Why Does My Cat’s Tail Quiver?

It can be something of a mystery — trying to translate a pet’s body language. I’ve always been more of a dog person than a cat person, so sometimes behaviors I see at the cats-only boarding facility throw me for a loop.

Most cats don’t wag — at least, not like dogs do, to signal happiness. I’ve never seen one do it, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t feline waggers out there, right? (If you have a kitty who wags his or her tail like a dog, let me know! Send me a video!)

Lately, I’ve seen a few different guests at work with their tails quivering. The whole thing, from tip to rump, just shivering away. As it turns out, this is usually a sign of happiness or playfulness. The cats themselves explained it to me by butting their heads against my hand for attention.

However, not all tail quivers are created equal. If your cat is quivering just the tip of his or her tail, that can be a sign of irritation. I’d heard this before, somewhere in the mists of memory, and had gotten the impression that all tail quivering is a bad sign. I’m glad the kitties at work corrected me!

Your cat’s tail really is a great communicator. It can say “leave me alone” (quick flips or lashes of the tail) or “play with me now” (the full-tail quiver) or even “I’m happy and content” (holding the tail high).

It’s been nearly two years since I picked up the part time job at the cats-only boarding facility, but I still have a lot to learn about cats. Even after sharing my home with dogs for more than ten years, I still feel like there’s always something new to learn. Each pet I encounter teaches me something new — all of them have unique personalities and habits to get to know.