I recently saw this article about Altair, the cat with the Guinness world record for the longest tail and it got me thinking about cat's tails, so here I bring to you some things I learned about cat's tails.
So, why do cats have a tail? Can cats control their tails?
The tails of cats serve many purposes, and not just for their wild ancestors! Cats use their tails for balance and for communication!
You have probably all seen a cartoon where a cat gets scared by something and they arch their backs and their tail puffs up. That is a good example of how cats use their tails for communication! According to PetMD a cat who feels threatened will get a puffy tail to appear larger and more intimidating to whatever (or whoever) is threatening it! If your cat is scared and it's tail is puffed up, it's probably a good time to back off and let it calm down!
But fear isn't the only emotion a cat can communicate using it's tail. PetMD notes that cats wag their tails, but not for the same reasons that dogs do! A cat will twitch the end of their tail when playing or hunting, but also when they are getting annoyed, so if you see your cat start to twitch the end of their tails when they aren't playing, it's a good hint that you are getting on their nerves! And, if they go from twitching their tail to more of a thrashing movement, they are getting angry, so it's definitely time to back off!
But it's not all anger and annoyance! If a cat approaches you with their tail straight up, they are feeling social and confident. PetMD says this is the way a kitten will greet it's mother, so if you see your cat tail straight up, they are being friendly. PetMD also notes that a cat might wrap it's tail around you to give you a hug!
Another friendly cat tail gesture you might see is if your cat has it's tail curled at the end like a question mark. If you see a question mark cat tail, it's a good time to play with that cat!
So as you might have guessed from all this talk of cat's communicating with you using their tails, cat's can control their tails! GreatPetCare.com says cat's tails are made up of between 18 to 23 vertebrae that are extensions of their spines. They also have 6 muscles on each side of their tail to allow them to do all those motions we just noted, like twitching, thrashing, making a question mark shape and putting their tail straight up.
And we mentioned it at the beginning, but a cat's tail isn't only for language, it's also important for balance. According to pets.thenest.com, cat's tails are instrumental as a counterbalance for when a cat walks in a narrow space, like the top of a fence, or maybe the back of your chair! It is also useful when they are hunting and stalking prey. GreatPetCare.com also notes that when a cat falls, it rotates their tail in the opposite direction from the rest of the bodies. So that perception that cats always land on their feet is thanks to the balance provided by their tails!
To wrap up this tale of cat tails, a cat uses it's tail for communication and for balance. Paying attention to how your cat positions it's tail can be a good way to understand how your cat is feeing and deepen your bond with it by responding appropriately!