Why Do Cats Wag Their Tail?

American Ringtail Cat - how does this tail wag?

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American Ringtail Cat - how does this tail wag?

Why do cats wag their tail? When my girl cat wants to go out I open the door for her (she is too fat to get through the cat flap!). If its horrible outside she waits and looks. In fact she almost always waits and looks and I try and encourage her to make up her mind by making an encouraging sort of sound.

While she is trying to figure out what to do her tail wags gently from side to side. She walks outside and her tail stops waging. When she has finally got outside and is sitting on the grass all is calm; a perfectly static tail.

Then she might see something or she thinks she has seen something. Her tail starts wagging again. If it is a bird that she instinctively feels that she must hunt her tail will wag more vigorously.

Sometimes you get the situation of cats sleeping with tail flicking.

All are based on the same underlying emotional state and it is not anger. A wagging tail indicates that our cat is uncertain what to do, in a state of mental conflict; shall I or shan't I do so and so?

When the door is open to go out she is unsure because danger lurks out there. When she sees a bird she wants to attack but the cover on a mowed lawn doesn't allow it; I want to go but should I go, I can't go etc -- more conflict.

This tail movement that reflects an emotional state originates in a physical state, the problem of maintaining balance for which the tail is designed to help achieve. The great tree dwelling and climbing cats such as the clouded leopard and margay to name two, have longer tails than average, much longer in fact, and this also applies to the snow leopard as it has to climb and negotiate rock at a 40 degree slope over very dangerous terrain.

The longer tails tell us that it is the tail that helps maintain balance in the same way we use our arms and legs when maintaining our balance. A cat will throw the tail out as a counterbalance. When balance is at a fine point the tail will move from one position to the next maintaining the balance - it is wagging.

This finely balanced point replicates the emotional state when the mind is in conflict trying to decide what to do when the options are finely balanced.

From Why Do Cats Wag Their Tail? to Why Do Cats

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Why Do Cats Wag Their Tail?

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Feb 08, 2011
Ragdoll Tail Activity
by: Corina

I have a 4 year old male Ragdoll Seal/Main Coon mix. In 2007 someone at work was trying to give them to good homes. He was 5 or 6 weeks old and so tiny we had to use books as steps to help him into his short litter box. His tail was so short I was concerned. The vet wasnt. He is now about 2 feet long 17 pounds and 3 feet stretched out. A very grand thick tail that he uses to caress us or swat us depending on his mood. He is usually very affectionate and will wrap his tail around our arm like a python. Its a really wonderful feeling when he holds us like that.

Nov 01, 2009
Cat Tails
by: C.Kennie

Miskena will hold her tail a bit lower than her back, and straight out when she is stalking. If I go to pet her, her tail is stiff and straight up, which seems to indicate that she is a bit nervous (she is a bit shy.) When she is dreaming her tail will flicker a bit, kind of like a wee quiver.

Kitty Grumbles entire body feels like it has no bones and her tail is just the same, when she relaxes. She will lash it from side to side in a bit of irritation if she and Miskena start to play a bit roughly.

Nov 01, 2009
Thank you
by: Ruth aka Kattaddorra

Thank you Michael for another very informative article to add to my 'Why do cats' file.
I have a 'fancy dress' tail I wear when fund raising for needy cats ha ha but it just hangs there ! Only goes to show we humans are missing out on a lot !

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