Tall Tails

10/28/08 - by TheCatCoach

Cats have evolved a complex and effective communication system. Every part of a cat is a perfect little communication device, broadcasting messages to their world about their intentions and their emotional and physical states. A cat can communicate more effectively then an iPhone with just a simple movement of the head, a flattening of a whisker or a shift in body position. Sometimes their communications are subtle with slight nuances, other times it’s loud and wakes the neighbors.

Cat body language is complex. A series of books dedicated to it would still only scratch the surface. With that in mind, this blog entry will address one complex communication signal that is transmitted by the tail. I am calling this signal the “Happy Tail Dance”. Most of you have seen this. Sometimes it’s confused with the signals a cat gives when she sprays. Usually the cat half closes her eyes. Her tail is held high, with a slight curve at the top and it starts quivering. It can be somewhat alarming at first. The Happy Tail Dance is never accompanied by spraying and is broadcasting a different message to the world.

The language difference is subtle. Check out the base of the tail when a cat does a Happy Tail Dance. Usually the fur at the base of the tail is fluffed up. Just the fur at the base, closest to the cat’s back. Usually cats vocalize and have conversations during the Happy Tail Dance. And, the big difference… no spraying…

I can count on my cats to do happy tail dances on a daily schedule. Sudan, my Savannah always runs ahead of me and does the Happy Tail Dance on doors I’m about to open (inside, of course). He especially loves closets and likes to help me pick out my clothes every day. He shows me this with a happy tail dance. Maulee rushes to meet me when I come home, doing a happy tail dance on the cabinet. Olivia jumps on my lap and does a happy tail dance when she wants me to play fetch. The way she fluffs her tail, makes her tail look like a little pyramid. All of my cats do the Happy Tail Dance just as I’m about to do a clicker training session with them.

Check it out next time… look at the subtle tail language. Next time you see the Happy Tail Dance, don’t put your cat in the bathroom because you think she’s about to spray.

Oh… if she sprays, it’s not the Happy Tail Dance… you didn’t quite get what she was saying…


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5 comments on “Tall Tails”

  1. My cat does this too! He even follows me around and meows while doing it. None of my non-Bengal cats do it, just my Bengal.

  2. My non bengal cats do this. However; they also spray at other times. I will look for the difference. What does it mean when they do spray? Territorial? Mad? I love my girls and two spray; one squats. It's disheartening to say the least but if we aren't supposed to say 'No' or heaven forbid; swat them (I don't strike my animals) then what?

  3. Wonderful information. My cats very often do this behavior and I always check behind them to make sure they did not spray. I won't be going crazy checking behind them anymore 🙂

    The only one I have that sprays is a regular domestic shorthair and that seems directly related to what other cats were around at the time.

    Thanks Marilyn!

  4. Stacy,
    Cats usually spray for territorial reasons. Triggers need to be found and addressed first. Sometimes there are outside cats that are triggering the situation, or too many cats, not enough vertical territory... many reasons...

    Thank you Sheryl.

  5. Thanks! I always wondered what my cats were doing! It used to make me nervous because I thought my cat was getting ready to spray--but he never did for the 18 years that I had him.

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