A Tale Of Tails: What Your Cat’s Tail Communicates

This post, “A Tale Of Tails,” appears in response to a request from a commenter, who wanted more information on the cat’s tail. In September of 2020 I wrote an informational piece about the cat’s tail, which will give you some detailed information. Click the blue link above for access.

White cat, black spots and tail, tail upright
A Positive Greeting

Though the cat does not speak our language, this remarkable creature still has methods to communicate with us and other animals. Just as deaf humans use sign language to make their wishes known, so kitty uses the flexible, flowing tail to send messages to us and others.

Just as we might need to learn human sign language, if we want to communicate with Kitty, we would do well to learn what those signs mean. As we can see in this YouTube video, Kitty can send us lots of information with that talented tail, if we know how to interpret it. Here goes:

How interesting, that a wild cat don’t hold the tail up. They want the world to know, I guess, that they are not looking for friendship. Do realize, however, that besides conveying moods and feelings, Kitty’s tail has other important uses.

Communication And Balance: Two Important Uses

Grey striped cat walking narrow railing
Balance Is Vital

Besides communication, the most important use of that tail comes in as a way to create balance. If a cat is running, jumping, or perhaps navigating a narrow passage, such as the top of your fence, the tail, just like the balance bar an athlete might use to remain stable and upright, keeps the cat from falling or losing balance.

The tail represents an amazing difference between cat and human. It contains 18 to 23 vertebrae, more than twice those found in the human body. These give Kitty great agility and flexibility. No wonder your cat can perform such amazing feats that we would not dare try to repeat.

The length and texture of a cat’s tail can vary a great deal. This difference depends on the breed of your cat. It can be flat or fluffy. Of all the cats who have owned me, Mocha ranks first in fluffiest tail. His tail, which he carries high with pride, appears as a long bushy plume, lovely to observe.

Tri-colored cat with plume of tail
A Warm Tail

Mocha’s tail undoubtedly ranks high in the ability to offer warmth. Have you observed your cat sleeping with the tail wrapped around the body? It’s because this part of the anatomy represents a kind of heating device that helps send warmth into the lower extremities. Sometimes I think a tail would prove an advantage!

If you have observed your cat walking with the tail down? The message may have nothing to do with moods or feelings. Kitty walks like that to help maintain good posture. No need for a book on the head — carrying the tail at a lowered position helps the cat keep the proper kitty stance.

That tail can become quite important when Kitty ventures out to prowl the countryside. It’s a very sensitive part of the body. Nerves and muscles in the tail allow the detection of the slightest change in air pressure or temperature. These send messages to help the cat gauge the environment.

Communicating With Other Cats

Two orange cats walking, one with tail draped over the other
Love Your Neighbor

When a cat meets another cat, the tail becomes the first thing that makes contact. Signals from the tail can tell another animal a great deal about this confrontation, and can lead to fights or friendship. Other cats get the tail messages, even if we do not.

There are scent glands at the base of the tail. These can become important when staking out or marking a territory. It’s another point on Kitty’s body that allows him/her to leave messages to others who come by.

This wonderful part of cat anatomy can also serve the important use of storing fat reserves. Oh, if we only had such a place to keep such commodities, instead of all the places where we don’t want them to appear!

What About The Tailless Manx?

Knowing all the wonderful uses for a cat’s tail, I find myself feeling sorry for the poor Manx cat. This breed seems to get along okay, but some things must be avoided. The tailless gene in the Manx is dominant, and therefore creates a breeding problem.

The Manx must not mate with another Manx, but must pair with a tailed cat, as this tailless gene is recessive. If the union between two Manx cats does occur, very often the female will spontaneously abort. If not, the offspring can develop something called the Manx Syndrome, leading to serious health problems.

A Broken Tail Presents A Serious Problem

The tail of the cat is very sensitive, and often they do not want you to touch it. Moreover, if Kitty ever breaks that important tail, it becomes necessary to see a vet right away. Serious problems can result.

Hunched up, mad cat; long-haired Siamese breed
Don’t Touch Me!

For one thing, the cat can often lose control of the bladder. Then, kitty cannot regulate such bodily needs as waste elimination. It becomes rather like a person experiencing incontinence. Kitty cannot control these bodily needs to eliminate, and fluids will simply flow out, much to the cat’s dismay. He simply can’t help it.

Also, a cat with a broken tail may have trouble moving the back legs. The cause of this problem comes about due to nerve damage, and may not be reparable. Your vet can advise you as to what you can do. I lost one cat because of a broken tail, and feel it important you should be aware of the danger.

A kitty certainly has the right to feel proud of this wonderful part of their body. Learn how to read your cat’s tail messages to know what kitty feels or thinks about. It provides a direct connection to the Inner Cat and can help with bonding and understanding.

Orange cat, tortoise cat lying back to back, tails forming heart
References I used for this post:


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