The Five Reasons When a Cat’s Tail Is Always Moving - Archie Cat (2023)

Cats can communicate in various ways. Whether it is a meow or a purr, your cat is always trying to tell you something.

The same applies when it moves its tail. A glance at your kitty’s tail can tell you much more than a mere meow. But should you be concerned if your cat’s tail is always moving?

A cat’s tail constantly moves when it is annoyed, agitated, reflecting, or sick. The cat’s tail offers insight into how your furry friend is feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally. Additional sounds like growling, hissing, and chirping will reinforce how the cat is feeling.

If your cat is not vocal about how it is feeling, watching its tail could clue you in. This guide will explore your cat’s tail language and when you should be concerned.

Here is why your cat’s tail is always moving:

1.Your Cat is Angry/Irritated

The tail of an angry cat thrashes about, or it thumps the ground.

It is unmistakable because the tail goes stiff when it thrashes and makes a thumping sound when it thumps.

The thrashing or thumping increases as the cat grows more annoyed.

It is followed by a hiss or growl to show you the cat’s emotional state is escalating to full-blown anger.

If you are petting the cat, you must stop immediately. Otherwise, the cat will do the following to make you stop:

  • Swat at you
  • Hiss and growl
  • Bite the offending hand

When Sophia, my cat, first came home, I wanted nothing more than to cuddle and pet her. And many times, I ignored her thrashing tail thinking it was happiness until one day she said “enough is enough.”

I received a resounding left-paw swat from my lovely kitty, which left me with scratch marks and resulted in a visit to the ER. I was shocked and thought my cat was a little monster. For a while, I didn’t pet Sophia although I allowed her to sit next to me. I noticed she didn’t swat me again as long as I left her alone.

We now have an understanding: When I see the tail thumping, I quietly walk out of the room and warn everyone around me of the irritated feline in the next room.

Essentially, Sophia was just telling me not to pet her. I was overstimulating her with too much touching. Petting is one of the things that can cause your cat to get angry.

But you may also notice the tail thrash or thump when a bird flies by or another cat walks by outside, and your cat sees it. Anything that annoys your cat will cause the tail to thrash or thump in response.

If something constantly angers or intimidates your cat, you must remove it from the cat’s environment.

2.The Cat is Deep in Thought

When a cat is curious about something, it goes into reflection. You will notice its tail is twitch lightly. Your kitty is considering its next move very carefully.

The cat might be thinking:

“Should I go and watch the birds right now or check my bowl for something to eat?”

Think of the twitching tail as the equivalent of you scratching your chin or head when in deep thought.

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If your cat’s tail twitches more often than not, you may have a thinker a cat. It may be a good idea to just let the cat figure things out before interrupting its train of thought.

3.The Cat is Engaging in Predatory Behavior

If your cat is swishing its tail from side to side, it is about to engage in hunting antics. This tail movement is not aggressive, but the cat may be inclined to pounce on whatever has taken its fancy. That could be a toy, another pet, or even your fingers.

The swish is slow and steady from side to side. The swishing movement is a ploy employed by the cat to mesmerize its prey.

Allow your cat to indulge in this behavior every so often as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. It helps them remain alert and enriches their lives.

After all, cats are natural stalkers and pouncers. That is their instinctive inherent nature.

To prevent the cat from stalking and pouncing on other pets or your fingers, buy squeaky toys for the cat. TheOurPets Play-N-Squeak Mouse Hunter Cat Toyis an excellent option to consider.

Such interactive toys offer the cat physical and mental stimulation, and relieve boredom which can result in your cat being destructive.

4.Your Cat is Excited

A cat’s tail quivers when it is excited to see you or something it loves like a companion cat.

It looks like a tremor is passing through your cat and terminating in the tail.

If the tail is low as it quivers, the cat is simply excited.

But if the tail is held upright as it quivers, the cat may be marking its territory with urine. In this case, the tail remains upright as the cat backs up onto the wall and urinates.

5.The Cat is Unwell

The constant movement of the tail may be due to illness. As a result, the cat cannot control its tail’s movements.

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS) is the main cat disease where the tail keeps constantly moving. Hyperesthesia translates to “too much sensation.”

According toresearchby Cornell University, this hypersensitivity occurs mostly in the section in front of the tail. The tail movement may even cause the cat to start chasing its tail as it tries to mitigate the irritation.

A lot of research is ongoing about this disease as cat experts try to determine if it is a result

ofobsessive-compulsive disorder. But according to renowned pioneer in veterinary medicine and emeritus professor from Cornell University, this disease could be a seizure problem.

With this disease, you can expect violent tail movement, excessive licking, and even biting of the tail.

Types of Tail Movements in Cats


The swishing motion is the tail moving from side to side. It is not an aggressive motion, but rather it signifies the cat is focused on a particular object.Thisis a cat’s tail swishing.

This is the motion you are likely to encounter when your kitty is deep in thought or about to engage in predatory behavior.

Sometimes, however, you may see your cat’s tail swishing when it experiences negative emotions like frustration. Keep in mind that the cat is still contemplating the situation even though it is negative.

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It is best not to assume that the swishing tail only signifies “happy thoughts.”

The stronger and faster the swish, the more intense the emotion.

Swishing is also considered wagging. And a feline wagging its tail is a sign of aggression, unlike in a dog where it means the canine is happy.


The twitching motion is the tail moving back and forth. The tail movement is more on the choppy side, and the twitch can be seen mostly on the tip area of the tail. A twitching cat’s tail looks likethis.

The abrupt movement is associated with frustration, anger, and pain.

It signifies negative emotions and can be followed by aggressive behavior like biting, scratching, or swatting.


This is a shaking motion that encompasses only the tail. It is short-lived and resembles a rattlesnake’s tail shake.

Hereis how a cat’s tail quiver looks like.

It is also a non-aggressive motion because it signifies the cat is excited or positively stimulated. Usually, the cat will approach the item or person that excites it while quivering the tail.

The tail always has to be upright.


The thumping motion makes a sound like a drum. It is an aggressive motion that increases in

intensity as the cat gets angrier and more agitated.

Thisis the thump that you can expect from an agitated cat.

The entire tail is raised slightly and then slammed down hard onto the floor or whatever surface the cat is on. The is loud enough to make you realize that your cat is trying to say something, strongly.

As the cat thumps its tail, it may sometimes thrash the tail as well, mid-thump.

Movements Are Voluntary, Unless Caused by Disease

Disease can cause involuntary movements throughout the body including on the tail. For example, conditions like tail biting or chasing are involuntary. Tail chasing and biting are as a result of Compulsory Disorder in the feline.

However, constant tail motion is usually voluntary because it is meant to communicate something to those around the feline. The voluntary movement of a tail offers the best insight into how a cat is feeling according to pet experts.

Sometimes your cat may thump or twitch its tail while sleeping. It is dreaming along the emotional lines that prompt those tail movements.

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A cat’s tail is an extension of its spine. That means that it also features similar nerves, tendons, muscles, and ligaments, just like the spine.

As a result, the tail has a lot of feeling and full control of its movements. That is why felines can move their tails out of the way when sitting on their haunches and also use their tail for balance.

Also, cats use their tails to help them land during a jump and to run faster.

When the cat moves its tail, it is using all the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the tail to activate the movement.

Think about it: Your cat will jump and howl when you step on its tail. That is because the tail is full of nerve endings. So, your cat feels every motion.

To be exact, the cat’s tail has six muscles, 23 vertebrae, and numerous ligaments.

Like any other body part, the tail responds to reflexes, that’s why it can communicate the feline’s emotions and actions so effectively.

How to Keep a Cat’s Tail Healthy

Now that you know how critical a cat’s tail is to communicating the feline’s feelings and well-being, how do you handle the tail without irritating or hurting the cat? Or, at the very least, how do you help the cat maintain a healthy tail?

i) During Grooming

Some cats dislike having their tails brushed. If you are dealing with such a feline, make sure that you spend minimal time on the tail.

Spread out the tail brushing seconds. For example, if you are brushing the cat’s body, take 20 seconds and quickly brush through the tail. Continue with brushing the rest of the body and then do another 20-second burst of brushing on the tail.

Keep doing this until you are satisfied the tail is well-groomed. However, ensure that you use gentle strokes and handle the tail with utmost care.

ii)During Petting

Avoid pulling your cat by the tail. Although the spine of a feline doesn’t extend into the tail, the nerves and muscles in the tail are just as delicate.

Manhandling your furry friend’s tail can cause nerve damage.

If the nerves in the tail are damaged, it becomes hard for your cat to use its tail properly. And that is in addition to the excruciating pain the cat undergoes.

Avoid petting the tail of the cat. It is possible for you to unknowingly be aggressive with the tail because it is always moving around.

Also, keep in mind that the cat doesn’t really like it. If you notice the cat turning its ears back or trying to get away from you, then you must stop. If you don’t, then you are putting the cat in an anxious state of mind.

iii)During Play

Children are huge culprits. They can be careless when playing with cats and will end up grabbing ears, whiskers, and yes….tails.

Kids can tend to pull on cats’ tails because they find the uncharacteristic and effortless movement of the cat to end interesting, or they are just curious.

And the cat always tries to get its cat out of the child’s hands. To the child, it seems like the cat is playing, and to the cat, it appears like the child is being aggressive.

Plus, grabbing the tail can also cause the feline to be paralyzed with fear. It is a move done by predators because the backside is a blind spot of the cat.

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How to Respond to Tail Messages

Responding to a Swishing Tail

Leave the cat alone and stop any petting. If your touch is not the reason for the aggression, find out what is. And then take your cat out of the situation or remove the trigger.

Do not ignore this tail movement. As earlier mentioned, if you do not stop on your own, your cat will follow this tail motion with an attack to get you to physically stop irritating it..

Leave the cat alone for a while until it comes down and relaxes.

How to Respond to a Twitching Tail

Your cat is ready to play. So, indulge it with a piece of yarn or a cat gym.

You do not have to necessarily participate in the game, but facilitate it. Have the right equipment available and ready for use whenever the cat needs it.

Do not be surprised if your cat pounces on your fingers because you haven’t provided enough mental and physical stimulation.

How to Respond to a Thumping Tail

Talk calmly to the cat to relieve its tension and relax it. Think of de-escalating the thump to a slow thrash and then to a twitch.

For example, you can distract the cat by calling out, “here daisy…..daisy what’s wrong. Look at me. Hey there. Are you okay? Come over here.”

Use a monotone and avoid yelling, scolding, or scaring the cat. Most importantly, do not try to physically remove the cat from the source of its agitation. Doing that may result in the cat redirecting its aggression to you.

It is okay to use a treat to lure the cat away and get its attention back to a positive space.

How to Respond to a Quivering Tail

This is a sign of excitement so give your cat some attention and cuddles to reciprocate its enthusiasm. Together with the quivering tail, your cat may rub up around your legs.

If you have a few minutes to spare, you can give your cat some time to bond with you.

Cats that have a close relationship with their owners are happy felines.


All cats, regardless of the breed, are very expressive using their tails. It is a natural way to communicate because the tail is an extension of their body.

It is best to always pay attention to what the tail is trying to tell you. It could make the difference between calming an agitated feline down or pushing it over the edge resulting in a terrible attack.

And don’t forget to make sure that your cat enjoys excellent tail health. That means do not be careless when handling its tail and do not ignore it during grooming.

If you notice anything amiss with the tail, like not moving or the cat holding it close to its body, visit a vet immediately.

Writer: Mercy Nandika Amatieku

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