What Does It Mean When a Cat's Tail Vibrates?

By Jay Matthews

Your cat’s tail is completely motionless one moment, and the next it’s shaking wildly. What does it mean? Many cats express their emotions through body language, and one of the most expressive body parts is the tail (eyes, ears, and fur are used for expression all the time too). A vibrating or shaking tail can mean a few different things, so below we’ve outlined some tips for figuring out exactly what your cats—and their hyperactive tails—are trying to tell you.

Is your cat’s tail straight up and quivering? Most likely this means your cat is happy to see you. This tail expression tells you your cat is excited, feeling friendly, and in a good mood. Think of it as a big smile across your cat’s face.

Is the tail thrashing about and shaking aggressively? This most likely means your cat is angry. And if they’re thumping their tail on the ground, look out. They could be getting ready to pounce something. This is usually defensive behavior for a cat, but it can also be a playful sign so check your pet’s other body language to decide whether they are hunting or in the mood for playtime.

When your cat’s tail is moving so fast it seems to be vibrating, it means your cat is annoyed or nervous about something. And when just the tip of the tail is twitching, your cat is alert and concentrating on something, usually prey. They can also exhibit this behavior during playtime. Be careful around them if you see this behavior so you don’t get scratched.

If the end of your cat’s tail bristles or stands up, they’re most likely feeling threatened. They do this as a defensive measure—a puffed-up tail makes your cat appear larger and this can scare off potential predators or threats. Your cat might do this if they are startled, angry, or scared. They might be aggressive towards you– even if you approach them with good intentions—if they feel too threatened. So be careful around your cat and try to find the source of their anxiety.

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your cat so you know what they’re trying to say. They can clue you in to threats in their environment, or just let you know they’re happy to see you and would welcome some affection.


About the Author
Jay Matthews has been writing professionally for over a decade. He's been an animal lover for even longer. When he's not creating articles or copywriting, he's slowly chipping away at a science fiction novel. He lives with his family and their cat Koko in Los Angeles.