Cats communicate in a variety of ways. Their purrs can have different meanings, but cats also communicate with body language.
For example, ear position is a good indicator of how a feline is feeling. Upward ears mean a cat is alert or happy, while backward or flat ears mean to steer clear because he's irritated or frightened.
But one of the best ways to get insight into your feline friend's mood is to look at her tail. Take a look below to learn all about the tales your cat's tail can tell.
How to translate cat tail language
1. Straight in the air
The straight-up tail is a sign of good things. (Photo: Irish Typepad [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr)
When a cat holds its tail high in the air, he's expressing confidence, excitement or contentment. Cats will often greet their owners with their tails straight in the air, which is a cat's way of saying he's happy to see you.
2. Curved like a question mark
Like a question mark, this kitty is curious and happy. (Photo: Mauro [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr)
An erect tail with a curve at the end that resembles a shepherd's crook or a question mark indicates friendliness or playfulness. Your cat is telling your it's a good time for some head scratches or to play with a favorite toy.
3. Low tail
This kitty isn't sure how the situation is going to play out. (Photo: Mattias [public domain]/Flickr)
When felines keep their tails low to the ground, this often means they're unsure of a situation and could be aggressive. However, some breeds, such as Persians and Scottish Folds, tend to carry their tails low even when they're in playful moods.
4. Swishing tail
Tails that move slowly from side to side are common when a cat is focused on a particular object, such as an insect or a toy. You'll often see this move right before the cat pounces.
5. Flicking tail
A cat flicks its tail on the carpet, meaning a storm is coming. (Photo: mtl2tky [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)
A fast-moving tail that whips back and forth or slaps the ground means a cat is irritated or fearful and will likely exhibit aggression.
6. Puffy tail
When a feline's tail becomes spiky or fluffy, the animal is frightened and trying to appear larger to ward off something it perceives as a threat.
7. Tucked tail
Uncertainty is the name of the game for this kitty. (Photo: Traci Lawson [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)
A tail tucked beneath the body indicates fear, uncertainty or submission and means something in the cat's environment is making it uneasy.
8. Wrapped around you or another animal
If your kitty wraps his tail around you or another pet in your household, this is the equivalent of placing an arm around a loved one and indicates companionship.
9. Shaking or vibrating tails
When cats hold their tails straight in the air and shake them rapidly, this typically means they're excited or are anticipating something good. Many cat owners report that their pets do this before being fed or receiving treats.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was published in January 2014.