A cat’s tail is an important part of who and what they are. They are
predominantly used for two things, speech and balance, and are an actual continuation of the feline spine.
Even many of the "tail less" breeds, such as the Manx, have something of a tail and fall into three
categories: rumpies, risers, and stumpies. Rumpies are perhaps the only cat that actually has the
vertebrae naturally ended at an unnatural point creating the tail less look. This had lead to certain
dangerous conditions in some cats, such as spina bifida. Risers and stumpies both possess something of a
tail; risers having one or two vertebrae and stumpies simply having a noticeably short tail. If you choose
to purchase a "tail less" cat from a breeder, it is important to know what side effects of the breeding
can occur and be sure you do not support any breeder that knowingly continues to breed cats that have had
these problems before.
Though a tail is not necessary for a cat to survive, breeds and cats that are born with
tails should have everything possible done to preserve them because they are a part of the feline spine
as well as an important part of balancing. The tail acts as a counterweight. When your cat is balancing
along a fence or other narrow precipice and they feel themselves falling, the will swing the tail in the
opposite direction and use it to regain their balance. Cheetahs are perhaps the best display of the other
use of tail balance. By allowing their tail to act as a rudder, they can charge prey at top speed and
still manage incredibly sharp turns without slowing down.
Communication is the other major function of the tail and understanding what the different
positions of the tail mean is an important part of knowing who your cat is. Remember that knowing what
the tail says is only half the story, however, you should also be aware of the environment and take that
into consideration when interpreting your cats mood.
Here are a few positions for the tail and what it usually means:
When the tail is held in a relaxed position, down along the floor and with the end
slightly turned up they tend to be relaxed and comfortable.
If the tail is slightly raised and curved they are seeing something of interest and
considering heading over to look at it.
An erect tail with a flopped over top is a tail that says "Hey! Look at that!" and
A completely straight and up in the air tail is often a happy, cheerful
A quivering tail that sticks up in the air is showing affection.
A twitching tail tip shows irritation or in some cats playfulness.
An intensely twitching tail tip shows annoyance.
A full tail swish shows anger.
If the tail is fully erect and completely bristled the cat is showing aggression or fear
and when arched and bristled is warning of an impending attack if you do not leave them alone.
A lowered and fluffed tail is a sign of fear.
But raised and fluffed can mean they are playing (you will have to observe to note the
difference between bristled and fluffed).
A tail lowered and tucked between the legs is submissive or ill.
A tail held to the side with rump in the air is ready to mate.
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