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Why Do Cats Thump Their Tails When Lying Down? 6 Reasons

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you’ve ever owned a cat, you’ve probably noticed that they sometimes thump their tail while laying down. Usually, this is nothing to be concerned with, as cats can “wag” their tails while laying down for all sorts of different reasons.

However, you still might be wondering why your cat is thumping its tail. Just what does it mean? Let’s take a look at a few potential reasons behind this behavior.

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The 6 Reasons Why Cats Thump Their Tails When Lying Down

1. Cat Is Saying Hello

If you’ve just walked into the room and your cat started wagging its tail, it could be a greeting without your cat needing to get up. There are several ways your cat can greet you, but most of them require getting up. For example, head rubbing is often a “hello” signal, as is an elevated tail.

However, while laying down, your cat can do none of these things. Therefore, they begin to wag their tail. They may not decide to get up for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps they are entirely comfortable, or they may not assume that you aren’t going to stay around for long. Or, in typical cat fashion, they are expecting you to come to them.

If your cat is looking at you and seems relaxed, this is likely why they are thumping their tail on the ground.

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Image Credit: Pixabay
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2. Cat Is Relaxed

Tail thumping may be a sign of contentedness, especially if the cat doesn’t seem interested in anything in particular. If you’re petting the cat and they’re gently thumping their tail against the ground, it’s a sign of their enjoyment.

However, don’t always assume that a wagging tail means the cat is content when you pet them. As we’ll discuss, tail thumping can also be a sign of aggression and frustration. The tail wagging could easily mean that your cat is frustrated or not interested in the current attention they are receiving. Purring can also be a confusing signal since it can also signal that your cat is agitated or in pain.

Either way, you’ll need to pay attention to other body signals your cat is displaying to determine why they’re wagging their tail.

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3. Cat Is Feeling Frustrated

If a cat’s tail is swishing around widely while they’re lying down, it’s a sign that it may be a bit frustrated. Petting them now could result in an unhappy scratch or your cat fleeing from the scene. They’re not much in the mood to cuddle.

Cats can feel frustrated for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps you woke them up, or maybe they’re just a bit grumpy today. Sometimes, we can locate the source of our cat’s frustration and help fix it, but other times we cannot. This isn’t necessarily a sign that our cats are frustrated with us. Just like people, all cats are going to get frustrated at some point. Their tail thumping is simply a way for them to show it.

khao manee cat lying on the couch
Image Credit: DenKara, Shutterstock
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4. Cat Wants to Play

If the cat is laying on its stomach and wagging its tail, it could be about to pounce. Many cats will wag their tail as a sign that they want to play, and sometimes this causes their tail to thump on the ground. Don’t be surprised if your cat leaps a few moments later or doesn’t. Sometimes it’s all about stalking, and the cats never actually leap.

Usually, you can tell a cat wants to play because its pupils will enlarge, and they will be too concentrated on whatever they’re “stalking.” They may even chatter. Cats will also wiggle their bottom and shift their weight around as they try to find their balance before leaping.

Now is the time to break out the cat toys.

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5. Cat Is In Pain

Tail wagging can also be a sign that your cat is in pain. Cats are very good at hiding their pain and diseases, as they don’t want anyone to notice that they are vulnerable to attack. Typically, this sort of tail movement is sudden and doesn’t appear to be related to anything that’s going on. It’s an involuntary, reflex action, like a jerk a person might do when in pain.

You’ll want to begin looking for other signs that your cat may be in pain. These include lethargy, struggling to get comfortable, hiding, aggression, and a change in appetite. All of these are signs that something is off and that you may want to take your feline to the vet.

Be aware that playing tail movements can also seem quite jerky and random. However, in these situations, the cat is concentrated on something. If they are in pain, they may or may not be looking at anything in particular.

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Image Credit: Pixabay
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6. Cat Is Asleep

Alternatively, if they appear to be asleep except for the cat wagging the tip of its tail while laying down, it could be completely unconscious. Cats can sometimes move in their sleep. Usually, it isn’t any large movements. Instead, it is only small things, like their tail. If your cat seems to be zonked out and then suddenly starts moving its tail, they are likely just dreaming.

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Conclusion: Cat Thumping Tail

Your cat may be thumping its tail on the ground for all sorts of reasons. You’ll have to look at the circumstances and your cat’s other body cues to figure out exactly why. Truthfully, tail thumping is a pretty standard thing cats do, so it isn’t always the most accurate way to tell what your feline is feeling. You can partner with the other clues your cat is giving you, though, which may provide you with some useful information.

When your feline starts wagging its tail, pay attention to its environment and other body movements (or lack thereof).

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Featured Image Credit: christels, Pixabay