Cat Tail Wags: Good Or Bad?

A professional cat sitter offers ideas for reading cat body language.

Wagging tails don't always mean good things with cats. Via Quadell/Wikipedia

By Jeanne Adlon


What does it mean when my cat wags her tail? She doesn’t look happy like my dog when he wags his tail?


A cat’s tail is a good way for you to determine her mood — and you are right about the different signals your cat and dog are sending you. A wagging tail on your dog means he is very happy and excited to see you or enjoying whatever activity he is engaged with. When your cat really wags her tail, however, it’s usually to show disapproval and you should pay attention.

If your cat starts to thump her tail steadily while you are petting her, for example, stop right away. This is her announcement that she has had enough. Cats are very affectionate but a little bit goes a long way with our feline friends. A wagging tail can mean she is overstressed so it’s best to stop any interaction, leave her alone for a period of time and talk softly until she calms down.

There is always the exception and one of my house calls, a cute little tabby named Sadie, thinks her tail is a toy which she chases endlessly. On the occasion when she catches her tail with her paws, she’ll give it a quick bath and start over again. Sadie seems to thrive in perpetual motion. My cat Cameo loves to play with her snoozing sister Muriel’s tail. Cameo does a slow stalk, pounces and scoots away. Muriel is very patient and sometimes I wonder if she is just pretending to be asleep.

When a cat holds her tail down low and twitches it from side to side she might be scared or upset whereas a full blown Halloween tail means she is traumatized — hopefully you don’t see this too often. While stalking a toy or your pet dog, you may see her twitch the end of her tail, but a tail held high means she is in a playful, happy mood and wants your attention. Make sure you give it to her and include some cat treats-I am a big believer in cat treats.

As always I welcome your comments and stories and please remember to give your indoor/outdoor cats flea treatments this summer.

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Behavior and Training · Cats