)

Revealed: Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? | Purina (3)

Our experts are here to help you

Our experts are here to help

Get in touch with us directly any time, any way.

Message us

Revealed: Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? | Purina (4)

Discover our range of cat food.

Buy Now

(Video) Why Do Cats Tails Move When Lying Down?

It's a common misconception that cats will only wag their tails when they're angry, but there's actually loads of reasons why they may do this. Find out everything you need to know about cat tail language in this article.

A cat’s body language can often be hard to decipher. Cats are very complex and the way they tell you how they feel isn’t always obvious. It’s really easy to misread your cat’s behaviour, which can often result in being swatted away by an unhappy kitty when you go in for a pet at the wrong time.

One thing in particular that can help you understand how your furry friend is feeling is their tail. Contrary to popular belief, a cat’s tail is actually really expressive and can give you an invaluable insight into if they’re feeling playful, happy or scared. Keep reading to discover the secrets behind cat tail language and discover more about your cat’s emotions.

Why do cats wag their tails? What is the hidden meaning?

Cats may wag their tail because they're unhappy, annoyed or even in pain. But occasionally, tail wagging may be a sign of affectionBy paying attention to the direction and speed of your cat’s wagging tail, as well as the rest of their body, you can usually get a good grasp as to how they’re feeling.

Unlike dogs, cats often wag their tails when they are angry or upset, but it’s not always the case. Cat tail language is really sophisticated and can be an excellent indicator to your kitty’s emotions. See our list of possible explanations as to why your cat is wagging their tail.

Revealed: Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? | Purina (5)

Cats wag their tail when they're unhappy: the low flick

The low flick tail wagging will be displayed as a quick back and forth action. If you notice this cat tail swishing, give them space as this means that they’re unhappy and want to be left alone.

You’ll probably see this cat tail language when they’re put in a situation they’re not pleased about, such as going to the vets.

Your cat may be wagging their tail because they're scared: low wagging

If your cat’s wagging tail is low, it’s generally an indicator that they’re scared. Their ears may also be pinned back, their body crouched low to the ground and if they’re really scared, they might tuck their tail between their legs too.

(Video) Cat Body Language Explained

Cats can also wag their tail when they feel slightly annoyed: the slow swish

When their tail slowly swishes from left to right, this tells you that they’re feeling mildly annoyed. It’s a good idea to give your cat space if you see this as it could quickly transform into the angry low flick.

Some cats wag their tail when they're in a playful mood: the quick swish

Sometimes this cat tail swishing can be confused with the angry low flick, however it couldn’t be further from how they’re feeling. The quick side to side swish occurs when your cat is feeling playful and will often be followed by a pounce. This behaviour is most commonly seen when playing with toys or another cat and will be coupled with dilated pupils and forward pointing ears.

Cats wag their tail when they're focused: the quick twitch

If you notice your cat’s tail doing a short, quick twitch, it usually implies concentration. You’re most likely to see this cat tail language when they’re window watching a small critter or bird, and they may even display strange cat sounds like chirping or chattering.

Revealed: Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? | Purina (6)

Cats wag their tail when they're excited: the quiver

The tail quiver is quite possibly the cutest tail action, as it means that they’re excited to see you! Your cat will approach you with their tail high up in the air and the tip will do a little quivering movement, similar to how a rattlesnake shakes their tail.

They use this cat tail language to signal to you or other cats that they’re ready for interaction and will usually purr, rub their face on you and sometimes might also meow happily.

Sometimes cats wag their tail to show their love: the wrapping tail

Occasionally when your cat wants to show you affection, they may wrap their tail around your hand, arm or even neck. However, this is less common as most cats tend to display their love for you in the form of head butts instead.

Cats can wag their tail when in danger: fluffed up tail

When your cat’s tail gets really fluffed up, it’s because they feel as though they’re in danger. They generally do this during a confrontation, whether with another dog, cat or maybe with your super scary hoover. According to The Nest, they fluff up to try and make themselves look larger and scarier to their foe, which is why they’ll arch their back too.

Some cats wag their tail while sleeping: the sleep twitch

Sometimes when your cat’s sleeping and you pet or talk to them, they might twitch their tail. This cat tail language is their way of saying, “I know you’re there, but I feel safe enough to carry on snoozing anyway.”

Cat tail wagging as a sign of pain: waving tail while lying down

Dr. Ernie Ward also suggests that sometimes cat tail wagging may indicate that they’re in pain or feeling unwell. If your cat’s lying down and waving their tail whilst also behaving out of sorts – such as going off their food or spending a lot of time in hiding – they may be feeling under the weather. If you’re concerned about your cat’s health, take them to the vet as soon as possible for a diagnosis.

Now you know all the reasons why cats wag their tails! Don’t forget to pay attention to your cat’s tail language the next time you go in for a cuddle – it’ll help to avoid surprise whacks or nips!

Explore our cat brands:

c_brand_discovery (cat)

Dentalife

(Video) Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? - Lovely Animal

Dental Chews

DENTALIFE® Dental Chicken Cat Treats

4.8

(2708)

Online from

Dentalife

Dental Chews

DENTALIFE® Dental Salmon Cat Treats

4.6

(39)

Online from

Related articles

Common Questions About Cats

(Video) Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails?

5 min read

How Long Do Cats Sleep?

Common Questions About Cats

5 min read

Can Cats Have Dreams and Nightmares

Common Questions About Cats

5 min read

Can Cats See in the Dark?

Newsletter

Sign up to our free pet-parenting newsletters!

We believe people and pets are 'Better Together'. Our programme promises to support you through every stage of your journey.

Revealed: Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? | Purina (20)

Advice and articles tailored to your pet's needs.

Free access to our in-house team of vets, behaviourists and advisors.

Discounts and offers from our brands.

Join our newsletter

Sign me up

FAQs

Why do cats flick their tails while lying down? ›

Cats wag their tails while lying down to express a number of emotions. Their tail is the equivalent of human facial expressions. Depending on how they wag their tails while lying down, they may be expressing fear, annoyance, pain, restfulness, playfulness, and happiness.

Why does my cat's tail go straight up when she sees me? ›

At times, your cat approaches you, another person, or an animal with a tail straight up in the air. Straight up tails generally mean that your cat is happy and confident. A tail straight up when meeting others means that the cat is feeling friendly and content.

Are cats happy when they move their tails? ›

Wagging Tail

Dogs wag their tails to show they're happy, but not cats. In fact, a cat's wagging tail usually means exactly the opposite. If two cats wag their tails at one another while their backs are arched and their heads are lowered they may be about to engage in a skirmish.

Why do cats wag their tails side to side? ›

When a cat's tail is twitching, it's a sign that they're concentrating. If they spot something outside that catches their attention, they'll usually show this wag.

What does it mean when a cat stares at you? ›

Your Cat Stares at You to Show Affection

Cats can use staring as a nonverbal way of communicating. Even though a long, unblinking stare may not be the best way for humans to show affection, when your fur baby does this, it may mean they're showing love to their favourite owner.

Why do cats stare at you? ›

As well as being a method of communication, staring is also a sign of a close bond between you and your cat, as they are unlikely to hold eye contact with someone they don't like or trust.

Videos

1. Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails #Shorts
(noemsize)
2. Why Do Cats Wag their Tails?
(Remas Ampaso)
3. Veterinarian Answers Wild Animal Questions From Twitter | Tech Support | WIRED
(WIRED)
4. Why do cats thump their tails when lying down?
(Ask About SPORTS)
5. What Your Cat's Sleeping Position Reveals About Their Health and Personality
(Jaw-Dropping Facts)
6. Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?
(SciShow)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Mrs. Angelic Larkin

Last Updated: 01/28/2023

Views: 5719

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (47 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Mrs. Angelic Larkin

Birthday: 1992-06-28

Address: Apt. 413 8275 Mueller Overpass, South Magnolia, IA 99527-6023

Phone: +6824704719725

Job: District Real-Estate Facilitator

Hobby: Letterboxing, Vacation, Poi, Homebrewing, Mountain biking, Slacklining, Cabaret

Introduction: My name is Mrs. Angelic Larkin, I am a cute, charming, funny, determined, inexpensive, joyous, cheerful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.