Cat tail quivering when spraying urine to mark territory

This is a very specific post about a feline behaviour which you may have noticed. When cats spray urine to mark territory as a calling card they back up to a vertical object such as a bush or tree and spray urine horizontally onto that object. When they do it their tail may quiver or twitch. It is a distinct form of feline behaviour associated with urine scent marking. So why do cats quiver their tails when they do this?

Domestic cat scent marking by urine spraying

Domestic cat scent marking by urine spraying. The tail quivering is probably a result of effort to force the urine out vigorously. But the experts are unsure. Photo: Pixabay (modified).

Well, I can disclose that its function is unclear but I am pretty clear about it myself! Perhaps you have your own thoughts and if so I would be delighted if you would spell them out in a comment below this post.

It has been suggested that the quivering or twitching is possibly a visual signal “or an automatic manifestation coupled to micturition”. Micturition is the action of urinating! A fancy word and an interesting one used by Fiona Sunquist in her book Wild Cats of the World.

Experts say that among captive cats – and this must be referring to wild cat species in a zoo setting – this form of tail twitching was observed when the spraying was particularly vigourous.

Cat Peeing On Walls

Cat spraying onto a fence in marking territory. Photo in public domain.

In observing black-footed cats (described as the fiercest wild cat species although this is a domestic-sized cat) this form of tail twitching was simply part of urine-spraying behaviour as was treading of the hind feet.

I will add my thought as follows. I think tail twitching or quivering when spraying urine to mark territory is simply a physical process to force the urine out of the bowel more vigourously. It’s the kind of thing people do when trying to force something. You can make your own mind up as to what I’m referring to!

P.S. I have an afterthought. Cats might quiver their tails when they are happy. It may be a sign of a feeling of pleasure. It is reasonable to assume that cat territory marking may be pleasurable for the cat. If so this may be a reason why cats sometimes quiver their tails when spraying urine.

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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1 Response

  1. Laurie Ann-Farr Bobskill says:

    I believe you may mean forcing urine out of the bladder, not the bowel.

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