Why Do Cats Puff Their Tails?

Cats may not speak our language, but they have their own ways of letting people know what they’re feeling. Feline body language gives insight into the emotions and reactions of our pets, and a cat’s tail is their best method of communication.

Most cat people have seen what happens when a cat puffs its tail up to twice its normal size. A puffy tail can mean several different things. When you combine the puffed-up tail with the rest of your cat’s body language, it’s not hard to figure out exactly what they’re thinking.

Scaredy Cats

Image Source: Flickr/Ih


Some cats get spooked easily, and a puffed-up tail is often a sign they’re scared or startled by something. It’s an instinctive reaction to make themselves look as big as possible in hopes of discouraging whatever they’re afraid of from coming closer. Their extra fluffy tail will be either straight up or straight down, and they might also arch their back and flatten their ears. Low pitched growling or spitting completes the picture of the classic Halloween cat.

Angry and Ready to Attack

Less fearful cats often skip the scaredy cat phase and go right into attack mode. They puff their tails for the same reason—to look big and intimidating—but this time it’s meant as a direct warning. Cats may look cute and cuddly, but their claws, teeth, and natural predatory instincts can turn dangerous when they’re threatened. An angry cat will hiss at its opponent and keep its ears held back against its head. The fur on its back may also stand straight up. Most cats prefer an aggressive bluff over a full-out attack, but if their methods of intimidation don’t work, they’ll show they’re not afraid to use those claws.

Puffy and Playful

This is hard for a lot of cat owners to believe, but a puffed-up tail isn’t always a bad thing. Cats sometimes make their tails puffy when they’re feeling especially happy and playful. It’s most often seen in kittens, but even older cats make the base of their tails look extra fluffy when they’re having fun. It shouldn’t be hard to tell the difference between a stressed cat and a happy cat. Erect ears mean your cat is interested in what’s going on but not threatened, and their whiskers will be pointed forward. Cats also like to wiggle their puffy tails and pounce like predators when they’re playing.

Featured Image Source: Flickr/Ih

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