Since a cats tail is a major way of functioning, cats cannot really go without their tail. Today we explain the function of the cats tail.
The tail is not just some muscle. It consists of almost 10 percent of a cat’s bones with 19 to 23 vertebrae. It does also have muscles, ligaments and tendons, holding it all together.
The average tail length is 20cm for females and 28 cm for males. The tail is not directly the extension of the spine, but it does contain a lot of nerve ends that are there to signal danger and make movement and control from body and tail possible.
Cats Cannot Really Go Without a Tail
Some people seem to think that a cat can benefit of not having a tail, but the opposite is quite the case. Cats really do need their tail to function properly as it has many functions for them in their daily life.
Of course, when a tail does not exist anymore, they can cope with it and still live with it, but it will impair their abilities to function. It can be very painful for them and cause a lot of other health problems for your cat, such as inability to walk, incontinence and chronic pain.
There is only one exception, the Manx breed of the Isle of Man is a domestic cat with a natural occurring mutation that shortens or entirely removes the tail. They have as a race learned to cope with their missing body part and they will not feel any pain as it has become a part of their body buildup.
The common function of a cats tail is to keep the balance. The tail works as the counter-weight, while balancing on narrow surfaces such as balcony railings and chair-backs, as well as keeping in upright position when making sharp turns when following prey.
The tail also plays a vital role in the righting reflex, the mechanic that makes sure that cats land on their feet when falling from a medium height.
A cats tail is also part of their communication, both to other cats and animals as well as to us humans.
- When cats walk with their tail held high and straight up, it means they are happy.
- When their tail is swiping from the left to the right, often means they are annoyed or angry.
- A twitching tail could mean they are on guard.
- A very quick twitch in the top of the tail for a short moment means that they are overjoyed to see you
- A tail in a question mark, means a super-happy cat that is ready to play!
- A tail tucked between their legs (like in dogs) or close to the body can mean that they are insecure or fearful.
- When a cat is concentrating on prey they lay their tail low on the ground, but might still quick-swipe their tail. Some say it is to contain excitement, others think it has to do with alertness.
- A puffed up tail (like a tube cleaner), is of a cat that is feeling threatened. Puffing up helps them to feel bigger and more dominant to ward off the danger.
- A swishing slowly from side to side moving tail, means they are concentrated onto something, like a prey
- Tail wrapped around another cat means the same as us hugging each other. It shows affection and friendship to the other.
- A tail held to one side can also be an invitation for sexual interaction by a female cat in heat
- Tail tip twitching is to show mild irritation
There are probably more versions, but these are the most common tail communications.
There is more than just balance and communication. When a cat swishes with its tail while hunting for a prey, it can also be a form of mesmerizing the prey. Cats do not have the best eye-sight for still objects, so by using its tail to mesmerize the prey, the prey might move a bit. Movement is much easier to hunt for the cat.
Unfortunately, tails are also prone to diseases and health issues. Since the tail is connected to the rest of their body with nerve-endings, muscles and tensions, a damage to the tail can also have movement impairing effects to the rest of the body and bodily function.
An overstretch or the actual breaking of bones in the tail can cause a lot of pain and problems to the cat. Trauma can happen to the tail, with the possibility of paralysis.
A damage to the tail can also cause problems with the movement of your cat, the bowel-movements of your cat, the control of the bladder and anus.
Here are other common signs of illness in cats.
On top of that the following diseases are a threat to the tail:
- Alopecia – loss of hair on the tail
- Stud-tail – oily thickening of the top-base of the tail
- tumors – both good and bad
Although they have all the muscle to move their tail deliberately, some movement is automatic while others are deliberate. Cat’s emotions and instincts, such as gazing at prey and reacting with their tail is an automatic involuntary movement. When the cat tries to communicate deliberately with its tail, it is a deliberate movement.
Did you know all these things about a cat tail? I am sure you now have learned a few things you can use to better read your cats tail!