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Why Is My Cat Puffing Their Tail? 4 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

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By Kerry-Ann Kerr

tabby cat wagging its tail

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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We might not speak “cat,” and we don’t have to because there are various ways our cats can successfully communicate with us. Body language is one of them, and a cat’s tail is an excellent method of communication. A puffed tail can mean several things, from stress to playfulness, but how do you narrow it down?

When you combine a cat’s puffed tail with the rest of their body language, it’s not hard to determine what they’re thinking or trying to communicate. Below we’ve laid out the four main reasons that might be behind your cat’s puffed tail.

The 4 Likely Reasons Your Cat Puffing Their Tail

1. Anger or Aggression

An erect tail signals that your cat is angry or is feeling aggressive, and the threat or opponent should back down immediately. The puffed tail makes your cat look larger and more threatening.

Other signs to look out for are dilated pupils, yowling, growling, or hiding. Cats generally use dramatic bluffs over a fight, which will continue until the threat backs off or is removed or forced to fight.

2. Fear

Fear can have your cat holding theirits puffy tail straight up, and both are used to convey different messages. A straight-up, puffed tail means your cat is in offensive mode and is prepared to fight. A lowered puff tail means your cat is afraid or has seen something they dislike.

Other signals include yowling, an arched back, flattening the ears, growling, and spitting. If you believe your cat is scared, allow them to get away from the source of their fear, which should have them relax in no time.

Puffed up cat afraid of a dog
Image Credit: Michael Rosolia, Shutterstock

3. Feeling Playful

A puffy tail isn’t always a bad thing. Cats make their tails puffy when they’re feeling playful and happy. It’s generally seen in kittens, but some older cats have been known to make their tails bigger when they’re enjoying themselves!

It’s usually relatively easy to tell a stressed cat from a happy one, but other signs are erect ears, which show your cat is interested in what they’re doing and not feeling threatened. Their whiskers will be pointed forward, and they also like to wiggle their puffy tail and pounce!

4. Cool Temperatures

When the tail doubles in size, your cat is experiencing a phenomenon known as piloerection, when tiny muscles contract at the base of the hair follicles and make the hair look like it’s standing on end. Humans also experience this and call it “getting goosebumps.”

It’s an involuntary reaction and can be brought on for various reasons, and feeling cold is one of them. If your cat feels chilly, the fur on the rest of its body will also be puffy. Other signs include shivering and a cold nose and paws.

Young Fluffy Tabby Cat Hiding in Wooly Blanket
Image Credit:
Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

People Also Ask

Do Long-Haired Cats Puff up Their Tails?

Long-haired cats will puff up their tails like short-haired cats, but the fur’s weight might stop it from being pushed up fully. So, while they do, it might be harder for you to notice at first glance.

What Do You Do When Your Cat Puffs Their Tail?

The answer to this depends on what is causing your cat to puff their tail. If your cat has been startled, ignore them and give them a moment to calm down. If it’s a sign of aggression, think about giving your cat some space by removing the object of their aggression, such as another pet. If another pet is causing them distress, slowly introduce both animals when your cat has calmed down, and supervise them carefully.

Is There Anything Else the Tail Can Tell You?

We’ve mentioned that a tail’s position will convey a different message, but did you know cats can also wag their tails to get their point across? Cats wag their tails if they’re in pain, annoyed, or hunting. They will also wag them if they’re excited or showing affection.

A cat’s tail is a big insight into their thoughts and feelings. Small cues can be significant clues. For example, when you pet your cat, and their tail goes up, it means they approve of what you’re doing. However, if the tail is straight up with a hook at the tip, your cat is undecided.

Hepper_How to Read Cats Tail Language_Infographic_v1_May 31 2023 (1)
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While you don’t need to speak their language, it is beneficial to understand what a cat’s tail is trying to tell you. When we think about communicative tails, we tend to think of dogs, but a cat’s tail can tell you if they’re fearful, happy, angry, or unsure. So, it’s worth taking notice of!

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Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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