Our cats have very distinct ways of communicating with us. There are the variety of “meows” ranging from a soft sweet mew sound to an annoying “feed me now” MEOWWWW!
And of course their eyes send us subtle messages. The slow closing and opening eyes which seems to show contentment; the wide-eyed stare when watching prey (even if it’s a feather on a long stick); or a loving look which melts your heart.
But the cat’s most expressive method is it’s tail- the perfect barometer of its mood. Before I elaborate on that, I’ll tell you about my internet research on cat tails. After wading through a mix of “cat’s tails” and “cattails” there seemed to be a lot of mis-information about the anatomy of cat tails. To set the record straight, here is a short lesson from a medical center:
The tail consists of a varying number of vertebrae (called “caudal” vertebrae), voluntary muscle, and ligaments and tendon to hold it all together. The tail attaches to the body at an area called “the tail head.” The first caudal vertebra attaches to a special backbone called “the sacrum” which connects the tail and lower back (“lumbar”) vertebrae. Injuries to the tail can cause serious nerve damage.
The number of vertebrae is 19-28, and varies from cat to cat. (Our tailbone has only 4, in case you are interested).
Now that that’s out-of-the-way we can talk about the fun stuff, the wonderful and delightful way a cat really tells us what is going on. I’m sure you have all witnessed most of these.
The Erect Tail- My cat will meet me at the door with a straight up tail which I think means she is content and glad to see me. (Plus she knows a treat will soon be coming). A slight curve at the tip lets me know she is in a playful mood.
The Curl- Sometimes, walking between my legs, my cat will let her tail curl gently around my leg or foot. I take this as a loving touch letting me know that she approves of me, at the moment anyway.
The Wagging Tail- This lets you know your cat is not really sleeping but is content and partially alert.
The Swish- A very focused cat, watching birds out the window or about to pounce on a toy.
The Whip- “I’m annoyed” is the definite message. And if my cat almost beats her tail back & forth I know she has had enough!
The Bristle- If your cat’s tail suddenly looks like a fat caterpillar you know it’s frightened or feels threatened.
Do you have some more to add to this list? I bet your cat has some special moves all it own and I’d love for you to share them!