Each cat is different
Before you dive into the information below, bear in mind that each cat is unique. Kittens that were taken away from their mom and siblings way too soon are likely to never have learned proper cat language, resulting in them expressing their mood differently from most cats. It’s always a good idea to take the situation and your cat’s surroundings into account when studying their body language.
Tail straight up
When your cat walks around with their tail held straight up, that’s a great sign as they are happy and confident. Your cat is in their element, so feel free to reach out for a pat if you like. Don’t confuse the happy tail up with a cat swishing their tail held straight up, as the latter is the cat equivalent of giving the finger. Ouch!
When your cat holds up their tail with the tip curled like a question mark, they are likely looking for interaction. They might be asking you to pet them or play with them, or they might just be wondering what you are up to. Cats tend to be inquisitive, as you most likely know.
Does your cat quiver their tail when you approach them? This means they are super excited to see you! Note, however, that cats also quiver their tail when spraying urine to mark their territory. It’s best not to confuse the two.
Cat friendship bracelet
When a cat wraps their tail around your arm or leg, it’s a friendly greeting in which your cat tells you they love you. So basically, cats sometimes use their tail like a friendship bracelet. How cute is that!
When your cat holds their tail to the back in more or less a 135° angle, their mood is neutral and non-threatening. They are just going about their day and don’t really mean to communicate anything to you. It’s like these people answering “nothing” when you ask them what they are thinking about.
A cat that’s scared will hold their tail way to the back and pointed downwards. Depending on the angle, a certain nuance is added. A cat with their tail all the way between their legs, like you sometimes see in dogs, is very submissive. A cat that holds their back and tail low to the ground is anxious or in pain. Scaredy cats will also assume this pose while running away from something that scared them – in our office cat’s Pixi’s case, that would be anyone coming through the front door.
When a cat sits down and twitches only the very end of their tail, it means they are alert. Something must have piqued your cat’s interest. It could be a sound, an insect, a toy… or your cat might be up to no good. Since your cat might be looking to play, this would be a great moment to grab a wand toy and entertain your feline.
Leave me alone
When a cat swishes their tail back and forth, they are telling you they are annoyed. The more violently the swishing, the more annoyed the cat is. Unfortunately, some people don’t recognize this clear warning sign or don’t know what it means, resulting in cats being brought to the shelter because “they attacked without warning”. However, cats attacking without warning are extremely rare and usually the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. So, pay attention to your cat’s tail and be sure to leave your feline alone when needed.
Beware of a poofy cat
A cat with a puffed up tail pointing straight up is usually bristling with anger and very much ready to attack. Don’t get anywhere near them or you might get seriously injured. A cat with an arched back and a puffed up tail is trying to appear larger than they really are. That’s because they are feeling severely threatened. And then there’s the final type of poofy tail, which we have only observed in our office cat Pixi so far. Whenever Pixi gets spooked or highly excited during play, she will puff up her tail. It’s actually pretty funny to see, and leads us to call her our little squirrel.