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Dear Christopher Cat

We love to watch our two indoors cats and guess the meaning of their “tail signals.” They’re as different as night and day: one cat runs with her tail up and the other with her tail down.

The tips of their tails twitch when they watch birds and even while they sleep. What can you tell us about their tail language?

Christopher Responds

I’m sure your cats are delighted that you are interested in decoding their telltale body language.

We cats hold our tails vertically when we confidently greet someone we like, whether cat, dog or human. When the tail is up but the tip curves over, we’re feeling friendly and relaxed.

When a cat ambles along with his tail curved down gently, regardless of whether the tip is up or to the side, he’s relaxed.

A vertical, quivering tail conveys excitement; sometimes, it’s a prelude to spraying.

When I sit with my tail wrapped around my body, I’m content and comfortable.

As I gently swish my tail from side to side, I’m happy and interested in what’s going on around me.

However, if I flick my tail, I’m annoyed and irritated. Rapid flicking, which sometimes progresses to thumping, means I’m agitated and getting angry.

If you see me crouched down with my tail extended straight behind me, I’m undoubtedly stalking a toy or other “prey.” Before I pounce, my tail usually twitches slightly.

Your cats undoubtedly dream, as I do, and their tail movements may give you a clue about their dreams.

Indeed, a cat with an expressive tail can’t hide much from his people.


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