What Does It Mean When Cats Put Their Tails Between Their Legs?

by Naomi Millburn, Demand Media
    A cat's tail can say so much about his current emotions.

    A cat's tail can say so much about his current emotions.

    Our feline friends can't exactly talk to us using words, but they sure can make up for it with their complex and diverse body language. One of the most expressive parts of a cat's body, surprisingly, is his tail. A cat's tail can convey everything from fear to defensiveness.

    Defensiveness

    If a cat is in defense mode and is either expecting or worried about a possible impending attack, you may notice his tail conspicuously tucked in between his legs. Be attentive to other possible signs that a cat is feeling seriously protective, including increased pupil size, a cowering stance and flattened ears and whiskers. All of these things point to a anxiety-ridden, on-edge cat who isn't exactly feeling too comfortable or relaxed in the moment. Not a happy camper at all.

    Submission

    In some instances, a tail tucked between the legs can indicate submission. If a cat is essentially admitting to another party that they won and he lost, he may position his tail in this passive manner. Within these circumstances, the cat is usually not on the verge of getting aggressive -- instead he's feeling 100 percent docile and obedient.

    Discontentment

    A tail between the legs can also signify simple discontentment. The cat just isn't satisfied with whatever situation is right in front of him at the moment. Nothing seems right in the world to him. Perhaps another fluffy feline is an obstacle in the path to his favorite yummy chicken and rice treats. Maybe he can't go outside because the door is shut and locked. He may not be able to track down his favorite catnip-stuffed toy bear.

    Terror

    This feline body position can also point to abject terror and uncertainty. Perhaps a cat is in a strange and new environment and he has absolutely no idea what to do with himself. Whether your little one is at a veterinary appointment for a routine vaccination or at a babysitter's house while you're away on a week-long work trip, he may assume this scared stance -- poor thing. When a cat is absolutely terrified, he may also make a lot of angry and frightened sounds -- think growling and hissing.

    About the Author

    Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

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