Have you ever wondered why cats shake their tails? Cats shake their tails when they are happy, when they are angry or irritated, when they are anxious, when they are about to explore or about to hunt. In other words, cats shake their tails to communicate with each other, us humans and their environment.
The Language of Cats
Cats don’t speak human and a lot of cats don’t even meow. How do cats communicate then? Cats use their mainly body to speak to other cats or us. As a matter of fact, the meowing is for 9 out of 10 times been produced for us humans to make communication easier.
Cats are by nature not really talkative through their voice, because there are many other ways to communicate with other cats and other animals as well as that they don’t really want to call for attention either.
The biggest exception is perhaps that cats meow at each other when they are in a big fight.
The body language of cats is very varied. Cats use their entire body for communication, including their tail. You will see things like a hollow or a curved puffed up back or a fluffy tail versus a thin tail between their legs. The eyes are also part of how they feel or what they try to express.
The Cats Tail
The tail of a cat is actually part of their spine. The tail is therefore very movable and flexible and can be controlled very precisely. It also means that the cat has a couple of nerve ends that make them feel and sense things on more than just one level.
To name a few examples, they are able to keep balance with it when walking on a thin bar of wood, feel or sense danger, or feel the height of things.
The tail is very movable on every part of the tail. It is therefore possible for them to move only the top part or the entire tail.
Shaken Not Stirred
Cat’s shake their tails for a number of reasons, which I will further explain below:
- When Happy
- When Angry or Irritated
- When Anxious
- When Exploring or Hunting
- When Spraying or Marking
The deal here is that they can shake different parts of their tail. You have to pay close attention to your cat and what type of part of tail they are moving and at what speed, to determine what mood they are in.
When a cat is extremely happy with your or a situation, they will come to you and shake the outmost top of their tail in a vibrational movement almost as if they were rattlesnakes. This brief but proper rattle of their tail shows a certain happiness with you or a situation.
When we go to the bathroom, it is often that a happy cat will follow us inside. They run with us in and turn around at the bathtub with their tail perched high up in the sky. At this very moment you will find them rattling their tail tip for a moment and often a noise is made in form of a chirp, trill or meow.
The result is usually that we make them even more happy by cuddling with them while we do unspeakable stuff on the bathroom. This is a highlight for both us and the kitties.
When Angry Or Irritated
An angry cat or irritated cat is usually not the most fun cat to deal with. They can be angry with us humans or with another cat, either here in the house or outside in the neighbourhood. You will hear an annoyed meow or chirp, perhaps even a growl.
An angry or slightly irritated cat will also sway their tail. Now it is no longer just the tip that shakes, but a good amount of their tail is either swiping or swaying violently.
Too much play or cuddles can also make your get irritated. It isn’t really an irritation, but more of a shown border: “until here, I got enough, let’s move on with the day”.
When a cat is afraid (or spooked), they will usually shake their tail shortly and often only in the top-most part of the tail. You will never see big movements on this type of emotion.
When Exploring or Hunting
During a hunt in the garden or during the time they are watching the birds in the garden enter their property, while sitting behind in the window indoors, our cats do also shake their tail. Now it is somewhere between a proper long movement and a short shake in the tip.
During their watching or hunting moments, they can either do a short shake of their tail or perform the shake the entire time while they are preparing to jump the prey.
When Spraying or Marking
Unfortunately there is also a less fun form of a shaking tail. The same tip of the tail can also shake when they are marking or spraying. Spraying is usually performed using the special glands a cat has in their tail and a number of other places on the body.
These glands produce pheromones and it is basically functioning as an “hey this is my property” type of identification. These same pheromones are also given to the environment within feces and urine they excrement.
This top of the tail movement is easily mistaken for a happy cat and means you could potentially be left with a very smelly place in your house.
This is the reason we were very worried when we saw our happy cat do this ritual to us. At first, we thought she had started spraying the bathtub, but it actually meant she was really happy with us.
The body language of a cat is really interesting and has lots of variations. Cats make use of more than just the tail for communication. It is definitely useful to learn to know your cat and understand their language better so that you can actually understand what happens between you and your cat at different times of the day.
It is also a great tool to see if something is up with your cat. After all, when you know that something is off or odd of the usual, there is reason to wonder about their health or environment and then it is possible to do something about it in time.
What is your experience with the tail of your cat? Are you able to read their body language? Leave a comment below. Leave also a comment below if you have difficulty reading your cat’s body language and you want some help with that.