Cat Tail Types

The cat fancy likes to use elements of the anatomy of a cat to distinguish one cat breed from another. Body types vary a lot and ears are very popular with cat breeders. There is a huge range of eye colors and ear shapes and sizes, which through selective breeding helps to mark out a cat breed from the other 104 or more breeds.

Another favorite bit of anatomy, which is included in breed standards and important in breeding, is the cat’s tail.

There is vast range of cat tail styles, lengths and fluffiness. This page presents that range,or at least a good part of it,with illustrations. I’ll start at the most fluffy, long and impressive. I’ll finish on the regular tail.

Long and Flowing

Long and flowing tails can be referred to as “plumed tails”. There is no hard and fast definition. In a true sense a plumed tail probably expands a bit towards the tip. However, it would seem to include long and flowing tails.

Examples of cat breeds with plumed tails are: Maine Coon (perhaps) and Balinese (long haired Siamese). Although the amount of fur on the tail of these cats is different because the Maine Coon is double coated while the Balinese is single coated. The word “plume” is not used routinely by the associations in their breed standards as far as I am aware. The CFA Maine Coon standard for the tail is:

“long, wide at base, and tapering. Fur long and flowing”

Maine Coon with flowing tail

Chel with flowing tail. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

This is a fine Helmi Flick picture that shows off the Maine Coon tail. Although not referred to as plumed in the breed standard, it is plumed for me.


Plumed

The Balinese CFA breed standard refers to the tail as plumed:

“bone structure long, thin, tapering to a fine point. Tail hair spreads out like a plume

The tail is quite slender and the fur lies close to the skin on the body and wafts around in a true plume on the tail. I think you will find that the Balinese has the best plumed tail.

Balinese cat with plumed tail

Balinese cat with plumed tail. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

The cat in this picture is 4Ever. She is a show cat. Another cat that has a tail that is described as plumed is the longhaired version of the Oriental Shorthair.


Short and Thick

The tail’s thickness is provided by the fur length. The classic, thickly coated shortish tail is carried by the contemporary Persian cat. The breed standard refers to this cat’s coat as “long and thick, standing off from the body”.

And the tail is described as:

short, but in proportion to body length (no mention of fur length)

Shakira Persian cat with great tail

Shakira Persian cat with great tail. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

This is an adorable looking Persian.


Long and Thin

The classic long, thin cat tail type is the Modern Siamese tail. There are a number of cat breeds closely related to the Modern Siamese such as the Javanese and Oriental Shorthair, I’ll illustrate this type of cat tail with a picture of a black Oriental Shorthair. The CFA breed standard for the OSH tail is:

“long, thin at the base, and tapered to a fine point. Longhair Division: tail hair spreads out like a plume”

Oriental Shorthair with long thin tail

Oriental Shorthair with long thin tail. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

This Helmi picture of a black OSH shows off the thin tail very nicely.


Moderate Proportions

A nice example of a moderately proportioned cat tail is the one belonging to the Abyssinian. The CFA breed standard describes it thus:

“thick at base, fairly long and tapering”

That probably describes 80% of all cat tails. However it may be a fraction longer than “regular” (see below).

Here’s a picture:

Abyssinian cat with standard tail

Abyssinian cat with standard tail. Photo copyright Helmi Flick


Whippy or Whip-like

The hairless group of cats have whippy tails. There are cat breeds that are semi-hairless such as the Peterbald. I guess they have whippy tails too. The whippy tail is a rat-like tail.

“slender, flexible, and long while maintaining proportion to body length. Whip-like, tapering to a fine point.” – CFA Sphynx breed standard

“Long, strong and whippy” – TICA Peterbald breed standard

Sphynx cat with whip-like tail

Sphynx cat with whip-like tail. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

This Sphynx appears to be a bicolor cat judging from the markings in the skin.


Powder Puff

“Powder puff” is a nice description of a very short but long haired tail that is found on the Japanese Bobtail. The breed standard does not use the term “powder puff”. This sort of tail is unique to the Japanese Bobtail and each one is different. It is a sort of identification mark.

Japanese Bobtail powder puff tail

Japanese Bobtail powder puff tail. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

 “the tail is unique not only to the breed, but to each individual cat..”


Very Short Tail

Many bobtailed cats have very short tails. I’ll select the classic American bobtail as an example. The CFA breed standard states:

“..is short, flexible and expressive and may be straight, slightly curved or slightly kinked…”

American Bobtail very short tail

American Bobtail very short tail. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

The tail of the American Bobtail can look like the tail of the Japanese Bobtail. The picture above shows a standard very short tailed American Bobtail.


No Tail

We are talking about the Manx and Cymric (long haired Manx) under this heading. This no-tailed cat can also have a little stump sometimes. There is a range of tail vestiges.

TAILLESSNESS: appearing to be absolute in the perfect specimen. A rise of bone at the end of the spine is allowed…

Manx cat showing no tail

Manx cat showing no tail. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

You can read about the range of tails for this cat on this page.


Regular

You’ll see the best “regular” cat tails on your cat or some random bred cats who are also show cats. Here is a nice example. Her name is “Olive Oyl”.

Olive Oyl moggie show cat with standard tail

Olive Oyl moggie show cat with standard tail. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

You can see some regular tailed show moggie cats on this page.


Curly Tail

This honour belongs to the American Ringtailed Cat:

American Ringtail Cat

American Ringtail Cat – Photo copyright Joseph Halbleib


Comments

Cat Tail Types — 7 Comments

  1. My goodness the persian cats tale is almost as wide as the rest of her (him?) – I must say I really think it looks nice and puffy. I have had 2 long haired cats with tails more like the MC or NFC – I like fluffy long haired tails as much as I like the simple short haired tapering ones. Tails are one of the greatest parts of a cat – so much expression comes from the tail.

  2. Hi Michael,

    The Chel and the Persian really have fluffy tails.

    They’re beautiful.

    I loved the look of my MCs tails but I also love the look of my hairless cat’s whippy tails. A person might think that whippy tails are not so attractive at first. But once you get to know the cat personality, you fall pretty hard for the whippy tail.

    They love to wrap their tails tightly around your leg. My other cats all do this too but when my hairless cats and my Asian Shorthair do it, they all hold on for longer than average and it really feels like a great big hug.

    Maybe that’s why I like whippy tails so much.

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

    • Tell me what a whippy tail feels like ;) I have never felt one. It must be a bit strange at first. The little Persian has an amazing tail. It look incredible thick. The Maine Coon in the picture has an absolutely beautiful tail.

      • Hi Michael,

        I meant to say MC rather than “Chel”. That’s a beautiful cat and a great picture.

        I assume you’re referring to a hairless whippy tail. A hairless whippy tail feels like an Asian Shorthair tail except with warm skin instead of fur.

        How does an Asian Shorthair whippy tail feel? Like the tail of most cats but a little stronger and a little warmer perhaps. The hair is short enough so you can feel the warm skin underneath but it’s not quite as warm as a hairless cat’s whippy tail. They tend to linger a bit longer when they tail wrap. It feels like something a bit “more” and a little sweeter for lack of a better way of describing it.

        It’s like they put a little more emotion into it and feel that it’s important to express it via tail wrap.

        Hope that gives you a better idea. You’d be delighted :)

        =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

  3. We have a cat with relatively short legs and tail, a full solid body, and a rounded head. Her coloring is typical tabby. Her hair is short and thick. We have been trying to identify the breed. The closest we can come is a British Short Hair. She is extremely intelligent and social with the family. Do you have any ideas?

    • She sounds like she comes from British SH stock. They have short dense fur and fit your description. However, to be a “cat breed” the cat has to be registered with a cat association. Those are the rules in the West (Europe and America). That does not take anything away from your cat who may have original Brit blood in her. A similar cat with the same ancestors from long ago is the American Shorthair.

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