Cat's Tail - Why Do Cats Have A Tail & More! | General Cat Articles

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Cat World > Cat Articles > Cat's Tail - Why Do Cats Have A Tail & More!

Cat's Tail - Why Do Cats Have A Tail & More!

cat tail

What is the cat tail for?

Approximately 10% of the bones in the cat's body are found in the tail. These bones are known as caudal vertebrae. There are no set number of bones in the cat's tail, but an average number is between 20 and 23. This depends on the breed of cat and the length of the tail. The cat's tail is an extension of the spine and  is used to help him balance and as an aid to communication.

Some breeds of cat are known for their shortened tail or even complete absence of a tail. The Manx cat is probably the most famous cat to come to mind. Their tail or lack of comes in several forms.

  • Rumpy with no tail
  • Rumpy riser, with some vertebrae
  • Stumpy with a longer but deformed tail
  • Longie the tail is longer still but still shorter than the average cat's tail

The Japanese Bobtail and American Bobtail are two other breeds of domestic cat with shortened tails.


The tail is an important tool to help keep kitty balanced when he walks along a fence. The tail is used as a counterweight, if he looks left, the tail will move in the opposite direction.


The tail can tell us (and other animals) a lot about the cat's current mood.

  • Tail swishing violently from side to side - Angry cat, possibly about to attack.

  • Tail held to one side - Sexual invitation from a female cat in heat.

  • Tail lowered and fluffed out - The cat is fearful.

  • Tail lowered and tucked between the hind legs - A submissive and frightened cat.

  • Tail held straight up and fully bristled - The cat is aggressive.

  • Tail raised and softly curved - Friendly cat greeting you.

  • Tail held still, tip twitching - Mild irritation.

  • Tail lowered and curved upwards - Relaxed cat.

  • Tail fuzzed or puffed up - Scared cat.

Tail sucking:

Some cats have a habit of sucking their tail. This is thought to be a throwback to kittenhood when he would suckle from his mother, and not dissimilar to thumb sucking in humans. It is generally harmless unless done excessively, and then there may be some damage.

Kinked tail:

Some cats, especially Siamese and Burmese can be born with a kink in their tail. It's harmless in itself and causes the cat no pain or discomfort, it is a disqualifying fault on the show bench, though. Purebred cats born with kinked tails are usually sold as "pets", and not used to breed or exhibit.

It is said that the reason a Siamese cat's tail is kinked is that a Princess of the Royal House of Siam would place her rings on the tail of the Siamese while she bathed. Some say the cat fell asleep and the rings fell off, so she tied the tail in a knot in the future. Others say the cat itself kinked his tail to stop the rings falling off. Either way, it's a lovely story of how the Siamese came to have a kinked tail. The reality is it's a genetic trait passed on from the parents.

Injuries and diseases of the cat tail:

  • The tail can sustain injuries, the most common is a broken tail.
  • Abscess is another injury that can occur on the cat and is usually caused by a cat bite.
  • Stud tail.
  • Tail paralysis.

Also see:

Cat whiskers   Cat teeth   Cat tongue   Cat eyes    Stud tail



Cat's Tail - Why Do Cats Have A Tail & More! | General Cat Articles
Cat Breed Profiles
Maine Coon profile Maine Coon
Affectionately known as coonies, the Maine Coon is the largest breed of domestic cat.
Bengal breed profile Bengal
Originally christened the Leopardette, the Bengal cat is a hybridization of domestic cats and Asian Leopard Cats (a small wild cat)
Ragdoll breed profile Ragdoll
The Ragdoll is an extremely laid back and placid breed of cat whose history dates back to the 1960's with a white female cat named Josephine.
Burmese breed profile Burmese
The Burmese cat is a popular breed of cat and for good reason. They are the third most searched breed of cat on this site.
Persian breed profile Persian
One of, if not the most popular breed, the Persian is one of the oldest known breeds of cat.


Cat's Tail - Why Do Cats Have A Tail & More! | General Cat Articles