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Cat body language: tail

A cat’s tail is not only for balance, but also for communication. When hunting, the cat gracefully deflects it backwards, and when dancing, it uses it as a counterbalance at the decisive moment. If the cat is interested in something, say, watching a potential victim intently, the tip of its tail twitches. However, a cat’s tail becomes particularly expressive when it is interacting with other cats or with humans. There is a huge range of movements: the cat moves its tail from side to side or from top to bottom, it sways gently or flicks it, like a whip. The tail can curl quietly into a ring around a sleeping cat, or, if the cat is frightened, it can stand upright and lash out.

A calm, confident cat will keep its tail slightly lowered as it walks around an area until another cat or some other interesting object, such as a notice board where scent marks are left, comes into view. If the cat or cat decides to leave a message, the tail rises vertically upwards and starts to tingle slightlyoti is the typical posture for urine jet spray.

When a cat sees a friend (the cat-owner relationship is also deliberately considered friendly), it will often raise its tail with a slight curve, and the tip of the tail may tremble a little at this time. This position allows a friend to sniff the area under the tail, the scent of which will confirm that the cat is a member of the group. The greeting is often accompanied by purring or a special sound that resembles a purr or a meow. Kittens greet their mother by running up to her with their tails up and rubbing their sides against her in the hope of getting a tasty morsel. Adult cats do the same when interacting with a human host, rubbing their tails against their legs in the hope of being fed or petted.

The cat is resting but ready to wake up: it is transversely observing what is going on around it, assessing its surroundings, while its tail moves erratically from side to side. It looks as if the animal is thinking carefully about something and weighing up the pros and cons, whether it’s worth getting up and getting involved in something. The cat finally wakes up, its tail is moving faster and faster, and the amplitude of its oscillations is increasing.

These may be the first signs of annoyance, but perhaps the cat is just teasing the other cat, inviting her to play. A sharp tail flick indicates strong agitation or a readiness to attack – a signal that is hard to miss.
If the cat is reminding you that it may be attacked, the hair on its tail stands up in a ponytail and makes a hedgehog hiss. The tail, when restored to a ponytail, becomes almost twice as wide as normal. The cat, ready to defend itself, rolls up its fur in an attempt to look as big as possible.

Kittens and adult cats often play trap or just run around like a wildcat during the crazy hour, thus releasing excess energy. During this time, they react to any obstacle in their path, be it people, dogs or chairs, by arching their backs, lifting their tails and shaking their fur.

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