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Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? 5 Potential Reasons

Oliver Jones

By Oliver Jones

tabby cat wagging its tail

Most everyone knows that a dog enthusiastically wags its tail to show it’s happy. But what’s the deal with cats? If you’re wondering why cats partake in tail wagging, you’re not alone and we’re here to help you get it straight!

Cats wag their tails for many reasons and almost all cats engage in the behavior. Tail wagging in cats is a form of body language to tell the world what cats are thinking or feeling. Below are some of the main reasons cats wag those gorgeous tails of theirs!

The 5 Possible Reasons Why Cats Wag Their Tails

1. The Cat Feels Confident

Surely, you’ve seen your cat, or someone else’s cat, proudly walking down the street with its tail standing straight up with the tip wagging. This is a sign of confidence and that the cat is ready to meet and interact with you or other cats or family pets.

classic tabby maine coon
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

2. A Sign of Being Afraid

Some cats wag their tails back and forth when they’re afraid of something. A cat that’s feeling afraid may wag its tail close to the ground or it might even hide the tail under its body. This is a clear sign that the cat doesn’t want to interact with anyone or anything nor engage in any type of fight.

On the other end of the spectrum, a cat that is afraid but willing to fight may hold its tail up straight while arching its back. The tail may fluff up to appear bigger and wag back and forth to warn an approaching threat to stand back.

3. To Show Excitement

The next time you see your cat’s tail standing straight up and quivering a bit, it’s a sign your cat is excited. Maybe you just opened a yummy can of cat food or returned home after being away all day. This type of tail wagging may also be seen when a cat is peeing or when marking its territory. In this case, the cat will back up to an object, shake its erect tail. and relieve itself.

feeding cat
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

4. A Sign of Displeasure

When a cat is feeling annoyed, it will often wag its tail back and forth to let you or another pet know he’s not happy. It’s common to see this behavior in an adult cat who’s being bothered by a young kitten that is trying to play with the cat.

An annoyed cat can also flick its tail when he’s feeling agitated. For example, if you’re petting your cat or brushing his fur, he may get fed up with it all and flick its tail to send you the message to back off.

5. It’s a Sign of Hunter Mode

When going after prey, cats swish their tails back and forth in an attempt to mesmerize the prey. If you’ve ever watched a cat go after a mouse in the grass, you’ve probably seen the cat’s tail swishing back and forth right before he pounces into action to capture the prey.

dometic cat hunting prey
Image Credit: Piqsels

Keeping Your Cat’s Tail Healthy

Considering that your cat uses his tail to communicate, it’s only natural that you want to help your feline keep his tail healthy and in good shape! When you’re brushing your cat, don’t neglect that long tail. Just remember that cats don’t like having their tails handled so proceed with caution.

Carefully and gently brush your cat’s tail to remove any loose hairs. Use a slicker brush for cats that feels gentle to your cat. When you use a good-quality brush, your cat may enjoy having his tail brushed so much that he’ll come running when you pull the brush out!

If you have an outdoor cat, it’s a good idea to check its tail now and then to ensure it’s free of infection and injury. It’s common for an outdoor cat to get into a scuffle with another cat wherein it gets bitten on the tail. A bite wound can easily become infected so inspect your cat’s tail carefully. Keep an eye out for burrs and other items that may be entangled in the fur.


Even though they’re somewhat mysterious and aloof, cats have many ways of communicating. They vocalize by meowing and hissing and they show how they feel by positioning their eyes and ears in different ways. Cats also use their tails to communicate how they feel by wagging, vibrating, or swishing their tails back and forth.  Keeping an eye on your cat’s tail is a great way to decipher how your cat is feeling!

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Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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