Why Do Cats Have Tails?

Did you know that humans once had tails? In fact, we still have traces of that left in our bodies as the triangular arrangement of pelvis called a coccyx? Tails have been an important part of evolution and in some animals like cats, their role has continuously grown. Unlike dogs, the cat’s tail is not as active and despite being extra-long, it does not seem to give the cat any extra advantage so you always have to wonder, why do cats have tails?


Anatomy of the Cat’s Tail

It might not look like it but the cat’s tail plays a very important role in daily life of a cat. It also happens to have some very interesting facts which only go to show what an important feature it is.

10% of the bones in a cat’s body are found on the tail. For such a small organ, the tail has quite an amount of bones. The tail is held together by between 19 to 23 vertebrae depending on the type of the cat and it also has an extensive collection of muscles and tendons. This ensures that the tail is amazingly mobile and built for performance.

Functions of the Cat’s Tail

It is about time you got some answers on why do cats have tails and there are quite a few. A cat uses its tail in a variety of ways.

  • It is an amazing balance tool

You have probably heard of the astonishing facts that cats always land with their feet. It is true! No matter how high or the position of the fall, the cat always finds a way to hit the ground with its legs underneath it. Unfortunately we can’t say the same for us humans. The tail acts as a counterweight when walking on the fence or doing that graceful leap from one countertop to the next. If you look at the cat walking on the fence, you will notice the tail is always on the opposite direction of the head. It is particularly handy when playing in the backyard in its cat house.

  • A cat’s tail talks

Yes it does! And it is one of the more important reasons as to why do cats have tails. Just like a dog wags its tail to talk, a cat also has different tail movements along with chattering to tell different stories or how the cat is feeling. You’re probably wondering what your cat is saying so let’s try and get you in the know of how to decipher what your cat is telling you with her tail.

  • Held high – you cat is telling you she is happy and content. It also shows confidence if the tail is twitching at the tip, that means she is particularly happy about something at that time.
  • Curved (like a question mark) – she is ready to have some fun and wants some play time.
  • Low – if the tail is positioned straight down, it is a sign of aggression. A low lying tail signals serious business and your cat is no mood to play except for the Persians which tend to carry their tails low. 
  • Tucked away – if her tail is tucked under her body, it is a sign of fear or submission. This might happen when you introduce new pets or when the cat is in a new environment. It might also lower its head.
  • Puffed – if the cat is frightened or agitated, it puffs up the tail like a pipe cleaner. It is one of the mechanisms of trying to ward of danger by looking bigger.
  • Whipping tail – if the tails moves rapidly from side to side, it shows fear and aggression. It is time to keep away and give your cat some space. He means business!
  • Swishing tail – when it hunting time, your cat’s tail will sway from side to side slowly. This also happens when he is focused on something.
  • Wrapped around another cat – just like in humans, this is a sign of friendship. It is such a heart warmer. 
  • Marking territory

Your cat’s tail is also an important part of the territory marking ritual. This intricate process involves an ice cold sneaky look in your cat’s eyes as if it is ready to rip something apart and the tail is held high. If you are what it is trying to keep the competition from, it is also going to rub against you.

Your understanding on why do cats have tails is important to not only understand your pet better but also to learn just how important the tail is and why you should take good care of it. Even though cats can live without a tail (some even have the tailless gene) it is important to take utmost care. Damage to cat’s tail can cause paralysis incontinence and chronic pain.

Round Up 

As much as the spine does not extend into the cats tail, there is a high concentration of nerve endings which can be damaged if the tail is yanked. Even when building tree houses for the cat, it is important to make sure they are ‘tail-safe’.

Rebecca Welters

Yes, I am that weird cat lady with 200 cats and live in the darkest corner of the city where no one dares to go! Joking! But I am a cat lover and have 2 Ragdoll cats called Toby, he's 3 years old and Dory, she's 8 years old. I'm 36 years old and live in the quiet town of Washington.

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