Cat Tail Speak: Understanding Cat Tail Language

Cat tail language

A cat’s tail can tell us a lot about how the cat is feeling and is a valuable communication tool not only between cats but also to communicate emotions to humans.

Paying attention to the cat’s tail is just one part of a larger picture. The position of the body, eyes and whiskers, as well as vocalisations (meowing, hissing, purring, chirping), are also important clues as to how the cat is feeling.

Upright cat tail – Flagpole

Upright cat tail

  • Position: The tail is upright and straight.
  • Meaning: I am happy to see you, feeling confident and relaxed. This is the feline equivalent of ‘hello’.

Upright and curved at the tip – Hooked or question mark

Hooked cat tail

  • Position: The tail is upright and with a curl at the end.
  • Meaning: Friendly and relaxed, the cat is happy to see you and feels at ease.

Tail down – Tense

Cat tail down position

  • Position: The tail is down low, and the top part lies against the perianal region.
  • Meaning: The cat is feeling cautious, worried or anxious.

Tail erect and puffed up – Upright bottlebrush

Erect cat tail

  • Position: The tail is tense, pointing directly upwards and the hair is puffed up, giving it the appearance of a bottle brush.
  • Meaning: The cat is angry

Upright tail – Quivering

Quivering cat tail

  • Position: The tail points upright, and is quivering.
  • Meaning: The cat is excited to see you.

Tail low and puffed up


Puffed up cat tail meaning

  • Position: The tail is down low, with the upper portion covering the perianal area.
  • Meaning: The cat is scared.

Side swish – Relaxed position


Side swish tail

  • Position: The tail is in a relaxed position with a slight bend in it and slowly moves from side to side.
  • Meaning: The cat is in an open and relaxed mood and receptive to interaction.

Side flick or pound

Side flick tail

  • Position: The cat is standing, sitting or lying and flicking the tail from side to side, or pounding it up and down on a surface, unlike the side swish (above), this movement is more rapid and the tail is tense.
  • Meaning: The cat is angry or annoyed.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio