Why Do Cats Have Tails?

It's a question as old as time itself: What's the deal with cats' tails? As it turns out, a cat's tail serves a couple of different functions.

Balance

Ever noticed that your cat is startlingly good at walking along narrow surfaces? That's because, like many animals, their tail helps them balance. The tail acts as a counterweight when your cat walks along skinny surfaces, and helps them stay standing when they run around tight corners to catch prey or their favorite toy.

Tabby cat walking away from pile of messy colourful wool
credit: Michael Blann/DigitalVision/GettyImages

Communication

A cat's tail can seem very expressive. You may have noticed your cat flicking her tail in various circumstances. Cats use their tails to communicate. Different tail states and movements can indicate that your cat is stressed, angry, or content. For example, if you've ever seen a cat with a super puffed-up tail, you probably know that cat is feeling threatened and possibly aggressive.

Do Cats Need Their Tails to Survive?

No! While tails are helpful to have, cats can lose them and still thrive. There are also breeds of cat that have no tail, like the Manx.

Manx Calico Cat
A Manx cat
credit: Aletakae/iStock/GettyImages

Know that cats, despite their reputation for being quiet and/or jerks, are actually pretty good communicators. Use your cat's tail as a tool to understand how they're feeling. Also, respect them for their amazing ability to balance on the tiniest of surfaces.