A cat’s tail is a vital part of their body because it provides balance while walking in narrow spaces and while jumping on prey. It is also a communication tool and an indicator of a cat’s moods. If you are wondering what it means when a cat swishes or thumps its tail when lying down, read on for a thorough discussion.
Why do cats thump their tails when lying down?
Cat behaviorists believe that a cat quickly thump its tail while lying down it means that it is time to move back, to leave the cat alone or to allow the cat some time off to relax. It may mean that your cat is overstimulated if you are petting her.
Cats may also thump their tails while lying down as a sign of irritation or excitement and when they see a bird outside of the window. This may mean they are imagining pouncing on the bird, to get the attention of the bird or to get ready to attack it.
Play-fighting cats can also be observed to be thrashing and thumping their tails. This is usually seen during cat play sessions and it is usually nothing that you should be concerned about. However, if you notice that your cat is thumping its tail while lying down but she also has bristling fur along the spine and her ears are pulled back, it may be a warning for you to intervene with the play sessions.
A cat that thumps its tail when lying down may also indicate that she is in pain. This is usually accompanied by an arched back or uncharacteristic aggression.
Other tail movements of cats
Here are other common tail movements of cats:
1. Flicking tail
This tail movement is characterized as a gentle swish. Cats usually flick or swish their tail while lounging in the sun or while they are asleep. A gently flicking or waving tail means your cat is relaxed. When the tip of the tail flicks back and forth it means the cat is alert and focused on something that got her attention.
2. Wiggling tail
A rapidly wiggling or vibrating tail that is held straight up may mean that your cat is happy. It may mean she is anticipating something awesome like treats or affection. A cat may also do this when she sees you after you’ve been away for some time.
3. Caressing tail
A cat is caressing you with her tail if it brushes up against you or comes to rest on your body. This gentle grazing of their tail on you may signal affection and fondness.
Why do cats wag their tails?
A cat wagging their tail may have the following meanings:
1. Low flick
A cat that is wagging its tail in a low flicking manner with the tail going back and forth quickly may mean that she is unhappy and wants to be left alone. This is often observed when you bring your cat to the vet.
2. Slow swish
If your cat’s tail is wagging from left to right in a slow swishing manner it may mean she is feeling mildly annoyed. If this is so, give your cat some space as it may easily become an angry low flick.
3. Quick swish
If your cat is wagging her tail side to side in a quick swishing action it may mean she is feeling playful. This may usually be followed with a pounce. Cats usually do this while playing with toys or other cats and may be accompanied by dilated pupils and forward-pointing ears.
4. Low wagging
Cats that manifest a low wagging tail may be scared. The ears may be pinned back, the body crouched to the ground and they may also tuck their tail between their legs.
If your cat is wagging her tail in a quick-twitching manner it may mean she is concentrating. Your cat may be watching a spider or a bird and may also produce queer cat sounds like chirping or chattering.
Cats with wagging and quivering tails may mean that they are excited to see you. Cats will usually approach you with the tail high up in the air and the tip quivering. It may also be a signal among cats to indicate that they are ready for interaction accompanied by purring and rubbing their face while meowing happily.
7. Wagging the tail while lying down
Cat experts believe that cats wag their tails while lying down as an indication of pain or being unwell. This may be accompanied by loss of appetite and constant hiding. If you suspect that your cat is feeling under the weather, bring her to the vet for prompt evaluation and treatment.
Common tail positions and what they mean
These are the common tail positions and what it signifies:
- upright – it means your cat is content
- tail with a 45-degree angle – it means your cat is unsure
- angled back and moving back and forth – it means your cat is excited or fearful
- upright and moving back and forth – it means your cat is happy
- upright with tip bent – it means your cat is in a friendly mood
- straight and level with the spine – your cat is uneasy but not afraid
- hanging down with dip near the base – your cat is feeling aggressive
- puffed tail – it means your cat is frightened
- the tail at a 90-degree angle- your cat is in attack mode
- tucked between the legs – your cat may be scared or feeling pain
- upright and tip is moving – your cat is alert and focused
Cats are frisky and social creatures and can express and communicate complex moods with their tails. They may thump their tails when lying down to express irritation, excitement or to warn you that she has had enough of the petting session. It may also mean that your cat is harboring pain and feeling unwell.
Image: istockphoto.com / SunRay BRI Cattery RU