Cats have a greater sense of balance than humans. This is due to the nerve messages from their eyes to their muscles and joints work very fast.
A cat uses its tail for balancing. For example, if it is walking along a narrow wall or fence and decides to look over in one direction, thereby shifting its centre of gravity, it will automatically move its tail in the other direction, re-establishing its body's centre of gravity and keeping it from falling off. The tail is also used as a counter weight when changing direction suddenly at high speed.
Cats use their tails to communicate their emotions, both to other cats and to humans. Below are explanations of some typical "tail postures" you will see, and what they mean. This will not include the Manx Cat who of course is tailless, unless it is a Tailie Manx!
- If the tail is curved gently downward, then curved up again at the tip: The cat is relaxed and comfortable.
- If the tail is slightly raised and softly curved: The cat is beginning to get interested in something.
- If the tail is erect, but the tip is tilted over, either forward or back: The cat is very interested and feeling friendly.
- If the tail is fully erect and the tip is vertical: The cat is offering a
friendly, cheerful greeting.
- If the tail is erect with the whole length or tip quivering gently: The cat is showing affection.
- If the tail is still, but the tip is twitching occasionally: The cat is slightly irritated or pensive.
- If the tail is still, but the tip is twitching intensely: The cat is very annoyed.
- If the tail is swishing vigorously from side to side: The cat is angry.
- If the tail is straight up and fully bristled: The cat is showing aggression (toward another cat).
- If the tail is arched and bristled: The cat may attack if further provoked.
- If the tail is lowered and fluffed out: The cat is afraid.
- If the tail is raised and fluffed out (the "Big Tail"): The cat is probably happily chasing around.
- If the tail is fully lowered, perhaps tucked between hind legs: The cat is showing defeat or submissiveness (toward another cat).
- If the cat is a female and her tail is held to one side, and she is crouched or with her rump in the air: This female cat is ready to mate.
Note: You must of course, consider what is going on with the cat and its environment. Don't decide on the cat's mood solely by tail positioning alone.