When you see your cat’s tail switching back and forth, it can make you quite curious about why it is happening. Is this a deliberate action or does your cat have no control over its tail? Although many cats either seem oblivious to their tails or just as confused as you are by the sudden movements, you can be certain that there is an underlying explanation.
An injury to a cat’s tail can lead to serious damage and have health implications. Injured nerves can affect a cat’s ability to walk as well as reducing sensations in the large intestine, bladder, and anus. The ability to move the tail and hold it in a certain position can also be compromised. Yanking on the tail can potentially tear nerves and cause intense pain for cats.
Do Cats Control Tail Motion?
Cats not only control tail motion but they do so in a rather fascinating and complex way. Except for random twitches when dreaming, the motions of a cat’s tail are deliberate.
What is the Purpose of a Cat’s Tail?
Complete with 23 vertebrae, the tail is comprised of a series of ligaments, tendons, and lean muscles. The average length is roughly a foot for a male and a touch less than 10 inches for a female.
- Cats use their tails to balance. Serving as a countermeasure to their natural body weight, the tail is a guide to keep them upright when they have to make abrupt moves, sudden turns or are in the pursuit of prey in the wild.
- Cat’s communicate through body language, and the tail is one of the best tools available. Understanding a certain amount of cat language can be useful, and you can note your cat’s mood without doing much guesswork.
Unfortunately, the real purpose of a cat’s tail can be changed forever due to injury. If the injury is severe, the health of your cat could deteriorate. Damage to the nerves within a cat’s tail can lead to difficulty walking, using the restroom, and not being able to move the tail at all.
Can cat’s function without a tail? If amputated due to injury, most cats can adjust without a major issue. If nerve damage was not the cause of the injury, the base of the spinal cord was not harmed, and all of the cat’s faculties are functioning living without a tail should not be a significant issue. While a brief period of balance concerns should be expected, the cat will adjust.
What is the Significance of Tail Movements?
Why do cats wag their tails? Why are some tails limp? Why do cats sit on their tails? Most of these various positions and movements are meant for you. In an attempt to communicate and display their feelings, cats will take on specific poses that mean specific things. Although every cat has its own personality, the significance of certain movements is often the same across the board.
When your cat takes on an extreme mood, the detailed control of its tail will be on full display.
- The high positioning of the tail is often a display of supreme confidence and joy. This is notably true if the cat is walking around the home. If your pet’s tail is sticking straight up, this is a friendly gesture.
- A curved tail is a playful tail. Cats often take this position when they want attention. Quite a deliberate move, cats will place their tails in the form of a question mark while taking a seated position. The tail is often to the side so that it is visible.
- Does your cat often walk around with a dipped tail? Tail placement that is straight yet lowered toward the ground can be a sign of displeasure and aggression. However, unlike many tail movements, this posture often depends on the breed. Persian cats, for example, usually carry their tails at a lower angle. If your cat is in a bad mood, the tilted tail will likely be accompanied by pinned ears. This is another sign to look for if the tail position is inconclusive.
- The tucked tail is a sign of anxiety, stress, and fear. It is also a sign of submission. If your cat’s tail is tucked, be sure to examine the environment. There is a chance that something has made your cat nervous and on edge. The tucked tail may also be a sign of illness. If your cat is isolated, lethargic, and has a tucked tail the issue could be health-related. Is the tail injured? If your cat’s tail has sustained some form of trauma, your pet will likely tuck it away for protection.
- The furry tail or expanded tail is an intentional response to agitation. Similar to fear, the furry tail is often raised as a deliberate signal to a potential predator or a sign to a human that danger is lurking. The curious tail is possibly the best name for this posture. Comparing this posture to humans, it is likely the equivalent to “wide eyes” of a shocked or surprised individual.
- The posture that can lead many people to conclude that cats do not have control of their tails is the swishing and whipping tail. Have you ever seen your cat completely relaxed, looking at you, and the tail is seemingly living another life? Quite a source of interest and humor, the whipping tail can be one of aggression but also relaxation and boredom. The calm swish can be viewed as a person twiddling their thumbs. While tail actions are deliberate, some actions do not serve a significant purpose. However, harsh whipping can be a sign of displeasure so approach your cat with caution. Light swishing can also be a sign of focus. If your cat is locked in on an object, a casual swish may be in order.
- Just as a friend or family member may put their arm around you, cats often wrap other cats with their tail. Sending a message of friendship, this action is often seen in cute cat pictures across the Internet. Cats that snuggle often take this posture or one similar.
What Are the Involuntary Tail Movements in Cats?
Although one of the core purposes of a tail is to help your cat maintain balance, some of those movements could be involuntary. These are natural motions and twitches that come from muscle memory rather than a single deliberate thought. Involuntary tail motions are more likely to occur when a cat is in moving rapidly rather than when they are relaxed and seated.
- Other involuntary movements can occur due to nerve twitching and muscle spasms. When nerves and muscles fire your cat’s tail will move, swish, and may even assume a posture. This is more likely to occur in a cat that has an injury to the tail or an older cat who is dealing with various sensation episodes and muscle inflammation.
- Your cat’s environment can also trigger involuntary movements. Intense cold or heat can cause your cat to react naturally. Because a cat’s tail is relatively sensitive, a non-deliberate response is common. Does your cat have fleas? The crawling and biting of fleas may cause your pet’s tail to twitch at random and unplanned times as a reflex and response to the unwanted sensation. If your cat has removed fur on the tail in order the cope with the issue, the tail may become more sensitive. This can lead to even the slightest changes in the environment causing a response.
- A further cause of involuntary movement is dreams. Have you ever seen your cat sound asleep and moving its legs like a marathon is taking place? If so, your cat is likely dreaming about running in an open yard and chasing prey. Tail swishing and posturing is also common during dreams, deepening on what is taking place in the dream. Cats, like people, move and twitch during sleep as a natural response to the dream sequence unfolding.
Although it may seem as though your cat has gone completely insane at times, that crazy tail you love so much is likely under control. If your cat is in good mental and physical health, you can be certain that each swish and posture is performed with purpose. The next time you enter a room, pay close attention to your cat’s tail. There is always more going on than meets the eye.