Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails?

When a cat wags their tail, it’s a very expressive sign. They can let you know whether they’re feeling happy, playful or scared.

Understanding what your cat’s wagging their tail means can help you understand them better. It’s important to pay close attention and learn about their body language.

They’re Happy

When a cat is happy, they typically wag their tails confidently. This means that they’re confident in their environment and are comfortable around people.

It may also mean that they’re greeting you or other cats, such as by popping their tail upright with the tip curling gently.

These tail wagging signals can be subtle, meaning you need to pay close attention.

In addition to a wagging tail, many cats will use their ears and fur to communicate emotions. When a cat’s ears flatten or pin back, it’s a sign that they are annoyed.

They’re Playful

Cats play from an early age, and they love to pounce on things like mice and toys. They also enjoy playing games that require a lot of energy, such as zoomies, which see them running around the house.

As kittens grow, they learn four basic play skills: pounce, swat, scoop and fight. The play fighting technique involves a tippy-toe side-step with a belly-up posture, while the other three techniques include paws waving and a feint at the back of their neck mimicking prey-bite behaviour.

The structure of intercat play is influenced by behavioural maturation and this affects the motivational and emotional systems that are involved in the expression of the different play behaviors. This may provide important insights into how we can best recognise play behaviour in cats from a psychobiological perspective, and to better understand how behavioural changes might occur with time.

They’re Angry

If your cat is wagging their tail slowly from left to right, it means they’re feeling mildly annoyed and want you to leave them alone. It’s best to give them space because this behavior can quickly transform into a low flick, which is a sign that they’re angry and want you to step away from them.

When cats are hunting, they twitch the tip of their tail to indicate that they’re about to pounce on something. This is a natural behavior that helps them to stay focused and alert, especially during the day when their main prey is active.

They’re Scared

When your cat is scared or threatened, they will puff their tail up to appear bigger and more menacing. This is a defensive reaction, often caused by other cats in the house, unfamiliar dogs or sudden noises that can make them feel frightened or threatened.

This puffed up tail is sometimes accompanied by an arched back or a cat who hisses to try and convince the scary thing to leave them alone. They may also fluff their hair up to look bigger than they are to intimidate their opponent.

They’re Agitated

When cats are agitated, they often wag their tails to let you know they’re feeling this way. The wagging of their tails can be as quick or slow as they want it to be.

A wagging tail that’s rapidly flicking back and forth could indicate a cat that’s ready to lash out at prey or another cat.

On the other hand, a slow wagging of their tail indicates that they’re in a playful mood and want to play with you. It’s also a great time to stroke them, hold them, cuddle them or engage them in play.

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