Does a Cat Need Its Tail for Balance?

He does need it, but he can balance without it.
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Everything about your kitty's anatomy serves a purpose, and his tail is no exception. You may be aware that it is instrumental in balance. In fact, tails serve that purpose and more. Further, some cats are born without tails, while others lose theirs to injuries.

Anatomy of the Tail

Cats' tails are actually extensions of their spines. The spot where the tail connects to the body is called the tail head. The vertebrae in the tail contribute to bowel control. Injury to the tail can cause damage to the bladder, large intestine or anus.


Cats' tails are indeed instrumental in balance. They serve as a counterbalance when cats walk on narrow spaces, such as fences and shelves. They also help cats maintain their balance and grace when running after and leaping on prey.

Cats without Tails

However, this does not mean that cats who lose their tails or are born without them cannot balance themselves. According to VetInfo, cats who suffer tail injuries that require amputation learn to balance without them. In Cat Health 101, Animal Planet states that Manx cats, who are born without tails, also learn to balance without them. They are thought to have an especially sensitive vestibular apparatus inside their ears to compensate.

Other Functions of Cat Tails

Tails are not for balance alone. Larger-breed cats such as Maine coons sometimes wrap their tails tightly around them for added warmth in the cold. Another purpose of the tail is to judge distances when cats walk on narrow paths. And a well-known function of cats' tails is communication. A broadly-swishing tail means annoyance, a puffed-up tail means dominance or confrontation, and a fully erect tail is a form of greeting. A tail with a slightly curved tip communicates relaxation, and a slightly raised and curved tail is a sign of curiosity.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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