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Why Are Cats’ Tails so Long? 5 Common Reasons

A cat is adored for many of its physical traits: fluffy coats, big eyes, and of course, their long, gorgeous tails. Every characteristic is designed perfectly for function, but why are cats’ tails so long? A domestic cat’s tail is usually 12 inches long. Their bodies are only about 18 inches long, which means that their tail is longer than half the length of their body!

Cygnus Regulus Powers refers to a handsome Maine Coon who holds the record for the longest cat tail, measuring 17.58 inches¹ in length. These long tails serve a purpose other than beauty, and it is fascinating to know why. This article explores the reasons for a cat’s slinky tail and what they might be trying to tell you.

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The 5 Common Reasons Why Cats’ Tails Are So Long

1. Balance

Credit: Rita_Kochmarjova, Shutterstock

Cats have long tails to assist with their balance. This is especially important when walking or running along a small platform like a wall or shelf. While your cat is running and jumping, its long tail helps them maintain balance and twist and turn their bodies while in midair.

Their tails also serve as a counterweight to assist them in flipping over before reaching the ground, which is why cats always appear to land on their feet.

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2. To Understand their Surroundings

Tails, like whiskers, contribute to a cat’s sense of touch. It can inspect the cats’ surroundings to determine whether it is safe, and because it is long, it can sense larger surface areas and reach further away. The nerves in a cat’s tail will help it coordinate a response.

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3. Warmth

cat sleeping in bed
Image Credit: Deyan Georgiev, Shutterstock

One cute thing that all cat owners have noticed is that when cats sleep in a ball, they usually curl their long tails around them, making a solid circle. They do this to keep themselves warm and regulate their body temperature.

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4. To Deter irritants

If your cat is bothered by insects, a foul odor, or even a human or another animal, they can swish their long tail around to try to clear the area.

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5. Communication

cat wagging its tail
Image Credit: Christel SAGNIEZ, Pixabay

Your cat’s tail is an important indicator of its mood. Their tail position reveals the most about how a cat is feeling. Understanding cat tail language will help you understand your cat and identify serious issues easier.



Thrashing Tail

If your cat thrashes its tail, where it sometimes hits the ground, it can indicate that it is angry or something is bothering it. If you are petting your cat and it starts to thrash its tail, that’s its way of telling you to stop.

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Swishing Tails

If your cat’s tail is gently swishing from side to side in a graceful movement, your cat could be intently focused on something and may be about to pounce.

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End of the Tail Twitching

Cats twitch their tails when they’re hunting or playing, as well as when they’re irritated or frustrated. Inspect their environment to determine if they are playing and monitor their mood.

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Quivering Tail

Cats will quiver their tails in excitement when they see another cat or their owner. It can also indicate urine marking if their tail is upright and they are backing up against a surface.

woman owner petting and playing with her cat at home
Image Credit: Stokkete, Shutterstock
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Tall, Upright Tail

When a cat’s tail is upright, it is approaching in a friendly manner with confidence, and it indicates that it is in a good mood. This is an excellent time to pet and play with your cat.

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Question Mark Tail

When a cat’s tail stands up with a question mark hook on the end, it signifies a happy cat and an invitation to play.

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Fluffed Up Tail

Puffed tails are usually displayed with arched backs and can indicate a cat is startled or frightened.

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Low Tail

If a cat is scared or anxious, it may lower its tail below the level of its back.

Cat Tail Puff Angry Scared_
Image Credit: YuryKara, Shutterstock
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Tail Is Curled Around the Cats Body

If a cat is sitting or lying down with their tail wrapped around their body, it is because they are scared, defensive, in pain, or otherwise ill.

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Why Does a Cat Wrap Its Around Tail You?

When a cat slinks past your legs and wraps its tail around you, it is willing to interact, and it is a greeting, much like humans will offer a handshake or hug. They will do the same with other cats by intertwining their tails.

cat rubbing its head against the owner's legs
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

Can Cats Live Without Tails?

Thankfully, if a cat loses its tail, it will quickly learn to adapt and live without it. As previously stated, a cat’s long tail is used for balance, communication, keeping warm, and self-expression. And while it is charming and multifunctional, its length exposes it to injuries.

Some common tail injuries include:
  • Heat cycles: Many pet parents opt to put their female dogs in diapers during their heat cycles to avoid any accidents.
  • Urinary incontinence: If your dog has issues with urinary incontinence, a diaper can help to catch any accidents. This is often seen in older dogs.
  • Traveling: Some pet parents prefer to put their dogs in diapers when traveling, especially if they are going to be in the car for a long period of time. This can help to avoid any accidents.
  • Excess marking: If your dog likes to mark his territory, a diaper can help catch any urine before it hits the floor.
  • Injury or infection: If your dog has an injury or infection in the genital area, a diaper can help to keep the area clean and prevent further irritation.

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A cat’s long, slender tail is more than just a sweet physical attribute. It provides a cat with balance, warmth, and the ability to sense their surroundings and swat away irritants. However, what’s most fascinating is that the length of their tails lets them make gestures and shapes that allow them to communicate. Once you understand why a cat’s tail looks and acts like it does, you will have a whole new relationship with your feline friend.

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Featured Image Credit: italay, Shutterstock