Do Cats Have Nerves in Their Tails?

The nerves in a cat's tail help her use it as a balancing counterweight.

The nerves in a cat's tail help her use it as a balancing counterweight.

Nerves allow the brain and body parts to communicate with each other. They make it possible for us to feel and to move. Kitties definitely do have nerves in their tails. The tail is an important appendage to the cat, which she uses to keep her balance and communicate.

Tail Internal Structure

A cat's tail is part of her spinal cord, which extends from the base of her skull to the tip of her tail. The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system; it's the conduit that allows the brain to communicate with the rest of the body. The cat's tail contains central nervous system nerves in the vertebrae and sympathetic nerves in the muscle and skin of the tail. These nerves allow Kitty to feel it when her tail is touched.

How Cats Use Their Tails

The tail's primary purpose is to help the cat balance. The tail is especially important when kitties perform their more acrobatic moves, such as leaping onto narrow surfaces. Scientists have observed in experiments that the tail is used as a counterbalance when performing athletic feats. The nerves in the kitty's tail react with the central and sympathetic nervous systems to correct the cat's posture and maintain balance. Your kitty uses her tail to communicate with others. For example, when a cat sticks her tail straight up, that means "Hello! Happy to see you!" But when she twitches the tail's tip, she's saying "Cool it. I'm not in the mood." A big, puffy tail means Kitty is scared and trying to ward off her attacker by looking bigger than normal. These fine adjustments to the tail are possible only with an intricate nervous system in the tail.

Nerve Damage in a Cat's Tail

Cats whose tails are injured or have lost feeling will have noticeable symptoms. The nerves at the base of the tail are connected to the nerves that control her bladder and rectum, so if her tail is injured she may experience incontinence. If the nerves in a cat's tail are damaged, the tail may drag on the ground. This can aggravate incontinence and lead to infection. A cat who seems to have an injured tail or has lost control of her tail should see a vet right away.

Adapting to Life Without a Tail

Some cats lose their tails in accidents or need to have their tails amputated for medical reasons. In spite of the tail's balance function, cats adapt well to the lack of one. After making some adjustments they can function just about the same as a cat with a tail. However, they may not be quite as adventurous about their acrobatics.

 

About the Author

Madeline Masters works as a dog walker and professional writer. In the past she has worked as a fitness columnist, fundraising copywriter and news reporter. Masters won two Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Awards in 2009. She graduated from Elizabethtown College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

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