Why do cats wag their tails?


Everyone always told me that when cats wag their tails it means they are really angry/annoyed, but this is simply not true for my Caesar. He wags his tail whenever he is happy or excited so was he raised alongside dogs before he became stray and then came to us?

Puppy cat is a new term to me but one that seems to be growing in popularity. It describes cats that are more dog than cat. It is now a term that I use for Caesar as he wags his tail a lot and lies on his back with his legs in the air and his tongue hanging out! He looks so much like a puppy when he does this. Many people think that cats wagging their tails mean danger or distress but in Caesar’s case he’s just happy.

Tail wagging isn’t a guaranteed sign of a happy cat though so you do need to have a look at what the rest of your cat’s body is doing along with their tail movement – for example are their ears back or upright and intent, are they crouched low or standing up, and how is the hair along their back – raised or flat?

Wagging is also not the only move a cat’s tail makes. In actual fact there are many tail movements – so what do each mean?

  • a rapid back and forth wag of the tail from the base rather than the tip is a warning sign – put simply it indicates that you and other cats need to back off or else!
  • an extended and rigid tail is another sign that the cat is ticked off – or on high alert, so do not surprise or startle those moggies unless you want to be raked by razor sharp claws
  • an extended but relaxed tail means your cat is open to interaction so may be in a playful mood
  • a back and forth slow and gentle curling of the entire tail means that the cat is relaxed and happy
  • a quick swish of the tail means the cat is in hunt mode
  • a small, one off end of tail flick is an acknowledgement – either that your cat sees or hears you or is just letting you know that s/he is all good
  • a lowered tail means your cat is content
  • a tail tucked between a cat’s legs is a sign of fear or submission so check that nothing is frightening or threatening this cat
  • an arched tail can mean your cat is either happy or angry so check the rest of his or her body to see which it is. If the ears are pressed back flat against the head then hair is bristling this is a clear no-go danger sign so leave the cat alone. Do not try to comfort or sooth it at this time. S/he will come to you when settled to receive fuss and attention but s/he is far too agitated right now for either.

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