Why Do Cats Have Tails? Is There Really A Purpose? + Cat Tail Facts

Why Do Cats Have Tails? Is There Really A Purpose? + Cat Tail Facts

As curious as cats are in terms of their temperament, they can be just as curious to us, human beings. Unless you’re fluent in meow, you’ve probably been baffled by your kitty’s mysterious ways at least once in your lifetime.

One of the many interesting things cats of all breeds and ages have in common is their fifth “limb” – the tail.

Even bobtailed cats such as the Pixie Bob have it, regardless of how short it is. If you’ve ever wondered why it is exactly that cats have tails and if there’s really a purpose behind them, today you’ll find out the answers to these questions. And who knows? Maybe you’ll also find some surprising new facts about your own kitty’s tail below.

Why do cats have tails?

Cats, similarly to other vertebrate animals like dogs, have fully functioning tails, which aid them in a number of ways.

Balance

The most fundamental purpose of your cat’s tail is physical balance. You’ve probably seen a cat’s gracious movements while it’s walking on some high perched up surface, like a roof for example. And if you try walking on a thin, narrow, possibly high surface, you’d instinctively spread your arms in an attempt to balance your body’s weight.

Kitty tails function in the same way as your arms would in such situations.

If a cat has been injured, the tail also acts as an additional limb and becomes even more important for maintaining proper balance. The same goes for bobtailed feline furballs. Bobtails have significantly shorter tails, but they can still find use in them.

Landing

Wait, cats land on their feet, not their tails. Right? That’s correct. However, your kitty’s tail always comes in handy for landing purposes.

Seeing a cat fall on its back is a phenomenon not only because the feline body is extremely agile. The tail actually serves the purpose of a sort of counterweight. In its own unique way it helps the kitty flip over and land on its feet. Or in other words, it also prevents possible injuries from occurring. Regardless of the cat’s notable agility and athletic skills, the tail’s extra counterweight helps by providing some extra stability.

Of course, tails aren’t exactly magical. Kitties are prone to landing badly and injuring themselves. So don’t rely solely on your beloved furball’s tail if you have some dangerously high shelves/ perches in your home.

Communication

Cats communicate in a number of vocal ways through purring, yowling, hissing, meowing and so on. But similarly to us, human beings, they can also communicate non-verbally with the help of body language.

A cat’s tail is an essential aspect of the way it communicates through body language.

Even kittens know how to use this extension of their spines for “talking” purposes. In fact, if you try observing your pet in different situations, you’ll see that it has tons of different tail positions. And while the ear movements, facial expressions and overall body posture can say a lot about a cat’s emotions, its tail is what truly gives everything away.

Whether the tail is twitching, curling up, swishing like an angry broomstick or wagging like a dog’s tail, it’s an undeniable fact that your cat’s fifth “limb” can be just as expressive as human speech.

That being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your cat is trying to talk to you when it’s moving its tail. It just means the tail movements and positions are expressing its inner feelings. Learning how to decipher these aspects of feline body language can actually improve your bond with your feline friend. Or at least it can tell you when your kitty is scared or angry and help you prevent possible accidents.

Sense of touch

Kind of like the whiskers, feline tails offer an extra hand when it comes to your cat’s sense of touch. A cat’s tail contains around 10% of the kitty’s overall bone count and it’s filled with countless nerves. These not only serve as motoric nerves, but also as sensory nerves. As such, the cat’s tail also plays a role in its sense of touch and the understanding of its surroundings.

Most cats don’t like having their tails touched or stroked.

Keep that in mind next time you’re petting your fluffy pal. And keep in mind all of the other ways your cat’s tail is serving it so that you won’t be baffled by your pet’s fear or aggression when you’re reaching towards its tail.

Cat tail facts

Are you eager to find out more facts about your pet’s tail? Keep reading.

Tail injuries can lead to serious damage

Your kitty’s tail is a natural extension of its spine, but the spinal cord doesn’t actually stretch all the way into a furball’s tail. Nevertheless, tail injuries can lead to some pretty serious permanent damages to the cat’s spine. Injuring the nerves in a feline tail can result in temporary or even permanent inability to feel, walk, hold the tail in a certain position or urinate properly.

Bobtailed cats don’t have the very same tailless gene

Not all bobtailed or seemingly tailless cats carry the very same gene. It actually depends on the breed’s genetics. On top of that, tailless or bobtailed kitties can be born to one bobtailed and one fully tailed parent. And that’s just another reason as to why kitties are so curious and unique!

Cats can live and manage without a tail

Even though the tail is an essential part of the feline body for so many different reasons, kitties can actually survive the loss of their tail and can live without it.

If there hasn’t been any permanent damage to the nerves and bones in the body, your pet will learn how to cope with leading a tailless life. After it gets used to the pain and the loss of the fifth “limb”, it can still have a normal life.

That, however, doesn’t mean that you should take your cat’s tail lightly. Don’t tug, squeeze, pull or play with it under any circumstances and don’t allow any children or house guests to do it either. If you don’t cause any physical damage to the tail, you’ll still cause emotional discomfort to your pet.

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Emily Parker
 

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

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