Cats and Dogs
Article Rating
1 звезда2 звезды3 звезды4 звезды5 звезд

Do cats wag their tail when happy?

Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? 7 Reasons for the Behavior

cat wagging its tail

Unlike dogs, who will wag their tails at the mention of their name, cats have a variety of reasons for tail wagging, although in cats, it’s less of a “wag” and more of a gentle “swoosh” most of the time. There is a common misperception that cats only wag their tails when they’re angry, and while this is the most common reason, there is actually more to it than that.

Cats are notoriously aloof and individual animals, and it can be a challenge to decipher exactly what they are feeling at times. Cats convey much about what they’re feeling through the movement of their tail, and combined with body language and vocalizations, the movements of your cat’s tail are crucial for you getting a deeper understanding of your feline.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the seven most common reasons for your cat’s wagging tail and what to do when faced with it!

cat face divider 2

7 Reasons Why Cats Wag Their Tails

1. Annoyance

When your cat is thrashing their tail rapidly or randomly, this is a sure sign that they are annoyed or angry. If you see your cat exhibiting this behavior, even while you are petting them, it’s best to give them their space and leave them alone. If you continue petting them at this time, be prepared for a possible scratch or bite!

woman petting a cat

2. Greeting

An upright, gently swaying tail is your cat’s way of saying hello! Their upright tail will often quiver as well and is a signal that they are happy to see you and would like a petting, please! You’ll often see the same greeting between two cats, followed by gentle rubbing and vocalization. This is usually a sure sign of an excited, happy feline, although an upright tail can also signal fear.

3. Fear

If your cat’s tail is swaying sporadically, with occasional twitching, they are afraid and in defense mode. Their tail may also be fluffed up and standing upright and erect. According to experts, cats stick their tails up like this to appear larger when they are threatened, combined with swooshing and swaying as a distraction. It’s important to discern fear versus anger; your cat is afraid and not angry, although they may act defensively when in this mode. It’s highly likely that something has spooked or startled them, and you should try to move slowly and gently around them while they’re in this mode.

cat in defense mode

4. Aggression

An angry or aggressive cat will also have an upright tail, but only at the base, and the tail then curls down toward their legs, with fur standing on end along both the tail and spine. They will often arch their back and growl or yowl at the same time, and there is really no mistaking what they are feeling! If you see a cat reacting like this, back away as quickly and gently as you can!

5. Contentment

When your cat’s tail is gently waving and swaying side to side, almost like they’re sweeping the floor, they are relaxed and content. Cats will even do this while sleeping, indicating that they feel safe and secure. They will also do this while being petted and may even gently wrap their tail around your arm.

cat lying on green grass

6. Hunting

When your cat is in hunting mode, their tail will twitch and make quick, intermittent swishes from side to side. They can often be seen doing this while stalking and are about to pounce. An easy way to observe this behavior is when you are playing with your cat with a lure or string, and although it is playful, it’s the same motion that they’d make while hunting down prey.

7. Pain

While this is rare, your cat’s tail may also sway or twitch while they are lying down if they are in pain. If your cat’s tail is vibrating or twitching in cases where they are usually relaxed, there may be underlying pain that is causing them distress. That said, this is usually accompanied by other symptoms, like lack of energy or not eating, and if this is the case, a visit to your vet is recommended.

cat + line divider

Final Thoughts

While the movements of your cat’s tail are great indicators of their feelings and mood, these are part of only one aspect of the different forms of body language that they use for communication. Deciphering tail wags is a great way to assess your cat’s mood but should be used in context and assessed along with vocalization and body language. In order to really understand what your cat is feeling, you need to look at the entire picture, but understanding tail wagging is a great place to start!

Featured Image Credit: Christel SAGNIEZ, Pixabay

Do cats wag their tail when happy?

Cats constantly flick their tails back and forth, but what’s behind this strange, unusual behavior? Why do cats wag their tails, and how can you read its mood?

There are few things more expressive than the movement of a cat’s tail. You can tell almost anything from the way it flicks backwards and forwards. Why do cats wag their tails, what does it mean, and why is it important?


  • What does it mean when a cat wags its tail?
    • Cat tail wagging due to stress
    • Your cat might be flicking its tail due to anger and aggression
    • Cats move their tails during play
    • Cats shake their tails to express affection

    Cats wag their tails as a way to communicate certain things to you.

    A cat’s tail is not only important as a part of its body, but also as an anatomical feature that provides balance and plays a crucial role in communication. There are many different positions that indicate many different moods and desires, but how do we read such behavior? Luckily for you, it’s not too hard!

    In this cat guide, TAG24 will take you through why cats wag their tails. What does each different cat tail flick mean, what can you learn from this behavior, and is it ever something to worry about?

    What does it mean when a cat wags its tail?

    There are a variety of reasons why a cat might wag its tail, no matter the situation. You’ll notice that these fluffy little fellows are constantly swirling their tails around, forming different shapes, and touching different objects. It’s sweet, soft, and cute, but it’s not without a story to tell.

    These movements have unique meanings behind them, defined by four distinct emotions: Stress, playfulness, aggression, and affection. We’re going to take a look at how your cat’s tail conveys each of these emotions.

    It’s important to note: When it comes to a cat’s tail, it’s not just about the swirls. If it starts touching you with its tail as it walks past, this is significant and indicates affection, and its tail also functions as a way to maintain balance and stability.

    Cat tail wagging due to stress

    Cats will often wag their tails as a response to stress or as a sign of nervousness. There are a variety of signs that point to cat anxiety, including behavioral and psychological changes that can worsen over time if left untreated. Some of these signs of stress include reduced consumption of food, hiding and disappearing, and hair loss.

    If your cat is stressed, its tail will become quite hard and pointed. It will flick quickly and nervously around the place, and will often stick straight up into the air or flop between its legs.

    Treatment tip: If your cat is stressed out or experiencing anxiety, it’s important to try and calm it down as best you can. Give it some pets, provide some food, quieten down its immediate environment, and give it space if that’s what it needs. If this becomes a more common issue, it might be time to take your cat to the veterinarian.

    Your cat might be flicking its tail due to anger and aggression

    When a cat gets particularly angry and aggressive, there are many signs to look out for. These fluffy little demons can get pretty mad sometimes and have a habit of getting spiky when they’re angry. It’s usually directed at other cats or other animals during territorial disputes – not so often toward humans.

    Your cat’s fur will stand up on its end when it gets furious, and it may howl. On top of that, its tail will stick straight up into the air and remain rigid. It may also point horizontally out from its bum (this is a sign of an especially angry kitty). In such a situation, it’s best to keep your distance.

    Treatment tip: It is generally recommended that outdoor cats are neutered in order to reduce the likelihood of aggressive behavior and unwanted kittens. Neutering is important as a way of improving a cat’s health and temperament, and it is required in many countries and jurisdictions.

    Your cat's tail will go absolutely wild when it's playing.

    Cats move their tails during play

    Cats often wag their tails when they play, expressing excitement and positivity. It can be a sign that your cat is happy and feels safe around you, allowing itself to be vulnerable and upbeat. Beware, though, as playing with a cat can be a tad dangerous – watch those claws!

    When a cat is particularly happy and playful, it will wildly wave its tail around. It’ll be relatively limp and nimble, hard to catch, and will seemingly flick from side to side in a sudden, unpredictable, and unexpected motion.

    Treatment tip: Play is vital for a cat’s mental and physical health. Provide it with plenty of toys, and engage with it when it tries to play with you. It will help you bond, create mutual happiness, and generally improve behavior.

    Cats shake their tails to express affection

    Finally, tail flicks and shakes can be used to express affection towards humans. Affectionate cats will couple their tail wagging with little noises, purring, and a general want to rub up against their human and spread their scent. Try not to turn down this behavior, as it is based on a deep love and trust for you.

    Light touching and flowing, slow movements all characterize a cat’s tail when it loves its human and wants to show that love. Your cat is marking you as its property and seeking happiness, so make sure to oblige its behavior.

    Why is my cat wagging the tip of its tail while lying down?

    Cats can still feel emotions, and will continue to flick their tails, when they're lying down.

    If a cat starts wagging its tail while lying down or sleeping, it is likely doing so due to some sort of stimulation. When a cat is sleeping, it goes through phases and does, indeed, dream. In the phase in which your cat is not in deep slumber but is still sleeping, it is likely to respond to environmental stimuli by moving its tail. On top of that, cats will have physical responses to things in their dreams.

    If your cat is simply lying around, but not sleeping, it may be swishing its tail to express an opinion on something, or as a response to something that has happened. If you have just petted your cat, then it isn’t unusual for it to continue wagging its tail for a little while afterward, for example.

    Excitement, love, and affection explain why cats wag their tails

    Cats’ tail habits can generally be explained by one of four things: Excitement, love and happiness, anger, and play. Each of these four emotions are normal and positive behaviors in a cat (yes, even anger). Playful, loving, and emotional felines will make great pets and should have a long and happy life.

    To this end, you should only be concerned if your cat’s tail goes limp or stops moving at all. This could indicate an injury or illness, so it would be best to take your pet to the veterinarian immediately.

    Cover photo: 123RF / Yuliya123

    • Cat losing hair: How to stop my cat from shedding
    • Stubborn house cat: This is the best way to make your cat aware of you
    • Top 10 white cat breeds

    What Does It Mean When My Cat Wags Its Tail?

    Cats are pretty much the most expressive creatures on earth. They have many different ways to show how they’re feeling, and one way is through their tail-wagging patterns . There are many reasons why cats might be wagging their tails. We’ve narrowed it down to six main ones: when they’re feeling confident, scared, excited, annoyed, hunting, or just feeling secure in their surroundings. Let’s get into it!

    what it means when a cat wags their tail

    1. Confident Feeling Cat

    A confident cat will have a high-tail wag. Cats use their tails to communicate with one another, which typically signals confidence in the cat performing it. It also displays that they are content about something.

    When your cat wags its tail confidently, the kitty is feeling good about her environment. Your pet will also be more likely to notice people approaching or being near them. Also, they’ll have an increased awareness of their surroundings. These are all signs of a happy feline!

    2. Scared Cat

    A scared cat will have a low-tail wag. The opposite of the confident cat, this type of tail wagging shows that your kitty is feeling very insecure in her surroundings. Wagging is also seen as a sign of submissive behavior for cats. So if your fluffy seems frightened but not aggressive, it might have her tail slightly tucked between her legs and will be moving from side to side.

    If you’re noticing this behavior and are worried about what it could mean, talk to a vet or animal care professional for advice!

    3. Happy And Excited Cat

    Cats have a variety of tail-wagging patterns, and they all mean something different. The most common meaning behind feline tail wagging is that the cat feels excited, anything from being happy to play with another pet or human companion. Cats will often also use their tails for balance as they move across rough terrain like trees or bushes while hunting.

    So if you see your kitty holding her tail high in the air when she’s walking around outside, then it means it may just be enjoying herself! Their tails also tap the ground in an almost circular motion as well when they’re happy.

    4. Annoyed Cat

    Tail wagging can also be a sign of annoyance. The cat’s body language may change when it is annoying, such as the ears being flattened or pinned back against its head. Also, the tail will be sticking out straight behind them while they walk away from their tormentor. Cats will sometimes even growl when feeling this anger towards someone else (although not constantly).

    When cats are annoyed with another animal nearby, they will wag their tails to show the other animal that they’re angry. If this happens, it’s best to give the cat some space to escalate the aggression.

    5. Hunting The Prey

    You must pay attention to a cat’s behavior when they’re hunting. If you notice your pet starting to wag her tail, it could be because of the excitement and anticipation of catching her prey. The feline tail is just as important as the cat’s other four limbs because it allows them to make very precise judgments when hunting their food sources or pouncing their enemies.

    6. Feeling Secure

    Tail wagging has many purposes and meanings. One goal is to communicate a feeling of security. Cats will use their tail as an extension of themselves when they are relaxed or content, which creates a sense that the cat feels safe in its surroundings.

    If a cat feels threatened or insecure, it will keep its tail low and close to the body. Cats use this gesture of insecurity as an invitation for others to approach them.

    Tail Wagging And Cat Behavior

    A cat’s tail behavior is an easy way for pet owners to assess their animal companion’s mood. It can be a clear indication of the mood and mind frame of your furry friend. So it is essential to know how each wag of the tails means .

    1. Slow Wag

    The type of wagging expresses that your cat feels sleepy and peaceful. You may even call this a royal invitation. Such a sort of slow swaying tells you that you are welcomed to pay attention to your cat. Also, it indicates the mood of playing in a contented environment.

    2. Low Flick

    Low flick refers to the back and forth movement of the tail of a cat. It sometimes refers to the unhappy gestures of the cat. The best way to deal with it is to leave the cat alone for a limited time. And it’s better to give it some space so that it could calm down.

    3. Wrapped Tail

    It is an indication of your kitty’s deep affection towards someone or something. Wrapping the tail around your hand or any object indicated contentment. It also shows the playtime that you should pay attention to them.

    4. Quick Twitch

    If your cat’s tail does a quick twitch, it usually means they are concentrating. You will most likely see this when the animal is watching something like birds or other small animals outside their window. Also, it might make strange noises such as chirping or even chatter in some cases.

    5. Slow Swish

    A cat’s tail is a fascinating thing. It communicates so much of what they’re thinking and feeling! If you notice your furry friend slowly swishing their tail from left to right, that means they are mildly annoyed or unimpressed with something. Giving them space is the best move from your side in these kinds of situations.

    6. Fluffed Up Tail

    When the fur puffs out, it means they’re feeling defensive or scared! Maybe your kitty feels threatened by another animal in the vicinity. Sometimes, the cats also arch the back. The fluffing of tails refers to portraying themselves scary.

    7. Sleep Twitch

    Your cat may twitch its tail when you pet them or talk to them while they’re sleeping. It is their way of telling you that, although aware and present, it feels safe enough to continue snoozing.

    8. The Quiver

    Your feline friend is thrilled to see you and can’t contain their excitement. Their tail will be up in the air with a bit of quivering action going on near its tip. It means they’re ready for some interaction! They might purr, rub their face against yours, or meow happily as well. It indicates that your cat wants more quality time together.

    9. Lying Down And Waving Tail

    When your cat’s not feeling well, they might tend to lie down and wave their tail. If you notice this behavior in addition to other symptoms like going off of food or spending time hiding out more than usual, it may be that they’re unwell! Consult a vet if you think that something is wrong.

    10. Low Wagging Tail

    You may have seen your cat’s tail in a low position, but do you know what this means? Cats will typically make them small and tuck their tails between their legs when they are scared. Low wagging indicates that your feline friend is frightened of something nearby or within the room with them.

    Summing Up

    Cats wag their tails to communicate various emotions, from happiness and excitement to anger or annoyance. Knowing the tail’s meaning can help you understand your cat better and provide them with what they need to feel safe and happy. In addition, understanding the different implications behind a cat’s tail wagging may be able to help you identify how the cats are feeling on any given day!

Link to main publication