Decode Your Cats Tail

Decoding your Cat’s Tail

Your cat may give you the side eye but look to the cat’s tail to tell you even more about her mood, and sometimes health too.

Body posture, eyes, ears along with tail movements can give you clues into the mood of your cat.  Once you tune into her tail, this can also help you identify if your cat wants to play, attack their favorite house plant or is in pain or possible underlying illness.  

Why Learn about the Tail?

Cat’s articulate their tails to express emotion.  They are masters at masking their feelings – especially when ill.  Tails may be the most expressive part of a cat’s body. 

Once you take the time to learn about and understand cat “tail language” and realize that careful study of a cat tail signs is vital to both your and your cat’s happiness in the home. You’ll be amazed at the multiple, and clear, signals and emotions your feline companion shares with you.

Straight Down  

A cat whose tail is low to the ground indicates she is agitated or feeling aggressive.  A cat may lower their tail below the level of their back if they are frightened or anxious. If your cat’s tail is tucked between their legs, then they are really scared or could be experiencing pain.

Slapping Back & Forth

A tail that slaps back and forth rapidly indicates both fear and aggression. Don’t try to snuggle up. Consider it a warning to stay away.

Shepherd’s Hook 

Also known as “the question mark”. When the tail is in this position your cat is happy. She is ready to play. This is an invitation to interact with your cat.  She’s ready to share some fun with you.

Curved Beneath the Body 

This tail is telling you your cat may be nervous, frightened, or taking a submissive posture. This could also be a sign of pain or feeling unwell. Before interacting with your cat, make sure her environment is free of stressors.

Decode Your Cat's Tail
Click to download the entire Decode Your Cat’s Tail Infographic

The Swish

Swishing slowly from side to side or twitching means your cat is alert, interested in something, or intently focused on an object like a toy or another animal. You might see this tail position right before your cat pounces on a toy.


The Halloween-cat posture with a puffed tail and arched back, indicates a severely agitated and or frightened.  The cat is trying to look bigger to ward off danger. 

The End

The tail is just a clue into deciphering a cat’s emotions. Our feline family members have perfected these tail twitches to carry different messages. As pet parents we can more completely understand our cat’s emotional state and/or wellbeing with the help of decoding their tail movements.

Although you should look at more than just their tail movements to fully understand your cat’s emotional state, the better we can decipher our cat’s entire body language will surely improve the human animal bond.  Once we comprehend what their body language is saying, we can read their emotions, identify situations that cause them distress, or pleasure and even identify possible illness.

Happy Pet Parenting,

Leslie The Pet Nurse






Cameron-Beaumont CL. (1997). Visual and tactile communication in the domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus) and undomesticated small felids (Doctoral dissertation, University of Southampton, United Kingdom). ISNI: 0000 0001 3514 9313.


Cover Photo by Anna Taylor from Pexels


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