What Does It Mean When A Cat Wags Its Tail?

Pet lovers will often keep an eye on their pets’ body language. We know with dogs that it’s common for them to wag their tail when they’re happy or excited.

When cats wag their tail though, it’s normally much slower and sometimes much more “suspicious”. 

Tail movements are something we should keep an eye on because depending on what the cat’s tail is doing can denote different things and this can give us some signs of how the cat is feeling or what they’re planning! 

Cat tail language is important, and we need to learn what all the common positions are along with the cat’s general demeanor. This includes their body posture, their tail position, their eyes and ears and keeping in mind events that have just happened. 

All of these things will create a picture for you and help to understand what your furry friends are feeling. 

This guide will find out what all of this tail language means and what you should do in certain situations. So, get comfy with your little buddy and let’s get into it!

Tail Language 

Like other animals, cats will move their tails around and this movement will mean something about their emotional state and what they’re thinking. It’s a way to convey this to you and express their feelings. 

Let’s take a look at the most common cat tail movements and see what they mean!

Thrash And Thump 

If your cat is thrashing their tail around or thumping the ground with their tail, this normally means that your little friend is very irritated and something is bothering them. If you are petting or stroking your cat, and they start to do this, they’re trying to tell you to quit it. 

If you notice something in the room that might be a possible trigger for your cat, like a large dog for example, it might be a good idea to take them out of the room and then check on your cat’s behavior then. 

If they stop their tail movements, this was the clear trigger. The point here is, they are distressed, and it is unwise to get close to them.

Sometimes, this type of tail movement will be accompanied by hissing, spitting or quick and angry movements – they might even bite you!

Tail Twitching

This cat tail language is more of a difficult movement to assess. Depending on the overall situation, it can mean that a cat is either playing, hunting or slightly angry. This is when the cat is twitching the very end of their tail though, not all of it.

Look around the cat’s area and check for any possible trigger points. If your cat isn’t playing or hunting with something or someone, this tail movement is likely to be a sign of an annoyed kitty! Best off leaving your cat to do their thing for a while. 

Tail Swishing 

If your cat is swishing their tail from one side to the other, this normally denotes a high level of focus on something.

Sometimes, they will do this if they’re out hunting in the wild. Another thing to note here is that a likely next stop is for the cat to pounce on something!

So, if your cat is doing this and looking at an area with intent in your house, be prepared for them to quickly jump on whatever it is!

It’s important to note here that you should not prevent your cat from doing this. It’s a natural part of their lives as predators, and you need to let them be themselves – it’s psychologically a boost for them! 

Tail Quivering 

Your feline friend might quiver their tail from time to time. Generally speaking, this is because your cat is pleased to see someone. It could be you, a family member or another cat. However, it can also be urine marking!

This is basically a way for cats to tell other cats that this is their territory and others need to stay out of it. The way you can tell the difference is by checking the angle of the tail.

If they are near a wall or other object, and they have an upright tail, they are likely moving it to urine mark.

However, if the tail is out and lower down, and they quiver, or they are away from other objects – they’re pleased to see someone! Get the food bowl out – it’s time for dinner!

Straight Up Tail And Curved Tail

If a cat has their tail upright, they’re indicating a social feeling. They want to be friendly! This is normally how kittens will greet their mother back from their hunts. It’s all about friendly hello with this cat tail language. 

It’s also good to note that if you want to play with your cat or pet them, this is the best opportunity to do it!

If your cat has a curved tail when it’s upright, so it’s in a question mark shape – this also means they are happy, so if you’re hoping to play with your kitty – this is also a great time to do so. 

Tail Wrapping 

Have you ever come home, and your cat has come up to your leg and wrapped its tail around you? Well, you’re lucky! 

The cat is telling you they’re very happy to see you, think about it like a cat hug. 

However, if a cat is wrapping their tail around their body while sitting down, they’re normally in defense mode, and they’re uneasy with what is going on around them. Try to check any potential triggers or problems nearby that might be scaring them. 

If your cat is lying down and wraps its tail around itself though, it simply means it’s content and curling up to rest. 


Cats wag their tails in many ways and understanding the overall situation with their other body movements and facial expressions is the best way to assess if it is a good idea to socialize with them right now or not!

Courtney Trent
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