What Does It Mean When Your Cat Is Wagging Its Tail?

Cats can’t talk.

Well, actually they do talk, just not the way we, humans, do it. Cats have various ways of expressing vocalization. They usually do it through meowing, hissing, chirping, yowling and so forth. Felines can produce a vast variety of sounds through which they communicate with each other and with their pet parents.

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And while they may not be capable of speaking our language they can still tell us many things even without using any actual sounds. How? It’s simply called body language. Kitties have a unique way of showing emotions and expressing needs or demands.

They can even give out more information than you might think just through their sleeping position. That’s right – your cat’s sleeping positions can indeed speak on your pet’s behalf!

Cat sleeping positions and their meaning

Moreover, their sitting or standing positions can also give you some insight into their emotions and the way they’re feeling about their current surroundings. You can easily tell if your furry pal is scared, angry, calm or on alert. The cat’s body language isn’t difficult to understand once you grasp the basics.

And one of the most basic types of feline body language is your cat’s tail movement.

Felines hold their tails in diverse positions for a number of reasons. For example, they can show submission or can cheerfully greet somebody just with the way they’re holding their tail.

Cat tail position meanings

While the tail positions and the emotions behind them vary, one of the most interesting movements is the so-called wagging. You’ve most definitely seen these motions and you’ve probably wondered if they can be translated as happiness or excitement.

Types of wagging and the meaning behind them

So, what does it mean your cat is wagging its tail?

Truth be told, these motions can mean a large variety of things. But before we delve further into the subject, let’s get something straight. Cats don’t really wag their tails. What you’re seeing is actually a swishing-like movement, which you shouldn’t misinterpret as a dog-like tail wagging.

A dog will wag its tail when it’s excited and agitated about something. Cats, on the other hand, can carry out similar tail movements for tons of different reasons.

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Cats perform a variety of motions with their tail, which may seem like wagging, but they are different from this type of movement. Swishing, twitching and whipping are far more suitable ways to describe these movements.

Without further ado, let’s review what these motions are and what do they really mean.

The twitching of the tip

When the tip of your fluffy pal’s tail is twitching sideways it means your pet is on high alert. The swishing motion of the tip translates as extreme concentration. When your kitty is focused on something it will twitch its tail, whether its focus is related to an animal invading its territory or on a potential prey.

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The twitching can’t really tell you the exact emotions going through your kitty’s brain. The feline could be slightly aggressive, ready to fend off the territory or simply willing to hunt. The one certain thing is that it’s definitely not relaxed, but in a rather negative manner.


Whipping can be carried out in a back and forth motion or in an up and down motion. These are uneasy movements, which resemble the abrupt lashing of a whip.

The whipping of your cat’s tail is a clear sign that your kitty is bothered by something. It indicates a stressful and unpleasant emotion, which your pet is experiencing at the given moment. You’ve probably seen your furry pal do this with its tail when it’s glancing through the window or when it hears a sudden and loud noise.

It means your precious feline furball is feeling particularly uncomfortable. In this case you must allow the kitty to calm down and to feel safe before you approach it. Otherwise it might get startled or aggressive. As such, accidents might occur.

Swishing sideways

Unlike the whipping, the swishing of your pet’s tail is much more rhythmic and is done in smooth motions. It doesn’t indicate alertness in a negative way. Instead, it means that the feline is rather excited about the subject of its attention.

This type of swishing often occurs when you’re filling up the food bowl. Another scenario is when the kitty is about to jump towards its toys or something else, which is sparking up the cat’s interest.

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Moreover, the swishing can also occur as the cat is stalking its prey. And you can sometimes see it when a cat is trying to approach another cat and to invite it for a fun play session. Basically, the swishing can be translated as an intense focus without the negative twist of the whipping tail.

Monitoring the tail movement is important!

Now that you’ve learned all about the basics of the so-called “wagging” of your cat’s tail, you need to remember that paying attention to the cat’s body language is of intrinsic importance.

Sometimes your kitty simply needs to bolt through the door. In such occasions it’s better to give the feline a quick and safe escape route. When the cat is scared, startled, irritated or stressed out it might bite, scratch or attack you, regardless of how much it loves you.

In other situations it’s essential to understand your pet’s mood in order to be able to soothe it and satisfy its pressing needs. Even the laziest of cats out there will “speak” through various tail motions depending on the given situation and the way the kitty feels about its surroundings.

It’s not only the tail movement that is important. Learning how to read your pet’s overall body language is fundamental for your relationship with your precious feline furball. Don’t neglect your fluffy pal when it’s begging for attention, food or play time. It comes only natural that you can’t spend 24/7 with your pet, but that doesn’t mean that you should ignore the kitty or the telltale signs of its body language.

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  • June 9, 2017
  • Fun
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