Like humans, cats give away a lot with their body language. Along with other mannerisms, your kitty's tail and fur help him communicate with you. When his tail puffs up, watch the rest of his body to figure out his intentions and state of mind.
Startled or Scared
Your feline buddy's tail may puff up when something startles or outright scares him. He might hold that extra-bushy tail straight up or straight down. Other indications of fear Kitty might display include arching his back, flattening his ears back, yowling, growling, hissing or spitting. Think of the image of the classic Halloween cat.
Angry or Aggressive
Aggression and anger also will cause your kitty's tail to puff up. Again, he may hold his tail straight up or straight down. He may also lay his ears back. Another sign is very constricted pupils. Aggressive or angry cats puff up not only their tails, but the fur all over their bodies. This instinctive response to threats is an attempt to make himself look bigger. He may also stare, yowl or growl at an opponent until either he or the opponent backs down. Cats prefer dramatic bluffs to fighting, but they will fight if no one backs off.
Non-confrontational or Submissive
A puffed-up tail can also be a sign of submission. When a submissive cat is trying to avoid a confrontation with a dominant one, his tail puffs up and is lowered or even tucked between his legs. These positions communicate submission to his opponent.
A puffed-up tail can even indicate playful intentions. Kittens frequently puff up their tails while playing. Even adult cats sometimes puff up their tails in play. A playful kitten or cat holds his puffy tail up. Other indicators include erect ears, whiskers pointed forward and somewhat dilated pupils. These mannerisms are often followed by crouching, wiggling that puffy tail, and pouncing.
Leslie Carver has been a professional author since 2009. Her work appears on multiple websites. She has an associate's degree in English with progress toward her bachelor's at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She has been awarded an Outstanding Student Award in English and twice nominated for creative writing awards.