What Does It Mean When A Cat Flicks Its Tail?

Cats often seem to enjoy playing games with their tails. They flick them back and forth, or even spin them around. What does it mean when they do these things?

Whilst our fur babies cannot tell us how they’re feeling, they can and do show us through their body language.

Cats are typically described as aloof and mysterious, but as any true feline fan will tell you, cats are extremely expressive creatures.

Cats are known to play games with their tails. Some cats will even try to get other animals to chase after their tails. This behavior has puzzled scientists for years.

It turns out that cats are using their tails to communicate with each other. The tail is a very sensitive part of the body.

If you look at your cat’s tail closely, you’ll notice that there are tiny hairs on its underside. These hairs can be raised or lowered depending on how excited or calm your cat is feeling.

If your cat is in an excited state, the hairs on its tail will move up and down quickly. This makes your cat appear to be waving his tail from side to side.

In this article, we’ll be taking a close look at all things cat tail related, including what a cat flicking its tail means, along with some other related tail movements.

So if you’re interested in getting to know what your cat is trying to tell you, read on!

Why Do Cats Flick Their Tails? 

As we mentioned in the introduction, cats have a multitude of ways of communicating. Like any other animal, they want to be understood, but their language isn’t as straightforward as speaking (obviously). 

The position of a cat’s tail is one major way it communicates with us and other animals. 

The tail on a cat is vital to its well being, unless it’s born without one, like the Manx breed for example. The tail on a cat is a continuation of its spine, and has anywhere between 18 and 20 caudal vertebrae.

These vertebrae help support the weight of the cat, and also provide a good deal of flexibility. 

When a cat is relaxed, the muscles on its tail relax too, which allows it to hang straight down. 

This helps keep the cat cool by allowing air to flow freely over its skin. However, when a cat is stressed, the muscles on its spine tense up, causing the tail to curl upwards. 

This brings us nicely to answering the question of why cats flick their tails. 

If your cat is flicking his/her tail, especially if the movement is rigid/abrupt, it’s a good indication that your feline friend is frightened.

However, the situation your cat is in also has a great deal to do with the meaning of it’s tail movements. If they’re outside, there’s a good chance that the flicking of their tail indicates that they’re stalking prey. 

If your kitty is inside, then they may be signaling that he/she wants attention. 

They might also be indicating that they’re ready to play. 

So let’s take a closer look at all the different meanings behind cat tail movements.

Cat Tail Movements: What They Mean

There are many reasons why a cat would flick his/her tail. In fact, there are so many reasons that it’s hard to list them all here. We’ve put together a short list of the most common ones below. 

1) Play – Your cat might be playing with another cat or kitten. They could be chasing something away, or just having fun. 

2) Aggression – If your cat is being aggressive towards someone else, he/she might be signaling that they don’t want to interact with him/her. 

3) Disgust – If your cat is disgusted by something, he/she might flick his/her tail in order to get rid of it. 

4) Excitement – If your cat is excited about something, he/she will often flick his/her tail back and forth rapidly. 

5) Fear – If your cat is afraid, he/she will usually twitch his/her tail from side-to-side. This can be very fast and abrupt, making it easy to see. 

6) Pain – If your cat is in pain, he/she will typically raise his/her tail off the ground. This is because the muscles on the tail are more sensitive than those on the body. 

7) Hunger – If your cat is hungry, he/she will generally lift his/her tail higher into the air. This is because the tail is used to balance the cat while hunting. 

8) Love – Cats use their tails to communicate love to each other. They’ll typically rub against each other using their tails. 

9) Curiosity – If your cat is curious about something new, he/she will frequently touch his/her tail to things around him/her. 

10) Trust – If you’re trying to gain trust from an animal, such as a dog, you should show them that you trust them by stroking them along their sides. You should also allow them to sniff you before petting them. 

11) Warning – If your cat is warning you of danger, he/she will sometimes flick his/her tail quickly.

Are There Other Ways To Tell How My Cat Is Feeling?

Whilst feline body and tail language can be confusing, there are other ways to tell how your cat is feeling. If you’re having difficulty interpreting their body/tail language, consider the following questions below: 

Overall Posture

How are they sitting or standing? What about their posture? Are they cowering, lounging, or about to pounce? 


Is your cat purring? Or growling in anger/distress? 

Eye Movement

Looking at their eyes, do they appear soft and blinking? This suggests they’re relaxed and content. Or are they wide and staring? Suggesting that they’re on high alert or fearful.

Wrapping Up

Cats have been domesticated for thousands of years. And now we know that they understand human gestures and signals too!

So if you’re wondering what your cat is thinking, remember that they probably already know, and will communicate this to you.

Courtney Trent
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